Earlier this month, it was reported that 22 patients in a renal ward of the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) have been infected with the deadly hepatitis C virus. 4 have since died. The current prognosis is that it was likely due to cross-contamination across medical equipment. I’m convinced that the hospital in question and the Ministry of Health will take steps in identifying the root cause and fixing the problem, however the real victim in this series of unfortunate events is trust.

If we took a user or customer centric point of view to these proceedings, we will soon realize that the basic reason for medical institutions to exist has not been held. All this said with no disrespect to the many professionals in the industry, many of whom are my good friends.

In design thinking, we often adopt a problem solving mindset we call: “Jobs to be done”, or “What’s in it for me?”. This helps us understand what is in the mind (or heart) of the consumer when he or she visits a medical institution. In most cases, our research tells us that this “job” is to get well. In this case of cross contamination due to poor infection control, not only did patients not get well, they just happen to pick up an incurable disease as well.

This aligns with some ethnographic research that we did some time back when people whispered to us that there are certain “hospitals” you don’t bring the sick or elderly to…if you do they never leave. When people’s deep-seated needs and motivations have not been satisfied, they lose trust in the system. Further reports telling us that such infections are rare is only going to create more cynicism. While this challenge of building trust is a wicked one to solve, some basic principles apply.

Say Sorry – To the credit of all the parties involved this was done. Admission of guilt shows that you are taking responsibility and ownership of the problem. Nothing diffuses hate and distrust quicker than saying sorry.

Transparency – This is one of the cornerstones of building trust, which unfortunately, takes guts to deliver authentically. People don’t like to see the responsible parties hiding behind bureaucracy or even things beyond their control. Try engaging your stakeholders (patients, caregivers etc.) by brining them into your organization to validate what you have done to solve the problem. Even better, work with them to co-create an even better solution. I believe the role of patient or community advocates in hospitals are here to stay.

Stop treating people like numbers – Many large organizations, not necessarily in healthcare, tend to look at their customers as a number on a spreadsheet. When this happens, it becomes too easy to treat problems like we do collateral damage. Numbers should be used to track improvements, not as a means to accept failure when your percentages are low enough.

Be Human – understand that people have deep seated needs and motivations (often not expressed or made visible) that need to be satisfied. Most importantly recognize that this is going to conflict with how you do your job, especially if you are in healthcare.

The key to all of this is about understanding and managing your stakeholder’s expectations. Many things that we do, especially when they are systemic, are now expected as a standard deliverable by our customers. Especially if we have good competitors that do their job well. This means we need to classify services, productivity, efficiency, infection control etc. as “hygiene” factors. Something that we need to get right from the start, if not we are just wasting our time doing what we do. Not an easy task, but at least we know that the design thinking mindset will help you manage this and even alert you when these expectations shift.

2013/4 Brad Frost from CreativeMornings/PGH on Vimeo.

What an awesome Creative Mornings talk by Brad Frost on why we should not to be lazy in design. Or for that matter, in the creation of anything.

If anyone can be a designer, (or an editor, writer, publisher, programmer, videographer, and photographer etc.) the difference between an amateur and a professional is the element of Craft, respecting yourself in what you do, and your user.

Thanks for the timely reminder.

Great article by Benedict Evans who shares a lot of good information on why Microsoft is going to die.

The apps that people want on smartphones are not being written for desktop Windows anyway. Uber doesn’t have a desktop Windows app, and neither does Instacart, Pinterest or Instagram. The apps and services that consumers care about are either smartphone-only or address the desktop using the web, with only partial exceptions for the enterprise. You can’t tempt developers to support Windows Phone by saying ‘it’s easy to deploy your desktop app to mobile’ if there is no desktop app. So Windows is not a point of leverage for Microsoft in mobile. Neither was Office. Few people really want to edit an Office document on a phone – a viewer is normally enough. And as Blackberry also discovered, enterprise support is not enough if the broader phone experience is sub-par. As Apple has added enterprise features, the appeal of Windows Phone has fallen away there too.

This is an unfortunate result of “Legacy Thinking”. After being entrenched with their Windows platform for the longest time, it is time that Microsoft slaughters their last “sacred cow” if they really want to reinvent their business in the age of the Smartphone.

A soon to be fantastic case study on how large organisations should (or should not) innovate.

Via: Microsoft, Capitulation and The End of Windows Everywhere

Connecting the Dots
Photo Source: Flickr

It is the ability to identify patterns of insights and “connect the dots” in a meaningful way.

Bruce Nussbaum, in a blog post: 3 Paths Toward A More Creative Life, calls it “Pattern Sight”.

Pattern sight requires you to master the skill of looking for what should and shouldn’t be there. It’s the ability not only to see the rare “odd duck” but to routinely look for that duck and see it…It takes time to learn patterns of information, which is why you need to spend a lot of time “in the field.”

We call that “experience,” and you’ve seen that whenever you’re in a situation with someone who just “knows” what’s coming next without being able to explain it. That person is reading the patterns. This mastery is not about fresh eyes but wise eyes.

Many people use Design Thinking as a methodology for problem solving, innovation, or just figuring out what to do next. The key ingredient to arriving to the best solutions comes from identifying these patterns.

This is also the key reason why you cannot completely learn Design Thinking through, for example, a 3 day program or even one that is a week or more. We know, because we have been teaching it for years.

Most DT training programs will perhaps, at best, give you an introduction to Design Thinking and its value. However getting it done right requires experience, experience that stems from years of deliberate practice in identifying such patterns and applying it positively.

I like to expand this skill to also include the (overlapping) ability to reframe problems and situations. Many people look at reframing as simply turning negative to positive, or going from “left” to “right”. It’s a lot more.

This quote sums it up nicely and also my blog post today. Have a great week ahead!

Thus the task is not so much to see what no one yet has seen, but to think what nobody yet has thought about that which everybody sees.

-Arthur Schopenhauer, 1788-1860

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