Solve Problems By Listening

It’s one of the first things our parents teach us, reteach us, and scold us for not doing: listening. We kept slipping up in that department as children and adulthood hasn’t suddenly made us exponentially better listeners. Following mom and dad’s advice from decades ago can, however, make our jobs easier today.

    During their session, “Apply Design Thinking to Leadership: A Competitive Advantage,” at the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) Annual Meeting & Exposition in Toronto, Ont., Anna Caraveli, managing partner of The Demand Networks, and Jeff Glenzer, COO of the Association of Financial Professionals (AFP), discussed the importance of listening in problem solving. During the session they used a case study of a Danish meal-subsidy program dealing with more nutrition and quality. Steps taken in addressing the issue included:

  • Step One: Interview constituents. The interviewers found that seniors were embarrassed by the social stigma of public assistance and disliked having no control over the menu and eating alone. It was also found that the food preparers should be interviewed for their role, too. Interviewers found that morale was down for preparers, as well. Their role was seen as low status and they were unmotivated at work;
  • Step Two: Framing and redefining the problem. It was found that the kitchen’s nutrition problem was endemic of a greater issue in need of addressing — the food experience for all stakeholders;
  • Step Three: Ideation. Workshops were held with public officials in the community, volunteers, experts, kitchen workers, employees, and clients. From there, brainstorming commenced;
  • Step Four: Prototyping and experimentation. Following the workshops, new initiatives adopted included new employee uniforms, new communication channels between clients and kitchen staff, and different versions of the menu.