Written by Marc Bolick
Interview with Mark Ciesko, Regional Manager and Director of Design Thinking at GE Healthcare
For the DesignThinkers Academy Bootcamps, we aspire to cultivate an all-star lineup of coaches to guide you through the week as you tackle real world problems. For the 2018 spring DT Bootcamp in Miami we are bringing in Mark Ciesko, Regional Manager and Director of Design Thinking at GE Healthcare, to discuss his experiences with implementing a design thinking strategy in Fortune 50 companies. Here’s a preview to what Mark will be discussing during the Global DT Bootcamp week, How To Implement Design Thinking in Your Organization.
How are you using design thinking at GE?
We have been using design thinking at GE Healthcare for about the last ten years. Initially, we focused on using design thinking in our new product introductions – a traditional application. Because of the skill set needed for industrial design, our industrial designers already had the mentality to be empathetic to users, to try to understand what a healthcare experience is like for the patient, to think about the patient journey. We have since grown to focus our efforts on more strategic initiatives and training employees so they can leverage design thinking in their everyday projects and their own organizations.
Can you give us an example of Design Thinking in practice at GE?
Our Pediatric Adventure Series. Doug Dietz, also at GE Healthcare, was involved in designing a new MRI machine for pediatric patients. Inspired by seeing a little girl scared to get an imaging exam, Doug thought to impact the design process where he could – the experience. He questioned, can I make it fun, can I make it an adventure? We try to immerse the child in a story by decorating the machine and having a script for the technicians to rationalize what’s happening in the exam. They are in a submarine navigating a coral reef or traveling through space, and the noise from the MRI machine is when they are in hyper-mode. At the end of the day if the child isn’t scared they don’t have to be sedated, which is a good thing. The exam is shorter and less expensive because you don’t have to bring in an anesthesiologist.
“You can do design thinking in a parking lot. It’s more about the mentality and the skill set of the individual.”
Doug is often saying about the pediatric MRI series, “we wanted to redesign the conversation [that takes place] in the car ride home.” This story is an example of a wonderful reframing activity you often see in design thinking, which is to ask yourself “how might we solve this challenge in a different way?” And sometimes it’s a challenge you didn’t even know you had.
How does design thinking drive innovation within companies?
We and a lot of other organizations that have adopted design thinking feel that anyone has the potential to be creative. Some designers take offense to that and think we are just giving it away. But instead, you are just inviting someone into the party. We look to answer the question, “how do we make this more collaborative?” Sometimes someone from finance or legal organizations just have a different viewpoint on the problem you’re trying to solve, or they have this capability to crystallize what you’re doing, to see patterns that designers or other creative folks just don’t see. There’s a lot of value in that diversity. And the collaborative, creative pursuit charges people up.
We joke about it, but you really can have fun at work.
By inviting people in, having an open door, you get repeat customers. Sometimes you get individuals that get so charged up about it that they want to help other participants by becoming a coach, so we will train them on how to help other teams – pay it forward approach. That’s what’s neat about design thinking. It creates a different culture around it.
What are the greatest challenges to successfully implementing ‘design thinking’ innovations in an organization?
I’ll have to answer that question in two parts – there are challenges in both building and adopting design thinking.
Building: Either a top-down or a bottom-up approach has their challenges, but both can be successful. At my previous position at P&G, we had the endorsement of the CEO. So if someone asked “what are you doing,” we can rely on having the CEO’s permission, which is hard to argue with. At GE, the initial commitment from leadership wasn’t there, so we took a more under the radar approach. We helped where we could, and if someone appreciated us, they would tell someone else. We were able to build momentum through word of mouth.
Adoption: Design thinking is different from most approaches. It feels foreign to most people initially, but generally, people start to get a charge out of it. The problem is the next day when they go back to their desk or cubicle, and they feel they can’t continue to operate this way. Some of it is a mental block, adopting the mentality and being committed to it. And then for a lot of people, maybe their mindset has changed, but all the other people they work with have not.
Adoption is a tough challenge. GE is session based. After people have worked differently for a few days, they think now I have to get back to the real work, essentially separating the two. So we are working on extending the momentum from these sessions into the work that gets done afterward. We are making sure people maintain their focus on the approach and give them the confidence to do so, that it’s ok, not just something fun you did for a few days.
What is needed to build a design thinking capability?
There is some required investment in people and skill sets. A lot of people get wrapped up in the different environment that design thinking happens in, such as an innovation lab. GE has a room where they do design thinking in – a special space that’s configurable, has prototyping materials, presentation spaces, collaboration areas, etc. But you can do design thinking in a parking lot. It’s more about the mentality and the skill set of the individual.
The investment in training is another challenge for some organizations. P&G sent hundreds of people to get trained in design thinking, which many organizations can’t do as it is cost prohibitive. What you (DesignThinkers Academy) are offering is pretty cool as it’s a more affordable alternative than some trainings. It’s for people who are looking for what are best practices and how should I go about doing this and what’s different about my organization etc. rather than look to larger companies for leadership.
Image Courtesy of GE Healthcare
Mark Ciesko is a creative and empathetic design leader who believes in the power of team genius. He leverages over 25 years of diverse experiences in senior leadership positions in an agency setting and working for two Fortune 50 companies, where he crafted new approaches to innovation and design thinking. Currently, Regional Manager and Director of Design Thinking at GE Healthcare, Mark’s focus is on leveraging empathy across the healthcare journey not just for clinicians, but patients and families as well.