A big part leading, managing and experiencing change is to help others shift mindsets and challenge our own mindset.  Over the last couple of years, a great deal of our work with leaders and change practitioners has been focussed on how to do this. We cover what an agile mindset looks like and the tools and approaches that help us get there. Design Thinking is a proven way to nudge us to think differently by offering a framework, with tools, to develop human-centred solutions.

If we consider Design Thinking as a leadership and change capability, it can be defined as a solution focussed and human-centred approach to create the future for customers and employees. You will often see the terms ‘design thinking’ and ‘human-centred design’ used interchangeably.

How design thinking helps us embrace a mindset shift

Here’s how it helps us embrace a mindset shift:

⚡️ How to engage with deeper empathy:

The first phase in the Design Thinking process is ‘Empathise’ to collect information on customers and end users. We learn more about our people by watching them, engaging with them and ‘walking a mile in their shoes’. With tools such as empathy maps, personas and employee journey maps we can explore pain points from the user’s point of view, and gather data and insights on emotions and pain points (current and anticipated in the future state) to uncover opportunities.

⚡️ Thinking like a beginner:

Ideation, the process of idea generation, reminds us to focus on quantity, not quality. This contradicts our existing beliefs about valuing ‘quality over quantity’. The ‘ground rules’ on ideation focus on suspending judgement by questioning everything and accepting all ideas, regardless of how wild they seem, as possibilities.

If we add a mash-up to our ideation session, we are encouraged to think beyond our own industry, to connect ideas and themes that are appear random and unrelated. A mash-up is designed to explore ideas across disciplines and this is where we hear of examples such as improvements in hospital surgery procedures that are inspired by process efficiencies demonstrated by car racing pit stop crews.

⚡️ Experimentation:

Through prototyping and testing, we introduce a low-res artefact. Experimentation helps us engage with the notion of failure and the positive role it plays in iterating to refine our outcome. This is often described as ‘fail fast, learn fast’ in design thinking circles. In these phases of prototyping and testing, we open conversations with our end users on what won’t work.


Benefits of design thinking in change

Through these approaches we:

💡 Open meaningful conversations

💡 Create forums for more co-creation

💡 Challenge assumptions through the lens of a proven human-centred framework

💡 Nudge others (and ourselves) to think differently about business problems and people

Is it time to bring a little more from Design Thinking into your approach?


One of the six modules in our Certificate of Agile Change Leadership – Human Centred Change – shows leaders how to apply these practices. It’s also covered in our Agile Change Manager certificate program where we explore how to deliver change with human-centred approaches such as personas and journey mapping, with templates and tools to support you.