1. We can all be designers

Everybody has the capacity to design, and by developing or adapting new services or policies you’re already doing so. Adopting more formal design methods tools and approaches in your role will help you to do this more effectively.

2. Focus on the mind-set more than the methods

Design thinking is not just a set of tools or methods, but is also a mindset and approach. Although toolkits are helpful, it’s an experimental mindset where creativity, the ability to learn from failure and unexpected outcomes, and to prototype, iterate and reflect are key. Don’t be overawed by or overly dependent on ‘design tools’: remember they are just concepts that you can play with and practice, rather than a recipe you must follow.

3. Expect the unexpected (and be open to it), staying flexible and willing to change

It’s fine to be uncertain – in fact, it’s very desirable at times in the design process, which challenges the idea that you can know all the answers yourself. Cultivate empathy and a user focus, staying flexible and open to the possibility of the challenge itself changing as you start to approach the problem from the ground up rather than the top down.

It is worth investing time focusing on how to translate the excitement from design workshops involving user insights, problem definition, idea generation and prototype testing into real world implementation. Sometimes projects can lose momentum after the ideas generation stage, before they reach prototyping and implementation.

Anna Whicher
Head of Design Policy, PDR Wales

4. Choosing the right project is important; try starting small

Start small, and try it out step by step. You can’t change everything overnight, but you can take a small project and use it to show others what’s possible and what design-led thinking can do. And once you’ve done it and succeeded, you can go further and taker on bigger challenges with greater confidence. Find out how to choose the right project to start with, and what the key qualities are that make one project a more attractive opportunity than others.

5. Keep the momentum going, and move towards implementation

The idea generation phase can be full of excitement and potential. Yet it is at this stage that many projects in the public sector fall by the wayside, failing to get buy-in or resources to move ahead. From the outset, spend time thinking about the stages that the project will need to pass through in order to successfully move ahead to implementation. If funding will need to be allocated or plans approved, what evidence do you need gather to build a compelling story? Can you break the project into phases and identify success factors at each stage that would allow the project to move ahead? Both patience and determination are important qualities in seeing a project through to implementation.