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There’s no need to bring your own felt-tip pens and sticky-back plastic – but you will probably need some to get your head around ‘Design thinking’.

An interactive session on the subject will be led by consultant Ezri Carlebach at IoIC Live in Brighton on Friday May 1, with the idea that there are more solutions to most business challenges than are usually ever considered.

“It’s basically about using design principles to solve business problems,” explains Ezri. “I’ll be suggesting people make a shift from purely decision-based management.

“In decision-based management you have a couple of options – usually offered by a leader or manager - and you have to pick one, which is then regarded as the right one.

“It presents you with a narrow set of options from which you have to choose, whereas design thinking says there are limitless possibilities. You can opt for a number of available solutions and even then be prepared to adapt as you go along.”

The term ‘design thinking’ goes way back but was popularised by David Kelley in the early 1990s to describe what his company IDEO was doing. It has since been adopted by companies like drinks company Diageo and incorporated into an MBA course at Central Saint Martin’s in London.

“It’s about taking different approaches and thinking more widely,” he says. “It brings in conceptual tools that have been used by designers for many years, like colour and shape and typeface and layout, which are all things worth thinking about, particularly for communicators.”

Ezri, who is director at large for the IABC Europe, Middle East and North Africa region, as well as a Fellow of IoIC, has a background in senior communication roles for public, private and non-profit organisations.

He warns: “Design thinking is not a panacea, it’s not the solution to all your problems. You still need a significant dose of proper communication thinking along with elements of design thinking.

“But new options and new ways of working are vital for the internal communication profession that has been emerging as a very serious discipline - but is at risk of crystallising its methods at the point where everything else is changing.

“You need to remain afloat. We’ve worked hard for 20 years to establish internal comms as a proper career with a place in business management. Now, everything else is changing, we can’t afford to rest on our laurels.”

He also says he won’t be providing a string of answers at IoIC Live – instead he will help people drive towards their own solutions.

“I’m not going to stand there and lecture, I’ll introduce it and then share some experiences to get everyone doing it,” he explains.

“It’s a very active methodology, It does involve coloured pens and maybe sticky plastic. It’s about proto-typing and testing and having lots of different solutions.

“You approach challenges as a designer. Because they deal with graphics or product packaging or product design, they can’t just come up with one or two ideas and say ‘That’s the answer’.

“For internal communicators there’s a huge opportunity – the more you have your colleagues involved in every stage of communication, particularly around change, then you have a better chance that things will end well.

“Too often, at the moment, communicators say ‘Here’s the message. Shall we put it on the intranet or email people?’ Why not ask more questions of more people? Then let’s prototype something and think of several different ways of telling others.

“Ask is the way the message is written the best way? Can we represent this message in a visual way? Can that make it more effective? Are your employees out on the road, in an office or on the shop floor?

“There’s a general acceptance that the end of top down communication is happening,” says Ezri. “Design thinking fits into the idea of a conversation. If you don’t include people in the decision-making, you’re reducing the value of your main asset.

“Design thinking gives you a cocktail of tools to use, instead of the usual two or three.”

Ezri Carlebach (pictured right) will lead a session entitled ‘Don’t just write stories – design and play them!’ at IoIC Live at the Grand Hotel, Brighton, on Friday May 1.

The annual Institute event opens with an evening workshop session on Thursday April 30 based on ‘delivering digital workplaces fit for the future’. There will then be a full day’s programme of presentations, debates and workshops on Friday May 1.

For details on how to book your place - or to download a full IoIC Live programme - click here
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