Design Thinking

How Teams Can Design Intentional Work Environments Using the Lightning Decision Jam

As we navigate reopening and a world post pandemic, people will fall into two categories – those who design for change and those who adopt other people’s designs. This post is for those who want to be part of designing change, in this case intentional hybrid work environments.

While the pandemic brought with it an immense number of challenges, it also presented numerous opportunities. While the media headlines might have you believing that remote work is going away, for those of us who experienced the freedom and flexibility previously not offered by workplaces, we’re not ready to let go just yet. And we shouldn’t have to. 

The most significant opportunity that emerged for myself, and I imagine many others, was designing how and where we work. As an avid follower of content creators and luxury travel influencers, Jeremy Austin and Angie Villa, I was inspired by their summer travels in 2020 to Italy and Croatia. As I noticed more and more people traveling on my Instagram I wondered if this was an opportunity to fulfill one of my dreams – traveling while working remotely. Watching their Instagram stories in real time presented a different reality from the one portrayed in the traditional media. 

By being responsible and strategic, travel was indeed possible. 

Working remotely in Europe, while working on Pacific Standard Time, created a time zone switch that increased my creativity and productivity, while allowing me to visit different countries. If you follow me on Instagram you know the irony here was that last week I attended my first in person experience since 2019, “The Creator Retreat” with the two individuals who inspired this journey to begin with – Jeremy Austin and Angie Villa. 

We all entered 2020 with uncertainty about when we would return to normal. We’re navigating 2021 with curiosity about what else could be and we’re asking, “how might we design our work environment?” 

To initiate and lead these conversations we need individuals who can act at the intersection of courage and creativity to inspire a new way forward with their teams. 

Rethinking Leadership: Acting at the Intersection of Courage and Creativity

After reading, “Think Again,” by Adam Grant, I’ve been rethinking many things, one of them being what it means to be a leader. Leadership, especially when navigating organizational change was always challenging. However, leading change through a pandemic and beyond requires a tremendous amount of courage. As the host of the Sprint to Success with Design Thinking podcast, each week I have the pleasure of conversing with researchers and industry leaders about how to use design thinking strategies to navigate change.

An overarching theme from our conversations is how design thinking can give us the skill set and mindset to act at the intersection of courage and creativity. This is especially important for young graduates entering the workplace. I first heard the term reverse mentor from Jerry Almendarez, Superintendent at Santa Ana Unified School District when he invited me to come speak to his leadership team. Learning today is not restricted to age, we have so much to learn from those older than us and those younger than us. It’s when we lean into our respective strengths and design collaborative environments that we begin to see movement towards our goals. As Ross Chapman shares in this episode of the podcast, “The world of work is ripe for disruption and that having an understanding of current and emerging trends is a superpower.”

It takes tremendous courage to say let’s pause and reflect about where we have been, where we are and where we want to go. I often reflect on a quote from Dr. Wanda Austen in “Making Space: Strategic Leadership for a Complex World.” Dr. Austen shares, “leadership is not accidental, you have to make the time and space with your team to be strategic in this complex and global world that we live in today.” 

Lightning Decision Jam: Designing Discussions That Move From Idea to Action with Clarity

This article is for those who want to build back better and be at the forefront of designing what life and work can  look like moving forward. 

Note: This doesn’t require a title. It requires the courage to share and propose the idea of coming together as a team to pause, reflect and have a conversation. 

I was first introduced to AJ&Smart, a global innovation and product design agency based in Berlin, when I attended the Sprint Conference in 2019. While researching how design thinking practices can prepare learners in K12 with the mindset and skill set to thrive in a rapidly changing world, I wanted to learn more about how they were currently being used across different industries. 

One of the greatest challenges with conversations around change is that they often lead to a lot of discussion, little action and a few voices dominating the dialogue. It is here that design thinking strategies play a transformative role in providing the structure and scaffolding to facilitate complex conversations that move us toward action. While there are many strategies to choose from, the Lightning Decision Jam by AJ&Smart is the most comprehensive and time-sensitive one to begin this journey. I say journey because this one strategy won’t provide all the answers. It will however begin the shift in culture around how you make decisions, design conversations and lead with empathy. 

What I enjoy most about the Lightning Decisions Jam strategy from AJ&Smart is how it solves for the above listed challenges. This strategy limits the discussion and moves a group from idea to action with clarity. You can lead this activity both in person and remotely and they have created a Mural template and YouTube video to show you exactly how to facilitate this yourself. 

It’s essential to keep in mind that our strategies can be shared and our solutions will be different. Every community is different and understanding each other’s challenges and motivations is what will allow us to design and lead with empathy.

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