The Best Design Thinking Tools for Healthcare

Photo by _sarchi

Photo by _sarchi

“I found myself grabbing for the Field Book a few times already during a current project I’m working on.” – Jim Mandas, Molina Healthcare

We are excited and proud that Jim Mandas, a manager in the Customer Experience group at Molina Healthcare, reached for The Designing for Growth Field Book. Our goal in writing the book was to provide managers and their teams a series of steps, specific tools and detailed templates to carry into the field as they tackle their innovation projects. But we like to practice what we preach: the book and its tools are prototypes. We have iterated on them many times, across many settings, but always are striving for feedback against our assumption that it is useful to managers. So I sat down with Jim to ask a few questions about Designing for Growth, its tools, and his experience leading growth initiatives. 

How did you know you were a “Design Thinker”?
Molina Healthcare serves 5M customers across 15 states and I found myself responsible for the redesign of our public website. We were interviewing digital agencies to support us, one of which discussed their Human Centered Design (HCD) approach. I was really drawn to that way of solving challenges, and so decided to use that approach on the project. I began immersing myself in everything design-related. I became more visual, employed design thinking tools to facilitate decisions, and used personas for the project. I was hooked because of the outcomes. 

Which tools [from Design for Growth} were most helpful?
First, the Project Management Aids (PMAs). These help you have confidence when things are uncertain, which they inevitably are on innovation and improvement projects. These PMAs helped us stay grounded in where we were headed and why. The project management piece is ultimately how things get done, and was a gap in other books I’ve read. We used the Designing for Growth Design Brief tool in our one of our projects around the new health exchanges. 

Second, Key Assumptions (Assumption Testing). This tool really captured me, and made me think the hardest! I’ve only used it once, but am looking for opportunities to practice it again. We used it as a key piece of our charter for a particular project in that we wanted to call out the assumptions and hypotheses we were making and our plan to prove them right or wrong. 

How have you brought others along as you introduce design thinking tools to your projects?
First, I can’t use the terms “design thinking” as it can cause people unfamiliar with it to be left puzzled or bewildered— not a great start for a project. I found it more helpful to start with a particular tool and not trying to educate on the whole approach. For example, we were reimagining a new Customer Relationship Management (CRM) process. In this case, we happened to use an outside firm to help with implementation and they used several design thinking tools. One of the tools was the journey map and it proved to be very approachable. I will add that it was beneficial an outside firm introduced the tool first; sometimes that helps people try out a new approach for the first time.

What is a tool that isn’t as energizing?
First, though the journey map is approachable, you need to do it a few times to understand it. It can look and feel like a process map at some points, and process maps are about getting it right, whereas journey maps are about exploring. Sometimes we have gotten stuck in using the same journey map because we find ourselves using it more as a process map. Second, one skill I’ve found very adjacent to the tools in the book is facilitation. The Designing for Growth toolkit and other design thinking methods are collaborative and strong facilitation skills can be helpful in executing the tools in cross-discipline teams like ours.

What are your favorite design thinking tools? 
Message me: @natalie_s_foley