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This spring marks the end of the Staff Innovators Program (SIP). SIP is a rigorous year-long program in design thinking that focuses on human-centered design. I had the great fortune to collaborate on this project with the indefatigable champion of innovation, creativity and technology,  Elizabeth Strickler, Director of Media Entrepreneurship and Innovation. She not only brought a wealth of knowledge and experience to the project as my subject matter expert, but also deftly guided our participants as our lead instructor. Together with the support of Phil Ventimiglia, Chief Innovation Officer, we had the amazing opportunity to not only talk the talk about fostering innovation at Georgia State, we put one foot in front of the other and walked the walk!

The Process

SIP began as the answer to a series How Might We questions.

  • How might we implement our stated mission and vision at Georgia State?
  • How Might we create and support innovative solutions?
  • How might we implement new models of learning?
  • How might we foster a culture of innovative leaders?

We invited a diverse group of Georgia State staff from CETL, IIT/ PMO, Career Services, Perimeter College Online, CEHD Staff Council and HR and organized them into five design teams. We introduced them to the basics of the design thinking process and the key elements of human-centered design. Each team had to step out of their familiar boxes, work across departments and learn to look at old familiar problems as a new challenges that had to be solved with their new tools, a Designers Toolkit! Each team immersed themselves in the design thinking methodology. They learned to Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test their ideas to find innovative solutions to real workplace challenges.

“SIP was fantastic! The best part was definitely learning to think in more empathetic and open ways.“

-Sarah Hepler, Instructional Designer (CETL)

Human Centered Design

So, what is human-centered design? Empathy is at the core of human-centered design. It is designing for people vs designing for problems. It begins with gaining a deep understanding of human needs. Before we figure out the technology or the money involved, we start with empathy. In a nutshell, it is a participatory approach to designing, where we design with the end user not just for the end user. The design process is iterative and looks a lot like this:

  • We identify problem areas that pose challenges to the people we design for.
  • We dive deep into our problem areas looking for themes and insights into our challenges and our people.
  • We take our insights and reframe the challenges as How Might We…? questions.
  • The answers to our questions create opportunities for design.
  • At the center of it all, are the people we are designing for. Our designs are based on their needs.
  • We test, retest and learn from and with the people we are designing for.
  • Then we start all over again until our designs meet their needs.

That’s a lot of work! It is a process that touches a lot of people and each one of those people has the potential to be a ripple that carries our ideas, our mindset or the empathy of human centered-design to their next challenge or to a new group of people. A ripple effect is the continuing and spreading results of an event or action. The SIPPLE effect is the continuing and spreading results of SIP, and it has already begun. Elizabeth Strickler has just implemented the very first Faculty Innovation Program (FIP) at the Creative Media Industries Institute (CMII).

“Design thinking has started to improve communication across the entire campus. SIP is starting a movement that innovation champions will continue to promote. The desire to innovate has spread to faculty where we have now created faculty innovation champions!”

– Elizabeth Strickler

Join Us

From SIP to FIP the SIPPLE effect is in motion at Georgia State. It is transforming our communities of staff and faculty into innovation champions who are blazing pathways to highlight, invite and include you as not only valued partners but beneficiaries of Georgia State’s mission and vision to create and support innovative solutions, implement new models of learning and foster a culture of innovative leaders. So, if you are a member of our faculty or staff here at Georgia State join the SIP movement! If you would like to experience one of our design thinking workshops, come visit the CPD team at CETL. We can tailor a program to fit the needs of your group.

Be sure to check back into our blog to learn more about our SIP teams and their prototypes: TASK: the Talent and Skills Database, The Community Hub, The CETL Spotlight, PMO as a Service to You and HR’s Onboarding Innovations.