Welcome to the Design Thinking 101 podcast! I’m Dawan Stanford, your host. The remarkable Jean-Louis Racine, head of the World Bank’s infoDev Climate Technology Program, joins me today to discuss how he came to apply design thinking in his work, doing design thinking in large organizations, leading design teams, and stakeholder-centered design. Before working at the World Bank, Jean-Louis earned a Ph.D. in robotics engineering and worked as an engineer. This allows him to bring a depth of experience to applying and thinking about design thinking.As you’ll hear in our conversation, one of the things that Jean-Louis appreciates most about design thinking is that it forces you to be “solution-agnostic,” as he puts it, and encourages redefining the problem into something that doesn’t include the solution. As an example, he shares a story of how this process brought him to the surprising solution of needing many entrepreneurs to fail faster.
Many large organizations aren’t very risk-tolerant, but design thinking de-risks a project because it’s about testing hypotheses. Its rigor and evidence-based principles make it easier to create something that will actually work. Jean-Louis points out that framing the value of design thinking in these terms can be more successful for large organizations than talking about creativity, for example.
Jean-Louis points out the need for trust in learning what the design thinking cycle is and how it works. It’s something that requires someone to experience it, he explains, which makes things tricky when people aren’t inclined to trust you through the process. The solution when people don’t embrace the new technique from the beginning is to simply struggle through it.
We’ll also talk about techniques to get people to give feedback without as many ego issues, the difference between critique and criticism, what it means to design for stakeholders, some fantastic books and resources that will be useful for listeners interested in the various subjects we cover in this discussion, and much more.
Learn More About Our Guest
[01:34] Jean-Louis starts off the conversation by telling listeners a bit about himself and his background. He also addresses how he came into design thinking and what the early journey was like for him.
[04:36] We hear the story of the first time that Jean-Louis applied design thinking in his work at the World Bank.
[07:41] When you don’t really know what you’re doing, you make mistakes, Jean-Louis points out. That’s how you learn.
[08:22] What was one of Jean-Louis’ mistakes that turned out to be a useful learning experiences?
[12:01] Jean-Louis talks about what has helped him with shaping design thinking to individual contexts.
[13:07] Jean-Louis digs into how things have changed over time in terms of the way organizations or colleagues have responded.
[17:56] We hear more about the ClimateLaunchpad program and how design thinking was applied there.
[21:51] Jean-Louis describes how the teams in the ClimateLaunchpad are brought into an understanding of design thinking to the point that they can apply it to their teams and on their projects.
[25:22] Last year, Jean-Louis was in Kenya running a small design workshop. He shares a story of an event that happened there with a team of people familiar with his design thinking methods.
[28:51] Dawan points out that he and Jean-Louis both face the issue of dealing with people in their work who aren’t confident in the design thinking process.
[34:11] Criticism is difficult to unlearn, Jean-Louis points out, and critique is more difficult to give than criticism.
[36:33] How has Jean-Louis found that templates function in the work that he has done? He answers, then talks about where he sees things going in the next several years as he applies design thinking at the World Bank.
[43:26] How does designing for the network of stakeholders change the design process?
[45:58] Jean-Louis talks about whether there are any other open questions that are interesting for him right now.
[47:48] We hear about some resources that Jean-Louis has found useful, and that listeners may find useful as well.
[50:25] Where can interested listeners learn more about Jean-Louis or his work?
infoDev Climate Technology Program
Jeanne Liedtka’s DT 101 episode, Designing for the Greater Good, Strategy + Design Thinking, and Measuring Design Thinking
Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers by Dave Gray, Sunni Brown, and James Macanufo
Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Tool Kit for Managers by Jeanne Liedtka and Tim Ogilvie
Product Design and Development by Karl Ulrich and Steven Eppinger