Teamwork is at the core of innovation and one of the key pillars of the Design Thinking mindset. Many organizations today are operating in team-based settings, specifically for strategic and innovation projects. "Leading diverse project teams and enhancing their performance is a necessary leadership task" as our academic director, Dr. Claudia Nicolai, says. It require new ways of understanding, communicating and interacting with individual team members and teams alike. At the Global Design Thinking Week, which took place from 15-20 August at the HPI D-School, we addressed the new approach team(ed) leadership.
Working in teams is not always easy. Many of us have experienced difficult teamwork experiences that left us feeling frustrated. In Design Thinking we consciously build on the collaborative intelligence and creativity of diverse teams. By applying this innovation approach, we learn and train how to work effectively in teams. We understand leadership as an interactive instead of a directional process, as a meaningful conversation. Therefore, the team members as well as its leaders share the responsibility connected to and needed for effective leading.
During the GDTW, we addressed this topic together with our project partner Peakon. The platform Peakon supports customers in improving employee engagement through databased feedback. It provides a real-time, data driven approach to measuring and tracking employee engagement, through a continuous survey experience and customized manager dashboards.
Peakon provided our teams with the challenge “how can data-based feedback enable team leaders to foster engagement with and within their teams”. How can we support leaders in developing tangible actions to foster team engagement based on the data provided by their team members? For four days, ten international teams worked on this challenge together with experienced Design Thinking coaches.
This Global Design Thinking Week gave participants a double-fold immersion into Design Thinking. On the one hand, they learned about its process, principles and methods while working on their team project. On the other hand, they got a deep-dive into creative team interactions and experienced team(ed) leadership while working on the design challenge.
Support from Design Thinking research
To support the teams in their project work, researchers Benedikt Ewald, Axel Menning and Andrea Rhinow from the Hasso Plattner Design Thinking Research Program (HPDTRP) shared the main findings from their research project on “Measuring Creative Collaboration”. For several years, the researchers had observed Design Thinking team during their work, generated and analyzed data.
From the research insights on team interaction, they derived templates and tools supporting the GDTW teams during different phases in their work process. One of the frameworks helped the teams to get a deeper understanding of the problem outlined in the design challenge. Another tool supported team members in identifying and solving problems conflicts occurring in their collaboration.
Ideas for better employee engagement
After four intense workshop days, the teams presented their ideas and prototypes. During their interviews, the teams learned that employees need to see the consequences of their feedback. Employee engagement can only improve if it is clear which actions follow the employee feedback. Besides the databased feedback, many employees value a personal interaction with their team leader.
For example, one of the teams developed an idea for an early warning system for leaders. Should several employees give negative feedback over a longer time period, the system informs the leader and suggests setting up a personal meeting. Another team suggested comparing the employee feedback with the feedback of the leader. In case of discrepancies, the system would recommend an action to improve employee satisfaction. These actions could be personal meetings, webinars or external consultants.
We would like to thank all participants and coaches for their intense work and creative ideas as well as our project partner Peakon! The next GDTW will focus on “Human-Centered Design and Strategic Futures” and take place from 12-18 September at the HPI D-School in Potsdam.
Photos: Jana Legler & Anja Harnisch / HPI School of Design Thinking