Design Thinking and Talent Management


“Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening.”
(Coco Chanel)

“… fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening … “. Ideas come from people, and ideas determine how people live and what is happening. Because of their thinking ability, only people can generate ideas, and people have the endless creative potential to generate millions of ideas. Moreover, since people are social beings, they naturally share their ideas with others. The best ways for ideas to be shared and build upon are meetings, summits, congresses and other social and professional events where people gather and talk with each other.

Project Management Institute      

Istanbul Summit 2015

A month ago, on the 2nd and 3rd of October 2015, there was PMI Summit in Istanbul. Its heading was New Trends in Project Management, and it was organized by PMI Turkey Chapter. In his opening speech Metin Ornek, the President of PMI Turkey Chapter, talked about the different achievements of the Professional Association he has been a dedicated founder and people centered leader. One of the most interesting topics that caught my attention was the career path available for all volunteers. Metin Ornek explained that each volunteer is given the chance to follow this career path. As a result, all volunteers have the opportunity to work voluntarily and develop their leadership competencies, and one day become top level leaders in PMI Turkey Chapter. Metin Ornek thanked, honored and applauded more than 120 PMI Turkey Chapter volunteers who worked very hard in organizing the two day Project Management Summit that took place at Bogazici University.

Later, when I had the chance to meet and talk to Metin Ornek, I shared my feelings and ideas that I was very much impressed by his leadership approach for engaging volunteers and motivating them to keep their passion for voluntary work. In my opinion, his approach should be the new trend in leading NGOs, Nonprofit Organizations and Not-for-profit Professional Membership Associations because it will result in spreading social entrepreneurship for solving social problems. Hopefully, more Nonprofit Organizations will implement this new trend and give the opportunity to their volunteers to become social entrepreneurs and leaders. PMI Istanbul Summit 2015 was a great success because of its positive, friendly and cozy atmosphere, and for two days, the Summit speakers and participants felt welcomed and motivated to share ideas. Many project managers, other professionals, practitioners, academicians and students enjoyed the two days of the Summit. This diversity of participants and the diversity of the topics discussed and ideas expressed were like a melting point for new ideas and new trends to form and emerge.

I was very honored and happy to take part in this successful event. Once more, I would like to express my gratitude to Metin Ornek, Asena Dirican, Dilek Dogan and Aygen Yolcu for their hospitality and for giving me the opportunity to express my ideas about some new trends in Project Management which I shared in my presentation titled Design Thinking and Talent Management.

Design Thinking

When we hear the word “design”, most of us associate it with fashion. When we say fashion, we immediately think of many famous fashion designers, and Coco Chanel is one of the most famous. Her fashion changed the way women used to dress, gave them a new and more comfortable style to dress, and also liberated women to participate in social and professional life. While writing about Design Thinking and Talent Management, Coco Chanel is going to be the metaphor in this post because she is not only the best known fashion designer and the first and most successful woman entrepreneur of the 20th century, but also she was a design thinker and icon leader who led change and innovation. Yes, the roots of design thinking are in design professions. However recently, it has been used by other professionals.

What is design thinking? This concept has been developed and adapted for business purposes by David Kelley who is an American businessman, entrepreneur, engineer and designer. He is the founder, chairman and managing partner of IDEO, which is a well-known design and consultancy firm located in Palo Alto, California. David Kelley is also a professor at Stanford University, and he is the founder of d. school. He has made great contributions to design and design education, and as a result of these, David Kelley has received several honors. Design Thinking has been implemented at IDEO so as to design many products some of which are very widely used and known. IDEO has also applied Design Thinking for designing services.

Basically, Design Thinking is defined as design-specific cognitive activities that designers apply during the process of designing. However broadly, Design Thinking refers to a formal method for practical resolution of problems and creation of solutions, with the intent of an improved future result. It is implemented by professionals to solve complex problems and find desirable solutions. Since Design Thinking is not problem focused, it is different from conventional problem solving or the analytical scientific method, which begins with thoroughly defining all the parameters of the problem in order to find a solution. On the contrary, it is solution focused and action oriented that is starting with a clear goal, a better future situation instead of solving a specific problem. In other words, by considering both present and future conditions and parameters of the problem, alternative solutions may be explored simultaneously because Design Thinking investigates both known and ambiguous aspects of the current problem or situation in order to discover hidden parameters and open alternative paths which may lead to the goal. Since Design Thinking is iterative, intermediate “solutions” are also potential starting points of alternative paths, including redefining of the initial problem. Finally, it draws upon empathy, research, imagination and systemic reasoning so as to create desired outcomes that benefit customers and clients.

After defining Design Thinking, it is useful to describe it as well. Shortly summarized, the Design Thinking method has four elements and five phases. The four elements or the basic features which characterize Design Thinking are:

• Human-centered
• Collaborative
• Optimistic
• Experimental

Besides, the Design Thinking method is actually a long but creative and innovative process that has five phases:

1. Discovery
2. Interpretation
3. Ideation
4. Experimentation
5. Evolution

What are the reasons for Design Thinking to be a new trend in Project Management? There are numerous reasons but the main ones that I discussed in my presentation can be listed as follow:

• Managing change
• Managing innovation
• Managing and developing talent
Improving the problem solving capacity of teams
Supporting the creative potential of employees
Developing leadership competency

Talent Management

Coco Chanel designed outfits for women. As depicted in the photograph, she is designing the dress to perfectly fit the model. In other words, she applied her gifts to design for her customers.

Similarly, HR professionals and especially Talent Managers should tailor made their people solutions to fit and satisfy the needs of all employees. As known and implemented, the traditional Talent Management is the science of using Strategic Human Resource Planning to add business value by helping organizations to achieve their business objectives. Everything done to recruit, retain, train and develop, reward and make employees perform forms a part of Talent Management. Talent Management means that organizations are strategic and deliberate in sourcing, attracting, selecting, training, developing, retaining, promoting and moving employees through the organization. The most critical is that the Talent Management strategy needs to align to the business strategy so as to result in reaching business goals and celebrating business success.

Traditional Talent Management is based on determining specific criteria to be used to select an individual employee as a potential talent. Consequently, these individuals are grouped and the group is named as High Potentials. Later, High Potentials are trained and developed and from them future leaders are selected. Well, this process of managing talent is widely implemented by many companies and it is acceptable and successful, yet I feel it is time to question, modify and improve it.

As many consultancy companies state nowadays, there is an obvious and pressing need for making some changes in Talent Management or People Management in general. HR professionals face great changes in the world of work and in the diversity of the workforce, and they try to manage these changes. One way to manage change is through projects. Stated differently, this can be possible with engaging HR in project management, so HR professionals have to be able to develop and manage projects.

As discussed above Design Thinking is a New Trend in Project Management, and it can be also implemented in designing HR projects. What if managing talent is performed by applying Design Thinking? What might be the possible advantages? Being a Talent Strategies Leader, I think that these advantages are:

• Guaranteeing innovation by supporting employees to unleash their creative potential
• Giving priority to talent diversity within teams
• Team based Talent Management
• Spontaneous emergence of distributed leadership
• Natural talent development along the Design Thinking process

New Competencies

As a Capabilities Development Consultant, my opinion is that the future competencies for which HR professionals are going to look for are the competencies related with Design Thinking. Since many organizations and companies are going to implement Design Thinking approach for innovation, they will need employees with these 8 core competencies:

1. Empathy
2. Team work and collaboration
3. Problem solving
4. Making research
5. Brainstorming
6. Making prototypes
7. Getting feedback
8. Convergent and divergent thinking

As a result, HR recruiters are going to search for employees who have these competencies. In addition, HR training and development professionals are going to organize training programs that will train employees to learn these competencies. Moreover, they are going to be included in the performance management system that is based not on measuring performance for the sake of evaluation but on developing performance for unleashing creativity and engaging in innovation, so it is time for many companies to include these competencies in their competency models.

Design Thinking and Talent Management are two topics that I am very passionate about because I believe that every human being has a unique talent that has to be nurtured and expressed for the good of all. Teachers and educators are responsible for discovering the talent buds and starting the process of talent cultivation, and HR professionals and especially Talent Managers have to make it possible for all talents or the collective talent as a sum total to come into blossom like a fruit tree during the spring season. Deep in my heart, I know that Design Thinking has to be broadly applied in education and business because there is need for innovation in every facet of life and human civilization has to innovate in order to progress and get to the next level. Talent Mangers have to help people to believe in their creativity. I would like to conclude by quoting one idea from the second page of my favorite book Creative Confidence:

“Belief in your creative capacity lies at the heart of innovation.”
(David Kelley and Tom Kelley)

(Posted also on LinkedIn Pulse)

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