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Design Thinking for the Masses: Creating a Culture of Empathy Across a Library Organization


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Design thinking puts users at the forefront. It encourages us to practice empathy, observe our surroundings, question assumptions, and identify big problems. It then asks us to prototype and iterate on solutions. Inspired by the power of these concepts, University of Arizona Libraries initiated a library-wide design thinking project. This inclusive, collaborative effort guided strategic initiatives and put user experience in the minds of library employees at all levels.

Presentation at Designing for Digital 2018 in Austin, Texas.

Published in: Education
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Design Thinking for the Masses: Creating a Culture of Empathy Across a Library Organization

  1. 1. design thinking for the masses Elatia Abate & Rebecca Blakiston Tuesday, March 6, 2018 creating a culture of empathy across a library organization
  2. 2. introduction
  3. 3. hello! Elatia Abate entrepreneur consultant designer here in spirit Rebecca Blakiston UX librarian strategist writer here in real life
  4. 4. during this session, you will: 1. explore and experiment with the process of design thinking 2. learn what we did with design thinking at the UA 3. prototype a solution for your own organization
  5. 5. design thinking
  6. 6. design thinking at the University of Arizona Libraries
  7. 7. summer of 2017 we have a newly appointed dean it’s time for a new strategic plan UX team is broadening its scope leadership participates in a design thinking retreat...
  8. 8. a new approach to strategic planning “We wanted to use an approach that offered all employees an opportunity to be involved in the process and was also user-focused. We also sought a process that encouraged innovative thinking that could inform the development of our strategic map. Our administrative group (Cabinet) had used design thinking in a retreat last summer, which cultivated an awareness of design thinking and how it could be applied.” - Shan Sutton, Dean
  9. 9. 4-month inclusive design thinking process to inform a new strategic map for the library 16 assigned teams of 5-7 people 117 staff participating with representation from all 10 library departments October 2017 - January 2018
  10. 10. leaders at all levels 1 temporary administrative assistant 1 library information associate 1 library information associate, senior 1 library information analyst 2 application developers 1 collection maintenance supervisor 2 library operations supervisors 3 assistant librarians 2 associate librarians 1 full librarian
  11. 11. context to frame the work how might we empower student success? how might we empower faculty success? how might we lead the profession into the future?
  12. 12. empathize
  13. 13. aren’t you interesting? Team Blue Cheese
  14. 14. your turn (5 minutes) 1. find a partner (someone you have never met!) 2. ask open-ended things like: what brought you to this session? what is your biggest work challenge lately? 3. write down some of the things you hear
  15. 15. reflection being curious being open paying attention listening more than you talk letting go of assumptions feeling with the other human
  16. 16. planning out the 8 weeks of information gathering Tres Leches
  17. 17. user engagement interviews focus groups
  18. 18. asking good questions don’t lead staying as neutral as possible will ensure more authentic responses get them to talk specifics and stories what they say is not always what they do be encouraging but neutral there are no right or wrong answers, and all insights are valuable
  19. 19. user observations observation diaries user diaries photo and video-based diaries Pima County Public Library Squid Inc.
  20. 20. things to notice what did they do? how did they go about doing it? why did they do it that way? “sometimes they like to work on the floor… the tables in the stacks are popular” - Conan the Libarains
  21. 21. Ella’s observations, Squid Inc.
  22. 22. immersion work like a patron get out in the field become the user Cameron Wiles, student worker
  23. 23. Andy’s immersion diary, Herd of Cats
  24. 24. empathy phase in numbers 111 user interviews 3 focus groups 21 observations 3 immersions
  25. 25. define
  26. 26. theme visualization affinity mapping synthesis exercises Dewey Decimators
  27. 27. collaborative activity: what are the themes?
  28. 28. Conan the Libarians
  29. 29. Geeks and Freaks
  30. 30. summary of findings: example and template
  31. 31. Team Alfie
  32. 32. good “how might we…?” questions suggest that a solution is possible allow you to answer them in a variety of ways don't suggest solutions trigger a lot of ideas (but not endless ideas) inspire wild ideas
  33. 33. persona: example and template shout out to Christina Kalel who created this example!
  34. 34. Action Cats!
  35. 35. Electric Skateboards
  36. 36. The Industrialists
  37. 37. your turn (3 minutes) You and your partner are now a team! 1. name your team 2. write down your team name 3. create a mascot for your team
  38. 38. reflection & sharing bias towards action all ideas are good ideas it’s ok to be imperfect let’s flex our creative muscles
  39. 39. your turn (3 minutes) 1. identify a problem or challenge inspired by your earlier interviews 2. frame it as “how might we…” question such as: how might we do more iterative UX research? how might we create a more creative workplace? 3. write it down
  40. 40. some of our student themes Environment Students view the library as a “secondary home” where they want to feel safe, welcomed, and comfortable Community Many students value a sense of community and inclusion, especially for international students and students of color. Access Many students use and value library services that remove barriers to their work, including space, technology, personal help, and materials.
  41. 41. some of our faculty themes Balance Many faculty struggle with the balance between classroom teaching, research, and supporting students. Students Many students have a lack of digital literacy and critical thinking abilities. Faculty struggle with supporting students in this area.
  42. 42. ideate and prototype
  43. 43. prototyping day Conan the Libarians visualize get creative have fun show, don’t tell
  44. 44. pens markers erasers sticky dots post-its whiteboards pipe cleaners materials provided tissue paper wrapping paper tape double-sided tape glue sticks magazines colored paper scissors staplers paper clips ribbon sticky letters popsicle sticks stencils hole punchers staples notecards yarn binder clips rubber bands
  45. 45. encouraging wild ideas no rules no limitations divergence in thinking all ideas are good ideas Electric Skateboards
  46. 46. iterations and practice runs feedback loops building on others’ ideas thinking bigger “yes, and…” Herd of Cats
  47. 47. 5 hours of prep 7 minute presentation 7 minute Q&A with library leadership videotaped for all library staff to view prototype pitches Action Cats!
  48. 48. the vending machine that provides everything a student needs to feel like they’re “at home” Herd of Cats
  49. 49. the app with push notifications to tell you when your favorite study space is available Team S.M.A.R.T.
  50. 50. the Dashboard that gives you what you need, when you need it using Smart Tiles Conan the Libarians
  51. 51. the Wildcat Meetup App that connects researchers with similar interests Ivoire Soap
  52. 52. the Faculty Universe AI portal Lib Cat Wizards
  53. 53. the library as a cloud-based information and publishing network Team Blue Cheese
  54. 54. your turn (5 minutes) rapidly, collaboratively, iteratively prototype a solution to your problem
  55. 55. outcomes
  56. 56. user-centered strategic planning
  57. 57. strategic directions that reflect ● core needs of faculty and students ● campus and community citizenship ● experimentation, iteration, and innovation
  58. 58. We strive to be a catalyst for inventing creative approaches to knowledge creation and dissemination. Tazer Cats
  59. 59. We strive to be an interdisciplinary physical and virtual lab that transforms the way people teach, learn, research, and work. Jerry, Robyn, Sarah
  60. 60. We strive to be a champion of diversity, social justice, and equity in our own organization and in how we work with campus and community colleagues. The Industrialists
  61. 61. We strive to be a connector of people, resources, and ideas. Conan the Libarians
  62. 62. Tiny Café a regular opportunity for lightweight, iterative UX research (30+ interviews at 3 locations during the project) shout out to Zoe Chao for her inspiration!
  63. 63. updated personas collaboratively creating new personas for use by the entire library
  64. 64. prototypes may inspire... collaboration with the research office on faculty networking events partnership with MIS students on machine learning and AI related to study space push notifications for specific user groups through Arizona Mobile App Action Cats!
  65. 65. impact on organizational culture
  66. 66. showing, not telling
  67. 67. getting creative and having fun! Action Cats! Team Blue Cheese
  68. 68. collaborating across departments instruction librarians and public services staff front-end developers and data scientists archivists and server administrators Ivoire Soap
  69. 69. “Using teams to collect user data in the design thinking process had two great organizational benefits: it brought together people from different departments who never work together, and also offered staff members an opportunity to serve in leadership roles on the teams.” - Shan
  70. 70. shared language and ways of working
  71. 71. ideation and big-picture thinking
  72. 72. Muna, persona from Rebel Wildcat Club familiarity with UX tools
  73. 73. Slack as a communication tool for the entire library
  74. 74. key factors to success
  75. 75. deep involvement of organization’s most senior members in every step of process Dean Associate Dean Vice Dean
  76. 76. “The design thinking approach is less linear than most strategic planning processes, and is driven more by user data as opposed to library domain expertise (at least in the early phases). The design thinking approach does take a lot of time and energy, but there are several organizational benefits that emerge in addition to the establishment of the plan itself.” - Shan
  77. 77. neutral outside expert to craft custom design thinking process and facilitate senior-level strategic discussions Elatia
  78. 78. communication leads Team Blue Cheese Tina
  79. 79. strong on-the-ground team to guide teams and execute logistics shout out to Christina Kalel, Jane Prescott-Smith, Rui Qi, Mary Simons, Maggie Verebelyi, and Cameron Wiles!
  80. 80. support for all teams throughout the process (office hours, brown bags, etc.)
  81. 81. stay in touch! Elatia Abate Rebecca Blakiston