013 : Using Design Thinking to Elevate the Employee Experience with Pierre Delinois


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Design creates an inviting space where people of different disciplines and worldviews can come together and solve the same problems. Design thinking, then, becomes a practical tool that can take a grand, oftentimes ambiguous idea and break it down into bite-sized actionable steps. Steve concurs, defining design thinking simply as a “systematic way of solving problems.”

Pierre’s company, Asurion, incorporated design thinking into their HR processes with the realization that the problems that people have today are radically different from those of yesterday. Being a technology company, Asurion needs to adapt to the increasing speed of innovation and accompanying consumer trends. In addition, being a large, diverse company with many moving parts further necessitates the need to think more creatively about its systems than ever before.

Pierre Delinois and Steve Chaparro discuss what it means to be a leader and changemaker in the modern design space. They cover topics such as building a cohesive team culture, conducting a design sprint, consulting on versus facilitating projects, integrating design thinking into your process along with other organizational approaches, and how design thinking can reshape the employee experience during COVID-19 when most people are working from home. Stay tuned.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • Pierre’s “unintentional and unplanned” journey to becoming a team leader at Asurion
  • What Pierre appreciates regarding the intersection between design and HR
  • How to solve problems with design thinking
  • Why Asurion decided to implement human-centered design and product management into their HR practices
  • How Pierre continues to learn, grow, and adapt as a leader in his fast-paced and multifaceted industry
  • How design thinking can improve a company’s culture and employee experience, especially during the COVID-19 crisis
  • How to run an effective design sprint using the criteria of “four simple buckets”

Resources Mentioned in this episode:

About the Guest:

Pierre Delinois is the Senior Manager for HR Product Development at Asurion, where he applies “principles of human centered-design and product management to make work delightful for our 18,000+ employees.” A self-proclaimed generalist, Pierre has been engaged in different disciplines—from advertising to IT to talent management—leading up to his current position at Asurion. All of these experiences brought him “to this intersection of realizing what design was, and the role that it can play in shaping and creating a culture where employees can really thrive.”

He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Advertising at the University of Florida. He also has a Master of Education in Human Resource Development at Vanderbilt University. Throughout his young career, Pierre held leadership positions in various companies. He has been working with Asurion’s HR department since 2011.

Sponsor for this episode:

This episode is brought to you by the Culture Design Studio, a consulting firm that helps people and cultural leaders who feel constrained in their ability to engage their employees to become champions for their people through a series of facilitated workshops. They provide a practical and collaborative process to transform the culture within your creative organization.

Culture Design Studio has worked with organizations like Duarte Design, Design Thinkers Group, Red Bull, USAID, Bacardi, and the Office of Civic Innovation

If you’re looking for more than just a consultant and want someone who can facilitate your organization through a structured conversation to transform your culture, Culture Design Studio is the one for you.

Contact them today to learn more about what they can do for you and your company.

Full Transcript: Powered by Otter.ai

Announcer Welcome to The Culture Design Show where we feature conversations with leaders and thinkers who are passionate about culture and design. Now, let’s get started with the show.

Steve Chaparro Steve Chaparro, here. I am the host of The Culture Design Show, a podcast where I feature leaders and thinkers at some of the top creative firms in the world, including architecture, design, technology, and marketing. What’s the one thing they all have in common? They all believe in the power of culture and design.

This podcast is brought to you by Culture Design Studio, we help people in culture leaders who feel constrained in their ability to engage their employees to become champions for their people. Through a series of facilitated workshops, we provide a practical and collaborative process to transform the culture within your creative organization. We’ve worked with organizations like Duarte Design, DesignThinkers Group, Red Bull, US AID, Bacardi and the Office of Civic Innovation. So, if you’re looking for more than just a consultant, but someone who can facilitate your organization through a structured conversation to transform your culture, reach out to us at culturedesignstudio.com.

Pierre Delinois is a catalyst for creativity as a senior manager for HR product development at Asurion. He applies the principles of Human Centered Design and product management to make work delightful for all of the company’s 18,000 plus employees. In short, he leads the design function for HR. Now, I love this especially because it includes things like employee experience research, design sprint facilitation and prototype testing throughout the organization. I’m such a nerd. Pierre, welcome to The Culture Design Show.

Pierre Delinois Thanks for having me.

Steve Chaparro Hey, I mentioned to you before the call that I was introduced to you because I saw some conversations that you had, I think I read a blog post as well that you put on LinkedIn just about your journey of how you have been able to marry the two disciplines of HR and design. So I’m excited to learn more about that. But before we do, can you share with us a little bit about your professional journey? What’s that been like?

Pierre Delinois Yeah, absolutely. I’d be lying to you. If I told you it was intentional and planned, especially where I landed now. So undergrad, I studied advertising. I was a pretty poor student, honestly, back at the time. And I went through my coursework, and it really wasn’t until my last semester, my very last class, I remember, I was an advertising major. And I had this realization that I found advertising interesting, but I really had this hunger to really acquire the tools to solve deeper, bigger and more meaningful problems. So that put me on a little bit of a journey.

I did some research did a little bit of soul searching. I came across this field called IO psych at the time industrial organizational psychology. It’s all about how you lead people how you manage and create an environment where people can be effective. And really what I realized is I thought that area is interesting. I wanted to be in a more applied form of it, versus clinical. So when did the grad school application route I was fortunate enough to get into school at Vanderbilt got married about that same time, which is what brought myself and my wife to town. I went through the coursework loved it, but even still pretty similar to that undergrad experience. I had this realization of I like this, but I couldn’t quite figure out really what my story would be and what my entry point into the space would be. 

So, finished up school, started working at Asurion and all things but in a role of it. So not explicitly with a world of HR. But the interesting I think foreshadow to some of the journey that I would end on. The role itself was more around project management and a little bit around the early stages of software development. That experience brought me into college recruiting, college recruiting lead to HR recruiting, which of all things I ended up finding and hiring who was a pretty influential leader in my life at the time to build out an analytics team within HR. And after hiring him, I had the opportunity to jump and work for him, build out and explore analytics, and really somewhat organically tied to some of the evolution that our whole company was going through. What ended up happening is the role of HR analytics that led me to this intersection of realizing what design was and the role that it can play in shaping and creating a culture where employees can really thrive.

Steve Chaparro Yeah, I love that I love hearing about the journeys of different people where they come upon these intersections, right intersections of different disciplines and say, maybe I can learn from this discipline and apply it over here. I mean, that’s been, as we were talking before the call been my journey in itself is like I love connecting dots. I love how what can I do to extract 10% of what I learned in this field can be applied in this field. So what was it about design in HR, that intersection that really resonated with you? What were some of the lights and aha moments that you had about that?

Pierre Delinois Yeah, I mean, I’ve always been somebody who I think of myself more as that generalist type personality, you know, the whole thing of jack of all trades, master of none. Yeah. And I think the draw into design is the fact that it really celebrates, it invites and it creates a space where lots of perspectives, lots of disciplines, lots of ways of seeing the world can come together. And the real power, it reinforces this fact. You know, the power comes from all of us, looking at the problem for our many different perspectives, working together and creating a solution. And design for me was that path, I think practically in terms of the day to day of my work. As an analyst doing things like building dashboards and doing statistical studies. I was finding that more and more I’d have conversations with teams. And some teams can be a real simple quantitative type problems. They what was our attrition last month, or I want to invest in this program, how should I think about doing that? But I was getting more and more teams that were coming to us that wanted to answer a bigger, more ambiguous question.

Steve Chaparro Yeah.

Pierre Delinois They wanted to figure out things like, Hey, I know something is wrong with my employees and how they’re experiencing, you know, this training program or this aspect of our benefits policy. I’m not sure exactly what that is. and design thinking then became this really practical tool to help people understand a really ambiguous world, take it down into really actionable steps, and lead by understanding the needs the people that they were solving the problem for.

Steve Chaparro Yeah, I love that. Because I think that too many times, those of us that are designed thinking practitioners or even designers, we think it’s about design. It’s not about design. I mean, we’re the nerds that think it’s all about design, and we love the language, we love to nerd out about that conversation. But at the end of the day, or actually to begin the day. It’s really about certain problems that we need to solve. And I think of design thinking as a systematic way of solving problems, especially with what you said, and I can attribute it to this vuca world that we live in, you know, it’s no longer vuca represents things that are volatile, things that are uncertain, things that are complex, and things that are ambiguous, which is the word that you use, and I think best practices, especially in the world of HR, those were set in place because things were knowable, things were certain things were not complex. And so you could have those best practices. But we need a new way of solving problems when these problems are, in fact, ambiguous.

Have you ever when people that came to you folks wanting to solve a problem, did you ever encounter where the problem they thought was the problem eventually became the wrong problem to solve?

Pierre Delinois Oh, absolutely. I’d say for me, that’s some of the most exciting and most fun aspects of getting to do this type of work. I had one specific experience with an early stakeholder who was really excited, really energetic, passionate about the work. And when we got into it with that stakeholder, they even coupled with their excitement and energy, really felt that they knew what was wrong based on very real conversations and feedback that folks have provided to them. What this process began to unfold for them is that it those folks that talk to them, some of them might have maybe shared something that was a little different based on either their memory based on probably some bias and some concern and not wanting to hurt their feelings.

Steve Chaparro Yeah.

Pierre Delinois And what a research project that I ran with them ended up doing is it allowed them to see firsthand conversations that I had with their customers, where their customers were sharing aspects of their solution that were challenging or that needed to be improved. And I still remember the most exciting thing for me was seeing literally the light in their eye. Once they saw the real story and getting to from there work with them to think through how you’ve done Just that and fit that into work that they can do to create a new future.

Steve Chaparro So I want to go eventually, in this conversation, I wanted to go to the specifics of what your role oversees and what this function looks like. But to the point of the design function within HR, that’s, that excites me that at an enterprise level, you have a design function, especially design function for HR, what was the journey for Assyrian to actually adopt the idea of actually having that design function and implementing Human Centered Design and design thinking within your business? Because that requires some awareness, some small, you know, grade application and ultimately adoption. What did that look like early on?

Pierre Delinois Yeah, absolutely. It’s a great question. And I’ll speak high level to some of the transformation for the company as a whole. And then I think that gives more context to the details of how that played out within HR from a company standpoint. What really, we were Seeing as an organization is what a lot of companies are saying that the world is changing. You had the growth of new forms of technology, the growth of your smart home as a thing that exists when, you know, 10 years ago, that was a fable a concept. And what our leadership was starting to realize is really, there was a new set of skills that that we needed to continue to enhance and grow in, in order to continue to compete and really solve problems for our customers. And that really led to the path of making this investment in product led transformation in design and exploration, and building techniques to understand customer needs and quickly translate those into viable ways for us as an organization to help them and solve those problems.

Similarly, within HR, those changes we’re being impacted by and we were seeing our internal customers start to value things like creativity, creative problem solving, you know, for us, we also were starting to have much more complex employee base where we, you know, as it stands today are in four or five different, you know, regions, timezones, we have multiple languages that are spoken around our company, we have 20,000 plus people that are all over the world. So when you’re operating in a reality like that, you have to start getting really creative about how you figure out ways to meet all those varying needs, but do so in a way that you can sustain as a team. So you couple that need that our HR leadership was tied into with my own interest in some of what I was seeing locally in that analytics role, where I was getting questions that were more broad in nature. 

And really, it initially started as a conversation between myself and my leader, and eventually with my VP and voicing this opportunity and seeing, hey, this is not only something that interests me in design, and in design thinking, but I was beginning to see it started as a conversation between myself and my leader and eventually went up to our Vice President and what we talked about really was my growing interest in business. But also seeing that there was a real opportunity to use it to better solve problems. What was interesting is at the time, we just thought it would translate into better dashboards, better analytics, in fact, a little bit of us learning and adjusting our view of our own problem. So it started as a small commitment. My leader, my VP said, Hey, we’ll let you focus on this type of work for the next six months. And if this is viable, and if there’s something to this, we’ll invest in it, we’ll figure it out. And if not, no worries, we’ll have you refocus on on the core body of work, and we’ll continue to grow and be successful.

And what we found at the end of the six months is it was not only viable, but it was meaningful enough that in that window, I was able to complete roughly 15 small engagements with different internal team members. Everything from small research studies, to small pilot tests, leading to even a full scale design sprint that we found lead to meaningful impact and transformation and that small tests and that small realization that there’s something there really is that same story that carried forward and propelled our continuous growth to where we are three years later now.

Steve Chaparro Three years. Wow, it’s been a three year journey since that… so of those 15 engagements in that first is it been in the first year over the last three years?

Pierre Delinois Sorry, that was in the first year. pretty significant growth. So first year was about 15 engagements. Second year, I was fortunate to be able to receive increased investment, I was able to hire an additional team member to do this work with me. And we grew our scope to about 31 projects. Last year, we completed 41 projects. This year, we’re on track already at the end of q1 with about 23 projects that we’ve already completed or that we have in queue. So there’s definitely growth and opportunity to keep helping more folks within the organization.

Steve Chaparro What I love about this story is that there was senior leadership that saw the need at sort of a broad company wide level created the atmosphere or the environment for that to happen. Maybe in other areas, whether it’s, you know, policies or you know, the products that you’re selling, or even maybe marketing, but then that environment created at least the seed of opportunity for you to say, hey, like we’re doing this and other areas, I would love to really apply this in our world. And you are given the opportunity at a small level, at least a smaller level, to practice those in that six month engage. Like I love that. I love it as like, even if you didn’t say this, give me six months. Give me six months, and let’s see where this goes and for your leadership to, to nurture that is amazing.

Pierre Delinois Yeah, and I think a few things were at play there. I think one Absolutely. I’m fortunate in that I worked in an organization where that kind of exploration and support and empowerment it really it goes hand in hand with our culture, how we’ve grown over time and really our belief in what makes us effective. In successful company, and is that we invest in people and we give them space to explore. The other piece to it too is that six month time was just as much for me, in the same way that we as design and transformation professionals want to encourage people to apply this test and learn method. Yeah, I had to be very willing to apply it to myself, that’s completely possible that what was just an interest would have been a fabrication something that I saw, I wanted to make real. And I had to be willing to experience that and explore that. And I have to be willing to re engage with that every day, across the whole of my life and have that readiness to, to go in a different direction according to what the people around me need, what the opportunities are before me and what really I feel called and led to do.

Steve Chaparro Yeah, I love that. So I want to ask if I can, without, you know, TMI, but what were some of those, you know, personal transformations that you had to go through in order for you to be prepared to kind of lead this effort because the reason why I asked is because I went through my own personal transformation period that prepped me for this work as well, one that I was not expecting. So I’d love to hear your story.

Pierre Delinois Yeah, absolutely. And it’s you say went through, I’m going to have to add that I am…

Steve Chaparro …going through…

Pierre Delinois …learning every day. But I think it starts with first and this is true for any time you see a vision that and you see something that’s possible. There’s this, you’re daunted by the journey ahead of you. And you have a little bit of this feeling of, can I do this? Is this possible? So there’s the inner turmoil of Do I have the ability to actually pursue this? That’s one area of growth and getting over what I hear a lot of times referred to as imposter syndrome. But this feeling of me being insufficient and inadequate, and, and the journey there that I went through and continue to retell myself is, you know, nobody’s fully accurate or adequate, I should say, and we don’t fully know how to do anything until we do it, especially if it’s a new thing.

And I think there’s lots of encouragement I drew from conversations with others at the time, I had a mentor who I still Have a strong connection with who really helped me learn and grow in this world of design and discovery and product development. In addition to that, there’s also the experience of as a change agent, you’re going to be met with resistance. And more than it is me having to learn how to convince other people to get over it, I had to learn to apply the same kind of empathy that I’m preaching to other people I’m working with in a major way. And really, if I, in my more sane moments, if I could take a step back, when I could realize that acknowledges, a What I’m saying is pretty crazy. I’m asking them to trust some at the time, you know, 30 year old who hasn’t had the years of experience they had doesn’t have the expertise in their domain area that they have to really trust him enough to take a different approach. And really looking at things from that perspective helped me get more empathetic in terms of what’s continuing for me in terms of growth areas, it’s continuing to re connect to that need for empathy and continuing to make sure that I’m in And challenged myself to be in it for the benefit of the people I’m working with, versus to meet my own needs or to hear some specific process. And I think it’s something that you said in our conversation before this, but but it was a I have to love the people I’m working with more than I love getting to do the discipline I want to do.

Steve Chaparro Yeah, I think that one of the things that I really am trying to learn and be more conscious of is the very same principles that we espouse as professionals and in especially in design lead functions of empathy, employing Human Centered Design, being collaborative, being innovative, being open, like with open innovation, that type of thing. I have found in many times in firms that are client facing those are very easy things to say. But then when we look at it team facing or you know, the internal relationships, we have to be very intentional about making sure that we’re practicing internally what we’re preaching externally And many times that requires just some really hard conversations to be had and just say, Hey, guys, we need to really do what we’re saying. If that resonates with you, what were some of the things that that you encountered in that similar vein?

Pierre Delinois Yeah, definitely, I think it’s exactly what you described, it’s going on that journey, and creating that safety for folks to share their concerns. And for me to be in a position where I actively sought to learn from their concerns and adjust what I was doing and and see how I might better approach my thought of what would be a solution in order to fit in into what really would be a solution for their needs. I think another thing that fits into this and this goes back and ties to this theme of self application and applying this methodology to myself is something that a mentor recently said to me is, you know, understand that your ability is to turn people’s baggage into luggage.

And when I start to see frustration or resistance, not as all they’re against me, all right, my goal is to overcome and to push but instead Use it as an opportunity to learn and ask questions. Yeah, I’m in the position where I can equip them to be more successful, if I’m sensitive, and if I stop and if I listen, versus if I just continue to push and push. The third thing is really, really being and I hate to say be the change because it’s thrown out so much. But there is something to acting out of the future that I hope to create. And just as much as I’m sharing with individuals, that this is a possibility. It’s my actions. It’s the way in which I engage them. That gives them the trust, the courage and the feeling of safety in order to step into that.

Steve Chaparro Yeah, I really feel like you know, taking design principles or the methodologies of design thinking design sprints, is definitely it is a new way of working. It’s it is a new way of believing and thinking and that requires the practitioners, the sponsors of these approaches to trust the process, right. trust the process. You may not see it Now, you may not understand the circumstances or you may not feel comfortable with the squeak leanness, you know, of this process, but trust the process. And I think I think what this does if leaders root to truly understand this, they would understand that letting go and stepping back allows others to step up and speak up. And you’re going to be far more innovative, you’re going to be far more, you’re going to have higher engagement with your teams. But what has been the leadership journey of the department that you’ve worked with? How have they wrestled with this? And how have you seen sort of that character development arc? You know, in a sense, or at least behavior? What does that been like for some of those leaders?

Pierre Delinois Yeah, totally. And I’ll include myself in this too. I think it’s been this journey of, especially as we fast forward from the six month tests and say, Okay, this is the thing. You know, this is the thing how big of a thing, how should this manifest itself within our organization more broadly, and the journey has looked like, let’s think about how we actually apply this methodology. Where does it make sense for us to apply this work of design and use the design sprint or use a research study? Use, you know, quantitative study? Or does it make sense for us to not do that, and it’s been very honest, very real conversations across all the leadership thinking through that seeking to apply that in the most effective way.

Do it in a way where folks feel free to explore, but we’re also there stewards of their need to make sure that their internal teams aren’t being bombarded by you know, new approach that makes them feel overwhelmed and concerned and confused. So really, it is it is that balance within that within striking that. The other piece I’d add to it, too, that this speaks to some extent to the previous question around things that helped individuals make that journey or help those that maybe had some concerns or were more uncomfortable crossings, a little level of comfort.

I think there’s also something to be said for understanding the culture within which you work. Being able to bring forth artifacts, data, pieces of information that that culture values and can be used to feel more comfortable. Another thing that’s been very helpful early on in our journey over and above the, you know, sort of small commitments, test and learn, be honest conversations really was the use of metrics. And early on in running the test, we did some internal work and conversation with my leader with my vice president, we scoped out early on, hey, success means individuals use this service. success means they believe that this helps them build better products. And success means that they feel involved and they feel their team are supported in creating their best thinking, right.

And so what we did is at the end of every project, we set a really short survey three quick questions, asking them if we met all those goals. We coupled that with the growth of how many teams were working with us, and that also was a really helpful bridge with folks who, you know, maybe initially might have said, What is this you know, this seems kind We could come with data and show, hey, there’s actually measurable improvements, in addition to some of the softer, more intangible benefits that are there that help to bridge the gap. And that also continues to help the teams wrestle with leaders, I should say wrestle with the right questions. Yeah. As we think about how to continue to mature this and apply this in the best way.

Steve Chaparro Yeah. So I think our conversation right, so far has been probably with some assumption that people might know what design thinking is, and like, what the methodology is, and even, maybe the more specific questions like, Okay, what types of problems can design thinking, help us with? How can we, in fact, reshape or improve either one the employee experience components of that employee experience, and culture? Give me some examples of some of the things you’ve worked on? Or maybe a project or two, but I’d love to hear maybe the breadth of projects just in general, and then maybe an example of what that process looked like.

Pierre Delinois Absolutely. Yeah. So I’d say first, whenever we’re working with teams, To clarify what we mean when we say design, we simply define it as it’s a systematic way to solve human problems. And when we say human problems, human problems extend into the range of anything from highly emotional, highly subjective to complex, maybe you don’t necessarily know what drives what, and what’s nice about the design framework. And it’s also worth noting, and we’re full believers and advocates of this in our company, that it’s not the only tool, nor is it the the best tool, really, the better way to think about it is it’s a very useful tool that can play a role in a fleet of other tools to solve problems, and advanced work. That said, we found there to be benefits over a range of different things.

And I think first and foremost, when you’re talking about the employee experience, I mean, what within a company is more subjective than that what you want, Steven in a role is different than what I want. And that’s different than many of the listener community that’s in this, you know, might want. And so, first, it’s a framework to really understand those desires, those needs. Put them in context and begin to think about how you might lead needs for that different set of stakeholder groups. Some examples of specific types of projects that my team has the opportunity to jump in and partner in. And also, I want to clarify that in our role. And in our structure, we’re much more project based. So we have different teams like recruiting or a leadership development team or some of these other groups that have ownership over programs. And our team will partner with them at various phases of a project to either driving improvement or to test a new concept. 

So in that we’ve been able to do things like partner with our development team to really help them explore and understand how to transform our performance management process, something that we ran in partnership with them over, you know, the past few years where we help them understand challenges that employees were currently experiencing with the way we do performance management and performance. In your performance conversations. We’re able to do things like design tests, run control versus focus Screen style experiments, send out surveys, assess those results. And then finally fit all that into design sprint to give the team space to look at it digested as the experts in the discipline. And then for them to create that new solution, understanding the insights from the experiences that the different team members had.

Steve Chaparro So how are you folks implementing the design sprint format? You know, many times, some of the work that I do is with the Office of Civic Innovation here at the city of Long Beach, and they have the Office of Civic Innovation is essentially the in house innovation consultancy for all other departments within the city. So it’s very much project base as well. And one of the things that they have been learning is to not necessarily use designed thinking terminology, but really help them with specific outcomes and do it in that specific way. What are some lessons that you have learned about how to describe the work that you do because one of the first sort of push backs was Oh, You’re from the Office of Civic Innovation, you’re going to come and tell me that I’m doing things wrong or that I’m broken. So like, I don’t know if I want to talk to you. So what was the some of the initial learnings about how to approach different function leaders within even HR?

Pierre Delinois Yeah, that that’s such a good question. So early on, what we found is if we could think about the work we do as a product, and a service really bundled together, and our members and hrs customers, then we would do well to think about it through that model. It would help us be sensitive to their needs, and be proactive about packaging, what we do in a consumable way, we from there moved to define the work that the team does in really four simple buckets. One, we’ll help you solve problems. And we’ll do that through a range of ways. Everything from really a small one to two hour problem definition session. Well, we’ll get different stakeholders in the room who experienced this problem. We’ll have them share perspectives, and we’ll work with you to define that down into one simple problem statement, one sentence that explains what’s broken, who’s affected by the brokenness and what the implications are of that brokenness. And if that’s sufficient for you run with that, if you’d like more, we can continue to talk about other ways to support that. defining the problem offering also got into things like hey, we’ll run a research study for you. We’ll interview X number of people, we’ll run X number of focus groups will synthesize all of that into a short research brief that produces an insights and key actions. And we’ll hand that to you to in order to take action as you see fit. or walk. We might also do a quantitative study where we do the work with you to deliver a more numerical style of a results.

A service offering number two was more of that true facilitated design sprint, I think the thing that especially is popular right now, when folks think about design, we tried to do a lot of work to really say hey, this is also a solution but know that this isn’t always the right solution or the perfect solution because Design Sprint’s can be time consuming they can be they can require so much effort, it’s really important to make sure that we expect to get the right kind of return to where we want to exert that type of effort. If teams did off for it, and we’re in a place where they were ready to seek early stage tests, solutions and testable, you know, designs, then we ran the sprint a couple different ways, rather than the traditional five day, our traditional offering as a three day sprint, where we compress a few your earlier stage exercises. And on day three, we focus on testing with real users live so that the stakeholder can see those reactions and that feedback. If teams didn’t have necessarily the appetite for the full three day, we’ll take it down to a one day or maybe even a four hour sprint.

Right now we’re in the midst of exploring how we chunk that down even more. So especially with us being in this fully remote situation. We’re finding that it’s a lot for teams to sit Yeah, on a computer on a zoo, or, you know, four plus hours. So we’ve even had as recently as this morning cycle of getting a player on and test a one hour, a one and a half hour iteration of a sprint. The third offering that we put out there for teams is really that full pilot test. So you already know what you want to do, you want to roll it out, you have some really solid data in place. Let’s help you figure out and track as your solution is being used, whether or not it’s effective, and give you those insights to help you improve it.

And then finally, the fourth and last piece that we provide is coaching. And we use it as our way to not only manage work that we can’t necessarily take on directly, but we do really believe in and I think this is true for all of us as design practitioners, really our goal should be we want this role work to live within the organization. We don’t want to be the only ones doing it. So that fourth offering we put out to folks is Hey, we’ll teach you how to do it. We’ll give you tools, templates and job aids to get you going.

Steve Chaparro I could give you a virtual fist bump. Like I love that. I love those for the way you’ve wrapped that up because I think that resonates so much with even the recommendations that for the Office of Civic Innovation is just one example is how does this team show up? What’s the hat that they’re wearing? And it’s important to have that conversation, because then the expectations are set in the proper way. So in the way we’ve done it, there is okay, either one, I’m going to act as a consultant, I’m going to be the subject matter expert, and I will do the work for you. I will do the research, I will define the problem, all of the steps of design thinking but I’m the subject matter expert, you’re hiring me to do the work for you. There is room for that in many cases, but I think what you said were you actually facilitating that’s the second role that I’ve seen too is we’re going to actually lead you through this methodology. We’re going to teach it to you lead you through it and apply it to one specific challenge. But I think the third one for us and it was fourth for you is the coaching and I love that because I think the depending on the problem, depending on their awareness of this methodology, where their life they’re where they’re at in their life cycle of awareness and adoption will all depend on where how you show up. And I think allowing yourself to kind of sit in any one and it may be a combination thereof.

You know, initially, they might hire you, I don’t have the time to do this. So like for this one, project B, my consultant, you gotta win there. All right, now we’re going to help. We want us to learn about this as a team, so we’re not just relying on you. All right, we’re here some facilitated sessions. Alright, Steve, we’re going to do this major project. you’ve introduced this, you’ve given them methodology. And now we’re going to launch this big project. But man a month in I forgot a lot of what we talked about, like it’s, I’m Rusty, like it’s under really good in the workshop. Can you support me on an ongoing basis to make sure I’m on track. So I love that, like, you’re affirming some of the things that we’ve been doing and thinking about too, so that’s much appreciated for me.

Pierre Delinois That’s great. And as I said, it’s we’re continuing to learn in our journey to With this, I think that’s the other piece of it too, in the same way that that you’re applying this to the work you do with the Office of Innovation, there’s always an opportunity to take to hone down to refocus. I read this product management article recently. And one of the biggest takeaways is probably the last line in the article was, the work is never done. And seeing it as that not being overwhelmed by that, but instead seeing that as an opportunity to continue to learn and grow. And coupled with that falling in love with that journey of continual learning and growth. I think that’s, that’s really the charge before us as professionals who work in this space and practitioners.

Steve Chaparro I love that last line because it resonates so much with what I learned in architecture school, and that was you’re never done. You just run out of time. So if you what would be some advice if you were to talk to an HR professional that is really interested in either one learning or applying some of these principles in their area of work, they may not have the right All too, you know, fully launched this across the function, let alone the company. But what are some grassroots ways that HR professionals can learn about this? Yeah,

Pierre Delinois That’s good. So and this sounds a little cliche, but it’s absolutely true to my experience and as I speak to others their experience, but I think the first pieces start small and small can be with your own personal projects. I glossed over this but in my early journey, exploring this space, another individual I spoke to who had a lot of background in this, he went as far as to say, hey, if you can’t do this in your work, do it in your personal life. Apply it to how you think about the problem of why you can’t get motivated for exercise. treat that as an experiment. Do a little bit of on your own personal empathy through an empathize space of what are all the things I feel when I can’t exercise, take it to define it, turn those observations into a simple sentence that you think explains why you can’t exercise move from empathize to Define to to really further on in the process where you’re starting to get into, okay, what might be all the different ideas that would help me solve this problem. Let me now try one of those. And if it’s not working in my test, then I know I have space to rigo and redo this whole cycle again and improve.

Once you you move from there, and you start to find those opportunities to apply it to your day to day work. More than anything else, getting small, focused pieces of your own work that you can do this for also allows you to start to display the benefits of this to other folks that you’re working with. And just as we say, you know, within the design world where you’re talking to an end user, and you don’t want to ask them about concepts, you’d much rather show them a prototype and elicit a response. That leader that you might be working with as an HR professional when you come to them and you share this idea of Hey, design thinking, I think this could work. You have to realize that that’s also a concept and you’re better off showing them a prototype that concept which is examples of ways that you’ve used it to solve real problems. And the third is find opportunities to talk to other folks who are doing this work. That can look like folks in your organization where you are.

I early on searched meetup. And I was fortunate that my city had as a pretty thriving community of designers, practitioners and people that do this kind of work. Yeah, but also across the web, there’s tons of people that are exploring this space. You know, some different folks that I’ve seen are, you know, the disrupt HR community is one that I see on LinkedIn a lot that’s doing a lot of investigation around how this plays a role. And SHRM, you know, the National HR organizations exploring this, so use those as opportunities to plug in fourth, related to third, don’t be afraid to ask people who don’t do work in HR, how they’re applying this. And there’s so much to be gained and learn from that. That’s another piece I would say for my development that again, I didn’t mention early on, but coupled with my journey and doing this work. There was a ton of direct partnership with folks in our product organization here, folks on our marketing team. Who do market research and use some related techniques, really to ask them questions, learn more about how they’re using techniques to solve the problem, and begin to see ways that I could do the same thing. And I think those three things are good, practical, tangible ways to start to get opportunity to learn, grow, and really gain traction and bringing this work forward in your organization.

Steve Chaparro Yeah, that’s great. I think part of the passion and objective for me and even doing this podcast, especially as a relates to this intersection between design and culture, is that this is not necessarily a widespread conversation that’s being had. And in some cases, we need to learn from other functional areas that design or design thinking is being applied to and learn from those adoption journeys as well. You know, like, how is it that we communicate the value or of design thinking to achieve, you know, culture or employee centric challenges? I think, I think a lot of the challenges how do we communicate this? How do what language Do we use? Do we use design laced communication? Or do we adopt language that is already prevalent in this world and just readapt it. So I think sometimes innovation is almost innovating, how we communicate. It’s not even so much about the methodology behind the design, but it’s redesigning how we communicate.

Pierre Delinois I think that’s so, so good. And so true. I mean, it’s so much reminds me of this example of, it’s like moving to a new country where you don’t speak the language and you’re truly becoming bilingual. And I think there’s such a need for that. And in my own journey to that’s been a big learning and a big development areas, as I’m spending time with folks in the product discipline in the design, discipline, developing that increased level of sensitivity so that when I’m back talking to individuals in HR, there’s not this, you know, this further feeling of alienation where people have this feeling of Yeah, we’re not get it. I’m feeling overwhelmed or confused or distracted by it. And it’s absolutely I think you’re right. It’s a learning journey for us. as practitioners to get better and better at saying these things with even more clarity, and even more accessibility,

Steve Chaparro I think part of it too, is even settling into the tension of that, when people are wrestling with the idea, like give space to that, like, allow space for like I get it, I get it that these this is a new concept, I get it that this is a new way of working. I know it’s new terminology. Let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about why that bothers you. Or why is that? Why is releasing control timing, we know why. But it’s like letting them exercise some of those because I think almost that verbal processing of even those concerns is part of the journey. I remember I was talking with a young leader who kind of said, Hey, I shared with my team, this brand new future that we’re going to head towards. And I expected that they’re just going to embrace her right away because they believe in me, but they had the nerve to ask me questions and they weren’t sure in me, and I said, I don’t think that they were actually challenging you, I think they were trying to understand. And them asking questions doesn’t mean that they’re challenging you, it means that they’re so it may be an exercise for you as a leader to rethink how you’re communicating or even the wrestling over the concept, meaning having sort of what some people might think of as conflict conversation with they wrestle with it and come out the other end of the conversation, embracing the idea, they will be the biggest advocates for this new way of working.

Pierre Delinois Yeah, I think that’s so true. And that’s such a good reminder for me to be drawn back into the fact that the process of wrestling is what builds the closeness it builds. It builds the trust and I think it’s easy oftentimes to think of the future transformed state as the goal. Yeah, which it is to an extent but we lose sight of the fact that the very real path there is people doing the work to learn and change And to be transformed. I think that’s so good.

Steve Chaparro Well, there was a firm that I worked for, and the founder would say our product is our process. And our destination is our journey. And that was part of it. You know, it’s like the wrestling. I wholly agree that that wrestling is a big part of it. I think too many times, leaders will try to outsource the journey. Yeah. And that’s the reason why I would rather say rather than hiring a consultant, outsourcing the journey, hire someone to guide you through the process. Because there’s a lot of I mean, whatever term you want to use, I’ve used it’s brain damage, the brain damage that you incurred throughout the process, or even if you liken it to a mother who undergoes childbirth, it’s the travail of that childbirth, that bonds that mother with her child. And you can’t replicate that you I mean, you can Yes, you can outsource through surrogacy, pregnancy, right? But that’s not what I’m talking about. But the outsourcing of the journey is going to result in something that is so subpar. But if you’re able to journey along with the people on your team wrestle with it, there’s going to be so much that comes out of it at the other end. As we start to end this conversation, I wanted to ask you as we’re going to COVID-19 How has design thinking helped you folks reshaped employee experience where most people are working from home? Absolutely, yeah. So

Pierre Delinois I think first, I’ll start with empathy. And I think this is true of design thinking this is just true of a trait that we all I think, have the opportunity regardless of our discipline or focus area, we have the opportunity to truly embrace. And I think what COVID has brought about in our company, and I think in the national conversation, is we’re digging that much deeper into the fact that we’re all real humans who have real families and real debts. We live in houses. We have human health concerns, and we don’t Just show up clock in, do work and go and get and hang ourselves up on a shelf, and then come out and do that again. And I think this presents all of industry, this opportunity to really see that and to embrace that and take it even a step further in creating environments where people truly can come and work and thrive.

For us, we see this playing out, I think in a way that I’m really excited and proud to see as an employee of our organization, or you’ve seen this unbelievable response in making sure that all of our team members feel safe, feel that their needs are being met, they’re able to work in situations where they’re remote, they have the technologies that device support to do that. They’re not being asked to come into a remote site and do that work and possibly, you know, have a risk of exposure to illness. And then also extending into added tweaks to our benefits, just this energy we have around making sure that team members have what they need from a benefits offering standpoint are connected to what will help them progress and be successful, you know through this season. I think for us just as much as it’s an area of growth and learning for us, I think that opportunity is true for all employers to, to embrace that that much more and to really step it up in their environments that they’re providing for employees.

Steve Chaparro Folks, we’ve been talking to Pierre Delinois, the senior manager for HR product development at Asurian. Pierre, if people want to learn more about you and your work, where can people learn about you?

Pierre Delinois Yeah, so LinkedIn is a great spot. Feel free to reach out on LinkedIn Connect, send me a message. I’d love the opportunity to chat. Learn more about the work that’s being done in this space and work that folks in this community are doing.

Steve Chaparro Thanks, Pierre, appreciate you coming on the show.

Pierre Delinois Thanks so much for having me.

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