Cultivate a Human-Centric Design Environment to Create Meaningful Consumer-Product Relationships

Interview With Holly O’driscoll, North America Design Thinking Leader, Procter & Gamble

(on Marketwired, in San Francisco, December 17, 2015)

Institutionalising a design thinking process can pose a challenge to many organisations looking to instil an enterprise-wide culture of innovation. Many companies are looking at ways to integrate the process from ideation to rapid prototyping to ensure a constant innovation pipeline filled with disruptive products and services. This requires a disruptive mentality — which can be challenging for employees at first, as most people are afraid of failure.

Holly O’Driscoll, North America Design Thinking Leader at Procter & Gamble, recently spoke with marcus evans to illustrate the importance of design thinking to the overall R&D process:

How do you explain the importance of design thinking to C-Suite executives that are not familiar with the term?
HO: At P&G, our Design Thinking journey began in 2007, and one of the very first sessions was well attended by some of the company’s most senior executives. As a result, most, if not all of our C-Suite executives have had a firsthand experience with Design Thinking. Today, at most senior levels, the focus is on leaders creating conditions for the organisation to apply the principles of Design Thinking and to shamelessly practice human empathy and curiosity, while encouraging spirited debate and straight talk.

Do you believe playful creativity is an essential characteristic to an innovative workplace culture? Internally, how do you create an environment that encourages creativity?
HO: Play is a critical part of creating conditions for innovation. Improvisation and the ability to suspend judgment are important elements of a creative culture — and a part of my approach to Design Thinking. I often ask people what they would do if the answer was yes… and to play with that to see where it leads.

The possibilities are endless when we challenge our assumptions — sometimes assumptions we didn’t even know we had.

Play is a critical part of creating conditions for innovation. Improvisation and the ability to suspend judgment are important elements of a creative culture — and a part of my approach to Design Thinking. I often ask people what they would do if the answer was yes… and to play with that to see where it leads.

How do you use empathy based research? What are the benefits?
HO: Empathy is foundational to the Design Thinking experience at P&G: empathy for those we serve- more than 5 billion consumers around the world; and empathy for each other. What does it look and feel like to live someone else’s reality — feel what they feel, see what they see. It matters, and it leads to new thinking — imagining new possibilities.

Within P&G, how were you able to succeed in an enterprise-wide adoption of design thinking? How do you stimulate design thinking across the company?
HO: I would not describe P&G as an enterprise-wide adopter of Design Thinking. We are a global organization with >100,000 employees so enterprise-wide adoption is not realistic. The adoption of Design Thinking has largely followed the energy and suction of the business leader in a supply/demand style approach.

Structural packaging and industrial design have become important areas for design thinking application. What other areas have you seen increased success in at P&G?
HO: Beyond the focus on product, Design Thinking has been applied to a variety of organizational strategy questions — from employee value proposition, performance management, and anti- counterfeiting measures. The ways in which Design Thinking can be applied to everyday corporate life are endless – including leadership behaviors – who doesn’t want to work for a leader that demonstrates empathy, allows for multiple solutions, is curious, and committed to exploring different ways to frame a problem?

Holly O’Driscoll is a champion of human centered design and innovation at Procter & Gamble. She has spent the past 5 years building capability in hundreds of P&Gers around the globe on the method and mindset of Design Thinking in her role as North America Design Thinking Leader. In this role, she has programmed and facilitated more than 80 Design Thinking sessions, often at the request of P&G’s senior leaders. Holly’s passions include wicked problem definition, connecting people and ideas, and creating organizational conditions that allow human creativity to thrive.

Throughout her 19+ year tenure with P&G, Holly has built a reputation as a human centered innovation strategist & facilitator, often challenging assumptions while unleashing the potential of individuals, groups, and ideas. Having spent time in both the technical and commercial sides of the business, Holly is an effective translator between left brain analytical approaches and the more creative right brain styles and as a result has seen the value that diversity of thought, experience, and mindset can bring to solving a wide variety of business challenges.

Holly holds a MBA and Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Thomas More College. She lives in Cincinnati, OH with her husband and 4 young children.

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