Ottawa County Design Thinking Process

It is easy to get stuck in routines and ruts in day to day work, and jumping to solutions. To help sidestep these challenges, we can turn to a team based innovation approach called Design Thinking to transform the way citizens experience local government services.

In other words: innovation becomes everybody’s job. Ottawa County is committed to creating a learning organization where employees are empowered to make decisions and have the freedom to fail. Design Thinking is one of the tools that Ottawa County will use to get there.

Why Design Thinking?

Design Thinking leverages collective wisdom, experience and expertise. The foundation of Design Thinking is empathy, or discovery and understanding, and incorporates the philosophy of “design, test and iterate.” It’s an intentional process in order to get to new solutions.

It gives you faith in your creative abilities and permission to fail and learn from mistakes.

Design Thinking is a human centered and collaborative approach to problem solving, putting end users at the center of the process.

Tim Brown, President of IDEO

Without an intentional method for collaboration such as design thinking, "working together" can mean nothing more than a group of people together in a room. Design Thinking brings teams together in collaborative solution focused teams to generate new ideas, lays out steps to brainstorm, experiment, seek and incorporate feedback, prototype and iterate, revise and refine ideas toward better solutions that serve our citizens.

Often, when teams begin to problem solve there is high energy and enthusiasm for possibilities, understanding the human side such as empathy is overlooked. By using a process rooted in Design Thinking, we can disrupt this cycle and provide a clear path for teams to generate ideas and shape them into solutions, and offering a roadmap for knowing what to do next when the path forward isn't clear.

The Ottawa Process

Ottawa County has studied Design Thinking models developed by Stanford University, the global design and innovation firm IDEO, and several Michigan businesses and nonprofits. Using these models as a starting point, and considering a citizen-centric model, Ottawa County has designed our own unique step-by-step process, based on Design Thinking principles, to help teams solve problems more creatively and collaboratively.