Devon County Council is part of the latest cohort in the Design in the Public Sector programme hoping to learn how to better engage staff and find innovative new ways of working.

Having prepared for the initial two-day intensive workshop (which you can read about here), the members of the team took some time to reflect on what they’d already learned in the introduction to the programme and how they were going to act on it.

Jo Prince White, Senior Workforce Development Advisor

Well, what a rush! A fantastic start to the Design Thinking programme for us all. The two days were full-on, generating hundreds of new thoughts about the challenge we are facing.

It turns out the biggest challenge is to not assume we are tackling the right issue to begin with.

It turns out the biggest challenge is to not assume we are tackling the right issue to begin with. Design thinking starts with your initial problem, then expands as you check out your hypothesis through exploration and research, using Design Council’s Double Diamond approach. So many solutions are created for the wrong problem, so time spent really understanding what we think our issue is and checking it out is time well spent.

We’ve learned some great techniques to really understand what is going on using the design principles of being user-centred and being visual, and our next step is to find some willing volunteers to go through a similar process back at DCC. We can then start really exploring our various challenges in the community, using new ways to gain user insight and gathering evidence to help us truly understand what our starting point is, so that we have a greater chance at developing a solution that will actually work.

Now it’s back to the office to set up our work space so that people can see us ‘thinking out loud’ and to start recruiting volunteers to bring all the theory to life.

Carl Haggerty, Digital Communications Manager

As the three of us walked away from the venue and back towards Bristol Temple Meads, we laughed as we couldn’t believe it was only the day before that we had started. Such was the intensity of the two days, packed full of challenge, opportunity, learning and amazing conversations with peers and people from outside the sector who inspired us.

My personal journey over the two days was more about validation of the theory and learning I have been doing and shifting from design thinking to design doing.

The issue for me in using design thinking theory for a while and learning from others the techniques and models to help is that, unless you practice this stuff, you never move forward and develop your own ability to break through the moments when you find it hard and you get lost in the detail or somehow distracted.

You have support and are challenged to move forward towards a new perspective.

This is where the programme helps - it stops you from resorting back to habits which will die hard, especially when things get hard. You have support and are challenged to move forward towards a new perspective or a new realisation.

I have to thank the facilitators during the two days who were fantastic at keeping us moving. It got to the point on the Friday just after lunch that we started to lag, and I just had to keep going as I knew if I slowed down or stopped I’d not be able to restart myself.

It has already proved its value. We have gained new insights on our challenge a well as an outline plan, which has already changed since liaising with colleagues back at County Hall - and that’s OK as the plan is better now and will deliver a bigger impact.

I’m very much looking forward to day 3 in September and to sharing the learning further. Until then, I’m still digesting and sorting out the learning in my head.

The second stage of the Design in the Public Sector programme takes place in September. Devon County Council will continue to blog about their experience and you can keep up to date here.

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