Design thinking can improve your health, wellbeing and, ultimately, your executive performance.
Design isn't just about products and services. Design thinking can give you insight into the root causes of stress and exhaustion and help you redesign your life for the better.
Recently promoted executive Jordi ate a balanced diet, exercised regularly and slept well, writes leadership coach Steven MacGregor for The European Business Review. Yet he was always exhausted. With his work and home life taking the strain, he consulted MacGregor, who used design thinking to determine the root cause.
Examining the executive’s daily activity, he discovered that Jordi drove his moped to work through busy traffic each morning. This commute was using up much of the decision-making energy so crucial to his new role.
The answer was a redesigned daily schedule in which he travelled by taxi instead, arriving at work refreshed and ready to go.
Given the influence of executives’ health and wellbeing on their long-term ability to lead, health should form part of the strategy of any business.
While much advice is available on health and performance at work, any effort to address it requires a good understanding of the individual’s circumstances and a readiness to make changes in behaviour.
Design thinking helps to reveal the issues affecting executives and to lock in any new behaviours designed in response to those insights.
In the simplest terms, design is a process through which something is created. Design is an active process that is essentially:
1) Human. Design creates an environment that satisfies human needs, and takes account of the way those needs change dynamically throughout days and lifetimes. A connected issue is empathy. We have to walk in other people’s shoes to understand their needs.
2) Hidden. Most needs are hard to articulate. Conscious activity is said to represent just 5% of cognition, but the other 95% must be targeted through design if those needs are to be satisfied.
3) Enabled through methods. A variety of methods and tools can be used to make the design a reality within the real-life activity and surroundings of the user.
APPLYING DESIGN TO EXECUTIVE HEALTH
Redesigning executive health requires insights into an individual’s behaviour. These pieces of information are often simple but can be hard to uncover.
Methods such as shadowing – where every action in the subject’s daily life is observed – can highlight needs that need to be addressed.
AREAS FOR ATTENTION
To gain insight into the things that need changing in your own work life, consider the following:
1) Environmental design. Consisting principally of your built surroundings and social circle, the design of your work environment can be modified to encourage different behaviours.
Say you resolve to take the stairs rather than the lift, your immediate environment will influence whether you succeed or not. Your social circle plays a role: walking and talking with colleagues, you’re swept into the lift with everyone else.
And office architecture will affect your ability to stick to your resolve – staircases are generally hidden away while lifts are positioned so that they’re easy to find.
2) Broaden your perspective. Consider other ways of thinking about things and you could uncover new practices that will benefit your health and well-being.
3) Observation. Look at things with a designer’s eye. Think about why some element of your environment exists. Try to look at a familiar sight as if you have never seen it before.
4) Iteration. Keep making small changes to your daily routine and see what works best.
5) Empathy. Watch out for signs of distress from your colleagues, and be kind to yourself too.
Design is not just a means of creating better products and services; it’s also about finding better ways to satisfy our needs as human beings.
Employ design thinking to improve your health, your quality of life and your company’s bottom line.