What's New-The Design Thinking 2019 Maturity Tracks

By: Marisa White

How do you define design maturity?

This year’s Design Thinking 2019 program looks to tackle customization based on design maturity. This concept in itself opens a myriad of questions—for instance how to define maturity, where is the baseline, and where does most of the market lie?

Across the Design & Innovation events (inclusive of Design Thinking 2018, Service Design Week, and Experience Design Week) we consistently have launched the Maturity Roundtable  catering to beginner, veteran (intermediary), and design-led (advanced) which have been well-received but bring up a few interesting observations.

Attendees will follow challenges over Maturity Level—

What I mean by this, if the challenge described in our beginner track is more in line, attendees will look to attend this session whether they are beginner or not. While this may seem obvious, the challenge arises of defining the most universal topics per maturity.  Are all “new to design thinking” executives in need of a Design Thinking 101 session. Do all design-led organizations completed a cultural transformation? Do intermediary all deal with the ‘frozen middle’? Are we defying the purpose of a group discussion based on maturity?

Incorrect Self-Selection—

With relatively vague terminology around the three levels of maturity, at the end of the hour and a half break out, we hear feedback around identifying the wrong step. This often is an important by-product of the conference overall—once you benchmark with other professionals, clarity on level of expertise is often exposed. Most often, we see leaders characterize themselves too low, essentially you may have though you were a beginner, but once sitting in the room with true new-to-design thinking, they may realized they were more suited to the design veterans or led, which leads to…

There is a fear of defining yourself as “Design Led”—

As expected, the most advanced session, previously labelled design-led experiences had the least attendees per the three groups. More interesting the leaders we felt comfortable defining as design led felt intimated to set foot in the room for fear of claiming the label. How do we filter and remove this stigma to make sure the right people are in the room to add to the discussion?

What’s different this year?

Taking in this feedback, we came up with a few ideas to start with: 

First—clarity in level of maturity. We changed from beginner, veteran, and design-led, to simply Design Thinking 101, 201, and 301. Essentially highlighting the ethos of entry level discussion at various stages of expertise and seniority. Removing the ambiguity of ‘veteran’ and ‘design led’ we hope to combat some of the fear of self-selecting higher and offering a true expression of the beginner session as the Design Thinking 101 track.

Secondly--we broke up the maturity round tables into three thirty minute track sessions instead of a singular hour and half chunk. This allows us to address a variety of challenges we see per level of maturity as well as allowing attendees to switch sessions if they feel they have self-selected incorrectly. The additional perspectives, speakers, and topics also brings a more robust learning opportunity to the program at large. J

Where do you think you and your organization lie on the maturity spectrum?

What are some of the biggest challenges you are facing at your level of maturity?

See our current sessions in the agenda.