I previously wrote about design sensibilities for managing change. Now, here’s a real world example, with an assessment for application of those sensibilities.

The Situation

A small group of volunteers of an organisation were addressing the challenge of effective timely communication with each other. A proposal to use the WhatsApp application was put forward.

I said I wasn’t in favour. I said it wouldn’t work for communicating with me as my phone is only connected to the internet for 3% of the time it is turned on.

Somebody said: “Oh that’s easily fixed, there’s a desktop version of the app.”

I responded that I only have apps open and logged in when I’m using them. So it would be no good for instant messaging/notification communication (which is the assumption of such apps).

The group was uncomfortable that there wasn’t wholesale consent/adoption of the proposal.

The proposer advised that the intention for WhatsApp was to do quick short-notice comms, because people weren’t using or managing their volunteer email address in a timely fashion. The proposer acknowledged that I was someone who did use/manage my volunteer email address in timely fashion, so was okay that I wasn’t using WhatsApp. However, I wondered then if I would miss important messages because they weren’t replicated in email and only sent or discussed through WhatsApp.

My decision to say No should be understood with more context:  I’m tech-savvy, much more than the average change management/comms practitioner; I have been using many many such Apps to the point of having Apps Overload in my brain and my device; I’m adaptable – when it makes sense and doesn’t violate my values or needs.

You could believe that I was showing Resistance and needed an attitude adjustment.

Yes, I was enacting Resistance and I did so intentionally. The solution to the situation was being developed without a design sensibility which a strong value for me. (Design Thinking is also an approach that I believe can achieve better outcomes for all, in terms of solving the immediate problem, and creating group solidarity.)

How might we assess this situation from a design sensibility orientation? (Drawing on the list of nine sensibilities in this article.)


Curiosity – 0/10. Nobody asked questions to understand me or the reasons for my resistance to the proposal. Nobody appeared to have questions to understand the nature of the problem being addressed.

Generative – 2/10. Something tangible was put forward – though not in response to valid understanding of the problem or need.

Imaginative – 1/10. Only one idea was proposed and it was a tech solution, without imagining what else might be a valid useful solution to the problem. There was a suggestion given in response to my explanation on why the tech wouldn’t work for me.

Empathic – 0/10. Nobody (visibly) attempted to appreciate that my perspective and world view was very valid for my context, and that I might have good reasons outside their own experience and context. They desired to have me join with their consensus of the solution.

Visualisation – 0/10. The dialogue was all words, no images, graphics or drawings used.

Utilitarian – 0/10. The group didn’t seek to understand why the current system of email was not-working before addressing the ‘missing’ utility.

Experimental – 0/10. There was no conversation about conducting an experiment with the proposed solution, nor with the existing email solution to better understand how to make things work well for the team.

Optimistic – 3/10. The proposer was optimistic that the solution would work. And there was mild enthusiasm by others to adopt the proposed solution – while there was no clarity about what exactly was the problem/need that was being resolved.

Collaborative – 2/10. The proposal came from one person (the leader of the group) who proposed the idea to the group while not coming from a directive or authoritative stance. Arguably our co-operation was sought rather than collaboration.


This assessment might sound a little harsh. This type of situation is enacted over and over again in organisations, and is arguably the reason why there is much rhetoric about the need for Design Thinking.

What situations are you dealing with, where you can see that the application of design sensibilities could bring about a fresh and productive conversation?


Helen Palmer is Founder/Director at Questo. Like Winnie the Pooh, she ‘sits and thinks’ … and imagines how people can make a better life for others and themselves. She likes to share those thoughts with the possibility that they inspire and initiate meaningful change.

(Amended) Photo by Neven Krcmarek on Unsplash

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