Design Thinking, a pharmaceutical puzzle

Design Thinking: a pharmaceutical puzzle

Navigating Constraints

We’ve just completed the design and delivery of an innovation conference for a pharmaceutical company in Ireland. Our theme at the conference was navigating constraints in a highly constrained business environment. After some initial diagnostic work, we came up with the idea of mazes, puzzles and games as a design principle, since the client’s business environment is itself like a maze.

In the event, we devised a number of ‘kinaesthetic puzzles’ to get people engaged and prepared for the business challenges. The main experiences consisted of the design and testing of some puzzles / games / mazes made by participants, intended to teach other teams about particular constraints in a very powerful way and offer a forum for collective creative thinking and learning. I’m pleased to say that our approach to ‘serious play’ was very well received:

“The feedback from all of our team has been fantastic with many quotes of ‘the best conference ever’ ringing down the phone lines for the days following”.

We also provided a toolkit of creativity strategies to supplement the team’s natural capabilities in this area. One such skill is the concept of ‘combination’ as a spur to creating products and services that offer sustainable and hard to copy advantages. This was introduced via a live seminar on the subject using rock music. Here’s a short extract from the “Riffs and Myths of Creativity” seminar:

Business lessons

As Einstein said “You can’t solve a problem with the same level of thinking that created it”. Serious problems can sometimes be made worse by applying serious thinking to them.
By changing the frame of reference, sometimes you change the ease in which a problem can be tackled. This can be done in a variety of ways.

Good design thinking takes the client’s issue / problem / opportunity and then designs an intervention which models the topic, allowing space for new thinking, rather than ‘starting with the intervention and fitting the client’s topic to it’. It’s a best-fit rather than a template approach to dealing with complex topics.

Even the most reserved people can be encouraged to play if it is serious play rather than just playfulness for it’s own sake. That said, this often works best if assisted by skilled and experienced facilitators.

Engagement often comes from involvement. In this case directly through participation in the design itself led to attachment to the games that were designed and then a willingness to use the games to address the problems that had been provided to the summit.

Play is essential to creativity and innovation and it is often screened out of work to the ultimate decline of a climate where new ideas are generated and developed.

image credit: innovationforhealth.org

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The Music of Business Peter Cook is a business academic, author, consultant and musician. He leads Human Dynamics and The Academy of Rock, and provides Keynote speaking, Organisational Development and Business Coaching. You can follow him on twitter @Academyofrock. Peter is Rock ‘n’ Roll Innovation Editor at Innovation Excellence.

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