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During these challenging times, almost all companies had to completely change their work environment. COVID-19 has turned a lot of teams into remote teams and that can become a lonely experience for employees who are used to being around their co-workers.

At Saegus, digital transformation, collaborative tools and doing things remotely is part of our work. Although, with the spread of the health crisis, we had to adapt even more. That’s why we have challenged ourselves to stay innovative and bring new ideas upfront. Our goal? Keep what matters most to us: human connection. Since the beginning of the lockdown, every Thursday at 6pm, our team has been doing team building activities. We had monthly team buildings before, we just had to adapt them to the situation in both frequency and remoteness.

How do we keep closeness that makes a team great? How can team members connect and keep up with what is going on with the distance? How do you keep team building activities fun and not repetitive? These are all questions we asked ourselves as a team. We also wanted for everybody to get involved in the creation of these activities and to keep the team united.

We have put together a list of 5 remote team-building ideas which we have tested, and that we would like to share. These ideas have been tried, tested and adopted in a remote environment, but could easily be tried physically.

Every week a team of two co-workers (different duo every week) are designated to organize and lead the challenge. At 6pm, we all connect to a video meeting on any communication and collaboration platform. The organizers start by explaining the rules of the challenge and the activity starts. Team buildings last between 45 minutes and 1 hour.

#1 Team Building Challenge 1: “Surprise!”

Preparation scale (1star=easy):

Organizers: 2

Time needed: 45min to 1h

Collaboration platform: TeamsZoom, …

The surprise challenge is a good challenge to start team building activities or to allow the team members to express themselves and show a part of their personality that may not have been known by others. People will have an opportunity to express themselves for a few minutes without constraints. The main part of this challenge consists in giving the opportunity to every member of the team to show of a talent, a part of them or just something fun to their co-workers.

How it unfolds:

1 — Each person enters the meeting with their camera turned off.

2 — One by one, each person has 2 minutes to turn on their camera and surprise everybody in any way possible. Here are a few examples:

This is the first challenge we did remotely, it is easy to do, and it paved the way for the next challenges. It builds a will to be creative and motivates the next team to come up with a more creative challenge.

Tip: Go further in this challenge by adding questions about your co-worker’s way of working from home. Adapt these questions to your team’s mood and how comfortable they are in sharing a part of their personality as you don’t want make it intrusive.

#2 Team Building Challenge 2: Guess the slippers

Preparation scale (1star=easy):

Organizers: 2

Time needed: 1h — 1hour 30

Collaboration platform: TeamsZoom …

Whiteboard: Ms WhiteboardKlaxoonMiro …

The “guess the slippers” challenge is very entertaining and easy to do. The goal is to figure out which pair of slippers belongs to which team member. You will be surprised to discover what your co-workers have on their feet while on professional meetings!

For this challenge we used a whiteboard and a personalized template where everybody could collaborate simultaneously.

The organizers prepare a template for everyone to first post a picture of themselves, then one of their slippers.

How it unfolds:

1 — Everyone uploads a picture of themselves on the template

2 — Everyone takes a picture of their slippers/footwear they are wearing during the meeting and uploads it to the template. Then the figuring out which slipper belongs to whom game starts.

Tip: This challenge can be adapted to bigger teams or teams that are in different scenarios than working from home, you can divide people in small groups and compare the results of each team for example. Plus, using slippers is just an example to stimulate communication within your team. I would be curious to know what you can come up with!

#3 Team Building Challenge 3: Digital board game

Preparation scale (1star=easy):

Organizers: 2

Time needed: 45min to 1h

Collaboration platform: TeamsZoom …

Whiteboard: Ms WhiteboardKlaxoonMiro …

The challenge speaks for itself, playing a board game, but remotely. The good thing about this challenge is that you can make your own rules. The game explained in this example is a game that was created by two of my co-workers who came up with the board and who adapted all the questions to the team.

You can download the board and adapt it to your team using here.

Each square has a meaning which needs to be determined by the organizers. Here are a few examples:

The squid squares are questions referring to the team like: How many team members are 25 years or younger?

The ghost squares make you go backwards 2 squares.

The diamond squares make you move 2 squares forward.

The squares with pictures are dares like: Singing a song or miming something the others have to guess.

The “save” squares are general knowledge questions like: when was Barack Obama elected?

How it unfolds:

1- Divide the group into smaller teams

2- Share the digital dice link and the link to the white board to the team

3- Ask the first team to roll the dice

4- Each team has a color on the template and the organizers place the color on the box the dice indicated. The first team to reach the end wins.

This game can bring some positive competition within the team. If you can adapt the dares and questions to your team, you will end up with a very implicated and motivated team.

Tip: This challenge can be time consuming; to keep this game entertaining, it is important to keep track of time and anticipate how to accelerate certain parts of it, especially if you have more than 4 teams.

#4 Team Building Challenge 4: #GettyMuseumChallenge

Preparation scale (1star=easy):

Organizers: 2

Time needed: 45min to 1h

Collaboration platform: TeamsZoom

The #GettyMuseumChallenge is a popular challenge which flooded social media during this period of lockdown. The goal of this challenge is to recreate famous paintings at home by taking a picture of yourself or with your family. You can find some examples here.

How it unfolds:

1- Paintings are presented to the team

2- Each team member has a designated painting which they have to re-create in 15 minutes

3- After 15 minutes, the pictures are taken and revealed to the team

You will be surprised of what people can come up within 15 minutes. These creative moments often allow people to reveal themselves and their personality.

Tip: There are times in this challenge when it can take time to receive the pictures or downloading them on the prepared presentation. That is why our team came up with a little quiz on art history that was the perfect way to distract everyone while updating the pictures.

#5 Team Building Challenge 5: “How well do you know your co-workers?”

Preparation scale (1star=easy):

Organizers: 2

Time needed: 1h15

Collaboration platform: TeamsZoom …

Whiteboard: Ms WhiteboardKlaxoonMiro …

This challenge is a theme-oriented challenge. It can be about music, movies, art, hobbies or any topic. My team came up with this innovative way of sharing their taste in music.

How it unfolds:

1- Through a form, asl a few questions to your team before the challenge: what song reminds them of their childhood or their “secret song” that they love listing to but won’t disclose it when asked.

2- A few songs are played of each category of questions, the team then has to guess which song corresponds to which member of the team

This game is often a way of unifying a team, through music or art or whatever the theme you chose, people can learn more about their co-workers.

Tip: You can create a team playlist after the challenge for everyone to listen to. Be wary of the time, every song will not be played within 45 minutes or 1 hour, it is important to listen to at least one song per person.

Your turn!

Within our team and Saegus as a whole, we have tried to adapt our team building activities remotely. We found innovative and creative ways to keep this contact between the co-workers that is so important and believe me, it works. It’s important to keep these team building moments engaging and short so that the will to join and be part of them never fades.

We are very curious to see what you can come up with in your team! Feel free to share in the comments what you have done to find fun and innovative ways of keeping your team motivated.

Rédigé par Fabio Velly, Consultant Acceleration Tactics

At first sight, it seems difficult to apply design thinking in health care since the power granted to the medical community is huge. Traditionally, the relation between a doctor and a patient is top-down, hierarchical. Yet, in recent years, roles have begun to change. For instance, diabetic patients are often very aware of their disease. They require a service that allows them to access their medical data almost instantly. Patient-centricity emerges from a strong desire of patients to be considered in the process. Moreover, the raise of digital devices and usages sets the frame for patient-centric tools and approach. So, how design thinking and technology, through patient-centricity, are reshaping health care?

A mediatic example of this transformation could be the new Netflix documentary TV show Diagnosis. It follows Dr. Lisa Sanders as she attempts to help patients with unique illnesses. Her experience is anything but traditional. For instance, she inspired the Fox program Dr House with her popular Diagnosis column for the New York Times Magazine. In contrast to the Dr House series, which highlights a doctor who has all the knowledge, the 8-hour documentary Diagnosis focuses on researches for a diagnosis and cure using wisdom of the crowd methods. The principle consists in linking a medical case submitted by a patient on the Internet platform with a host of “medical detectives” who each offer their diagnosis or bet on a diagnosis. In this process, the patient is placed at the center and benefits from collective and collaborative intelligence to meet his needs.

#1 What is patient-centric approach?


Patient-centric or Patient Led approaches are about challenging health care’s thinking and practice to put the needs and perspective of the patient at the heart of the innovation process. It is also about prompting health care organizations to include the patient at the center of the process as opposed to somewhere down the line. The patient is co-creating his experience and his diagnostic, he is no longer a simple object of study but rather an active stakeholder of his disease.

Furthermore, patient and family-centered care ensures the active collaboration and collective decision-making between patients, families, and providers to design and manage a customized and comprehensive care plan. In this model, Patient and Family preferences, Values, Cultural traditions, and Socioeconomic conditions are respected.

Patients require services that go “beyond the pill“. By engaging directly with patients and partnering with them across the entire pharma value chain, pharma companies can re-invent their business and operating models. Healthcare providers had to change and were made more flexible to meet patients’ needs. For example,a new position has emerged in pharmaceutical companies: Chief Patient Officer. The responsibilities include ensuring that the voices of the patients and patient associations are heard by the group, from the early stages of research and development to the commercialization of new health solutions.

Patient centricity is rooted in design thinking

I would like to share with you a very well-known example of design thinking that I find very meaningful and appropriate for this article.

After spending two and a half years working on an MRI machine project for GE Healthcare, Doug Dietz went to the hospital to observe the first use of his machine. He witnessed a little girl in tears getting prepared for anesthesia. Doug learned then that 80% of pediatric patients have to be sedated for their scans because — out of fear — they can’t lie still long enough. If an anesthesiologist isn’t available, the scan has to be postponed, creating additional costs and a new worrying episode for the patient and his family.

In collaboration with IDEO, the leading design thinking company, Doug started by observing and talking to young children at a daycare center, and life specialists to understand what pediatric patients went through. Next, he created the first prototype of what would become the “Adventure Series” scanner. Indeed, Doug helped transform the MRI “horror machine” into a kid’s adventure story, with the patient in a starring role. They also created a script for machine operators so they could lead their young patients through the adventure. Not only did it reduce the fear of young patients, but it also reduced the costs of anesthesia and rescheduling.

The patient is the “expert in living with his condition

Patients with a chronic health condition, “live with” it 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Therefore, they know more about its physical, psychological, and social impact on their lives than anyone else. “The University of Patients” proposes to rely on the expertise of patients to share the diagnosis and cure of their disease. Launched 8 years ago, the University of Patients allows people with chronic diseases to train at university alongside medical students. The University started in 2009 and to this day, such universities exist in Paris, Marseille, Grenoble, California and Montreal.

#2 Patient-centricity and technology

Patient-centricity could also be referred to as on-demand healthcare, a healthcare revolution wherein patients are more proactive concerning their health care and require obtaining the services they need, at the preferred time based on their feasibility and availability. One of the best to do so is to resort to new technologies.

Innovative healthcare initiatives that put the patient at the center

“EldriCare”, in India

The role of follow-up care companies like EldriCare has proven indispensable as life coaches. It is a patient centric technology platform based in Bengaluru and servicing all of India which allows hospitals, doctors, nurses and patients to access related medical information in a secured manner. EldriCare follows up with patients over the phone, counsels them and reminds them about their medications, nutrition and the need to visit their doctor.

As a result, it also helps to reduce hospital readmissions. It enables a doctor to arrest the complications early enough and mitigate issues at the outset, thus keeping patients out of the hospital. Reducing hospital readmissions also had positive financial outcomes for health care organization. Thus, the benefit is twofold: it strengthens the doctor-patient relationship and lowers the cost for chronic treatment.

“Connecting to Care”, in Canada

Launched as pilots in two cities in 2015 with initial government funding of 1.5 million Canadian dollars, Connecting to Care mines administrative data to identify the subset of patients who account for an outsized proportion of health care utilization and costs. According to the Health Quality Council of one of the pilot cities, 1% of patients accounted for approximately 21% of hospital costs. Connecting to Care uses proactive outreach to prevent hospitalizations and emergency room visits by focusing on timely use of community-based services, including support for medical, mental health, and addiction treatments, as well as assistance with social needs. A team of providers coordinates personalized plans for each patient in the Connecting to Care program. Technology plays a critical role, including use of electronic health records (EHRs), connections with community support partners, and mobile phones to check in with clients, such as reminding upcoming appointments.

Results: hospital inpatient days were reduced by 84% (from 120 days to 20). Each day spent out of the hospital versus in it saved an average of 1,400 Canadian dollars. The Connecting to Care program shows that liaisons focusing on an individual’s needs, rather than the provision of a particular type of medical service, can be effective in averting costly hospitalizations and ER admissions.

“PatientsLikeMe”, in the USA

As discussed in the introduction with Diagnosis, collective intelligence is a valuable tool in health care. The Heywood brothers understood this when they launched PatientsLikeMe, an online portal and mobile application that allow people with health conditions to share information and data relating to health and clinical trials with other patients and researchers with the aim to improve patient outcomes and involvement in research. Currently, the platform has a network of over 600,000+ patients who have collectively contributed 40 million points of data about disease. PatientsLikeMe has collaborated on a number of projects with pharma companies in an endeavor to be closer to what concerns patients most, including with UCB to create a patient community around epilepsy, and Shire Pharmaceuticals to track and share experiences for patients and their care givers living with rare diseases.

The company uses patient-generated data, big data and AI so everyone can understand how their medical, behavioral and environmental factors may advance or mitigate disease and optimize health. Indeed, one of the most promising fields where big data can be applied to make a change is health care. Big health care data has considerable potential to improve patient outcomes, predict outbreaks of epidemics, gain valuable insights, avoid preventable diseases, reduce the cost of healthcare delivery and improve the quality of life in general.

However, deciding on the allowable uses of data while preserving security and patient’s right to privacy is a difficult task. Some 76% of patient groups who responded to a Deloitte study stated that patients have ‘high’ or ‘some’ trust in health apps developed by patient groups, but only 32% could say the same for apps produced by pharma.Thus, it is essential for pharma companies to find a way to ensure the security and confidentiality of these sensitive data and gain patients’ trust.

#3 The future of health care: is any technology desirable for a patient-centric approach?

The biggest innovations of the 21st century will be at the intersection of biology and technology.

Steve Jobs

Pharma is seeing digital technology’s potential for creating a new patient-centric business model that combines connected devices with big data analytics and AI to develop new, more personalized, drugs for smaller groups of patients while monitoring and managing patient adherence and health outcomes.

Gamification and Wearables: flourishing sectors

Several studies have shown that gamification can have significant, positive effects on patients’ health by promoting adherence to treatment, fostering resilience, and increasing motivation to fight diseases. Global healthcare gamification market is planned to exceed USD 40 billion by 2024; according to a research report by Global Market Insights, Inc.

Wearables (or clinical-grade wearable technology) contribute to pharma’s ability to engage with patients to create a more patient-centric ecosystem, often in tandem with smartphone apps. Wearables are smart electronic devices worn on, or implanted in, the body, such as: fitness-tracking bands, smartwatches, smart glasses, etc. They incorporate practical functions and features that can be used to identify changes in vital signs at an early stage.

Here are more precisions to understand this graphic, by type:

  • The smart watches occupied a major share of 29.82% in 2018
  • Exoskeletons are expected to register the highest growth rate of 37.35% on the forecast period.

And geographically:

  • North America accounted for a share of 35.73% of the market studied in 2018
  • The Asia-Pacific regional segment is expected to register the fastest growth, up to 23.85%, over the forecast period.

Neuralink: when technology supplants humans

An example of a futuristic wearable: Elon Musk is developing a way to merge your brain with a computer with his startup Neuralink. At an event in San Francisco in July 2019, the Neuralink team revealed it has been developing a brain-computer interface (BCI) made of thin, thread-like implants. This could one day work with (or, more specifically, within) humans, allowing us to control technology with our thoughts.

The Neuralink team believes the medical uses of its brain-computer interface could be the most promising. Potential applications could include amputees regaining mobility with prosthetics, or the tech being used to treat spinal cord injuries, as well as aiding vision, hearing and other sensory issues.

If commercialized on humans, this technology would be extremely powerful. But is the creation of brain-machines part of a design thinking approach? Rather than human-centered, wouldn’t it be more transhuman-centered?

To conclude, health care is clearly redefining itself with the patient-centricity revolution, which is accelerated by cutting-edge technologies. However, digital tools can sometimes exceed human capacities and create an ambiguity on whether they are used in humans’ service. The question of health care data privacy also arises here. We live in a world where personal data is increasingly debated and there are attempts to control it. Health care data is the most sensitive of all and yet sharing and using it can save lives.

However, even before discussing the benefits of certain technological advances in the medical field, there are solutions that are quite simple to implement to undertake a design thinking approach. Indeed, setting up a multidisciplinary team makes it possible to tackle an issue by considering all the areas it may concern. The “One Health“ approach designs and implements programs in co-creation with professionals with a range of expertise who are active in different sectors. One Health promotes multi-sectoral responses, for example with the OhTicks! multidisciplinary project bringing together veterinarians, doctors, scientists and sociologists to better characterize tick-borne pathogens. Even though patient-centricity is key, one must not forget about breaking silos and think across expertise as health is complex and multifactorial and no one detains all of the keys to improve it.

Rédigé par Cloé Marche, Consultante Acceleration Tactics

Monitor Deloitte, “Gamification study”, 2015
Deloitte report, “High-value health care: Innovative approaches to global challenges”, 2016
Deloitte Centre for Health solutions, “Pharma and the connected patient: how digital technology is enabling patient centricity”, 2017

I don’t know about you, but I’m an avid reader of articles about tools. I’ve discovered so many thanks to these long lists that uncover so many new names.

Yet, taking a step back and reflecting on my own practice, I’ve realized that in the end, I use less than 10 tools in total in my daily Design Thinking practice. I am an experienced human-centered design consultant. I’ve been working on complex projects for a wide range of organizations from non-profit to supply chain to health.

So, how do I explain this gap? While I’m always willing to try new things, most of these tools don’t last very long for different reasons, but in the end, they’re not a perfect match with what I really do.

From unoriginal ones to unicorn ones, I want to take you through the tools and softwares I use and how. Sometimes, simple things do the job, but I do hope this article will broaden your tooling horizon and will start a conversation about what we really use daily.

#1 For User Research (interviews, observation, surveys…)

I remember when, a few years ago, I was frustrated because I felt we weren’t doing enough user research to gather valuable insights. Yet, now, I’ve conducted in total more than half a year on research in 5 different countries.

I’ve tried many things in terms of tools. I don’t think we’re quite there yet. Nobody has cracked the code when it comes to field, user research. I do hope something comes along that will ease both capturing data in real-time, and helping curate the enormous quantitative and qualitative data gathered.

Research is all about observing, listening, capturing. You need to capture what’s going on on the field or during in an interviews because taking notes isn’t enough. You need to be able to immerge yourself back into your research.

Whenever I can, I bring a GoPro or any non-intrusive camera with me, to make sure that people won’t be uncomfortable. When I don’t have it, I’d rather snap a quick shot or start recording voices with my phone instead of using it as a camera because it’s unconvenient.

I haven’t find a better tool that OneNote to capture notes on the go. It’s great for quick, collaborative editing and has features to make sense of the data on the go such has indicators, inserting vocal recordings, pictures etc.

When I’m conducting long-distance interviews, I usually use Teams. It’s reliable, easy to use. I can share my screen and record the meeting. It works wonder at the condition that you’ve tested firewalls before and explained how to connect to a teams meeting for those who aren’t familiar with it.

User Research Tools: Are We There Yet?

I’ll admit I’m a bit frustrated when it comes to User Research Tools. It’s such a huge and important part of my job that I wish something existed that would make my life easier as a researcher. I have to use many tools to capture and analyze information. I always feel a sense of discouragement at first when I look at all of the data I have in hands.

The goal of research is to find patterns in the data collected. It helps identify existing and conscious pain points and uncover unconscious areas of improvement or pain. We will always need our human intelligence and experience to process data qualitative and quantitative data, but having something to help making sense of the data would accelerate the process and reduce cognitive biaises.

#2 For Co-creation Workshops

Ah, the workshops! If you’re a Design Thinking practionner, chances that you spent time re-writing post-its are high. I had high hopes in the Post-It application for a while, but in the end, it doesn’t change how you’re facilitating the workshop and the experience participants live. Many people have experienced co-creation workshops now. They’ve written more post-its than imaginable. And yet, of the ideas and solutions generated, how many are lived through? How many ended up in a powerpoint slide and forgotten?

I used to believe that paper and writing were key parts of the co-creation process, but that was before I discovered what digital Design Thinking can achieve. I mainly use Foreseeds for this as its algorithm has no match on the market, and I use Klaxoon on the side for workshops animation.


Foreseeds is a Digital Design Thinking platform, or, how they brand it, a crowdthinking platform. They managed to solve design thinking pain points by creating a series of activities to be played in real-time by participants. A session has to be coached and facilitated, it’s not an ideation platform where you simply post ideas.

How does it happen and what does it do? You, the coach, start by creating your personas and add their pain points based on your user research. This is your co-creation workshop input. With 10 to 30 participants, mostly end users, you create teams of 2 to 3 people, each team will play on their computer. Then, you take teams through a series of activities and games that will generate solutions based on the pain points, so you’re always user-centered. Teams will then play with the solutions to rank them by desirability, and create projects where they assess feasibility.

I find that Foreseeds sessions have many advantages over post-its workshops. It creates emulation thanks to gamification, allow people to be more focused and not lose interest because of time-constraints games. The solutions and ideas are also very rich because you play with innovation levers, which open the minds of participants and encourage them to think deeper. And the magic is that at the end of a session, participants are energized, pumped up, and the next steps are very clear. Also, everyone can access the Foreseeds platform after the workshop. All of the information remain on the platform and it can be enriched again and again, throughout all of the project.

That’s the beauty of Digital Design Thinking: not only is the information capitalized, but it also accelerates analysis to a great extent. No more copying post-its notes!


Once I’ve started to enjoy Digital Design Thinking, it was hard to go back. I use Klaxoon for short exercises like hopes and fears, problem statement or feedback gathering. It’s easier when you’re facing large groups. At first I was afraid it would disconnect people from one another but I find it brings more openness as it’s what’s displayed on the screen that matters. Focusing people’s attention at a large screen where you display live results helps maintaining and fostering a group dynamics.

The only downside to Klaxoon is their exercises designing experience. I find it quite complex and counter-intuitive. I don’t really enjoy it and I don’t think many people do, but it’s still quite useful for meetings animation.

#3 For Analysis and Deliverables

When I started creating experience maps and customer journeys in 2014, it was very new to many clients. We mostly used them as a pre-sales effort to show the clients the to-be journey they had to aim. Thus, I created gigantic maps that were printed to be showcased around. It was mostly a great marketing tool as I later realized, not so much used in operational work by teams, but to be showcased and to impress. Printed maps are perfect in environments where people don’t have access to digital tools or a way to foster curiosity and interest.

Now, I’m more about impact. The analysis need to be easily accessible and editable. They need to reflect the current state of the research and project, and to be constinously fueled. Design Thinking shouldn’t be restricted to project framing. That’s why I kind of turned my back from Illustrator and InDesign or any tool that isn’t collaborative and need training to be used, and went looking for collaborative, experiential tools. I tried many, many of them, but Miro and PowerPoint are the ones that work best for me and for the teams I work with.


I know what you may think. Powerpoint, really? Well, this isn’t an article about all of the great tools that exist, but practical ones for daily work. So, yes, Powerpoint is one of my main tools. I do have one rule though: I only create slides that are necessary. I’ve got my marks with it after several years of use, and I’m impressed by how much it has evolved and keeps being updated with new features.

Throughout the years, I’ve created templates for personas, impact matrix and other analysis tools. The magic of it is that it’s widely used and can be quickly updated and adapted.


Miro is a fantastic tool. Think of a mix of Adobe Illustrator and Powerpoint in terms of features, all accessible online, and collaboratively editable in real-time. I use it to create experience maps and visualize complex journeys and interactions. I also use it for digital co-creation and fast prototyping, for example we’ve animated cards sorting workshops with Miro, and we’ve prototyped to-be processes.

Their free plan is very generous with up to 5 team members and unlimited access to preview for anyone with the link. There are always pre-made canevas such as mind maps or Kanban, which I have not yet used, but plan to do so.

Miro is one of the tools that are exactly in the spirit of Design Thinking: it’s collaborative, easy to use and has many features to help vizualize information.

#4 For Project Management

Especially as a consultant, following up planning, resources and risks is key to the success Design Thinking approach. Being excellent at conducting a user-centric approach is not enough if it’s not backed-up by the solid backbone of project management, which translates into tools adapted to the kind of project.

I use Teams as a collaborative space, to discuss, share documents and track project progress, and it works wonders both for internal and external projects. It’s part of the Microsoft suite so other tools (planner for example) can easily be pluged, as well as outside tools (RSS flows for example).

I do enjoy Trello as well. The interface is smooth and very practical. I usually have a lot of ideas flowing and Trello work a bit as my “personal backlog” with bliss moments when I archive many tasks that have been there for a long time. There are usually no firewall issues when using clients, so that’s also a plus.

I’ve recently discovered and started using Clickup for more complex projects with several streams. It’s quite close to JIRA Software in terms of spirit, but the interface is more friendly. I especially enjoy the possibility of creating subtasks that can each be attributed to a specific member.


Yeah, tools. We talk about them often, complain about them always, but rely on them everyday. We don’t always have the choice of the ones we use, and in a sense, it’s good: it forces us to try new things, to adapt and to discover new, useful stuff. We grow to use them so much that when I had no choice but to make a presentation on Google slides, I was so grumpy about it all. I was just not my tool.

This put into perspective the fact that when you’re conducting a Design Thinking approach, you design and co-create solutions, some of which happen to be tools. Most of us are change-averse when it comes to tools because they take a long time to master, and we develop an emotional attachment to them. So when we’re designing new tools, whatever they are, digital or not, we should remain aware that changing tools is a journey itself that can be accelerated but can’t be rushed, that can be accompanied but can’t be delegated.

Rédigé par Marouchka Hebben, Consultante Acceleration Tactics

I’ve recently joined Saegus, a consulting start-up whose expertise include human-centered design such as Design Thinking, UX, User Research and more. As I am interested in social issues, I wanted to reflect on how design thinking can be an extremely effective tool for solving social problems. One of the fundamental problems of humanitarian aid in my opinion is the gap between those who shape projects and programs and the realities on the ground. For example, more than 150 million mosquito nets were given to countries where malaria exists in 2015. However, ground studies revealed that many people used these nets to fish, and fisherman blocked entire river spans with mosquito nets. This practice became illegal in many places as it threatens the safety of fish population, and thus, threatens food security for many communities.

What is in this article ?

Thereby, you’ll find in this article the results of my researches — a non-exhaustive overview — on methodologies that already exist and how they are implemented. The first part of this article is devoted to defining Design Thinking so that everyone understands what it is all about. If you are already familiar with design thinking, I invite you to go straight to the second part, in which I will discuss the following question: how can Human-Centered Design (HCD) be a privileged approach for social innovation?

A brief introduction to human-centered design

HCD is a methodology that can be applied in practice through many different approaches (Design thinking, Circular Design, Jugaad, Positive Deviance, etc.). In order to understand HCD and its correlation with social innovation, I will first focus on design thinking, which is an approach of the HCD methodology.

#1 The origins of design thinking

If the term design thinking was popularized in the 1990s, its philosophy began in the 1950s. The origins of design thinking are closely linked to the desire to contribute to sustainable development and improve human well-being.

Back in 1956, Buckminster Fuller began teaching Design Science at MIT. His Design Science lab aimed at using the potential of science and its methods to generate designs conscious of our environment and improve the standard of living of everyone.

In Design for the Real World, 1971, Victor Papanek considers design as a political tool for Human Ecology and Social Change: Design must be an innovative, highly creative, cross-disciplinary tool responsive to the needs of men. It must be more research-oriented, and we must stop defiling the earth itself with poorly-designed objects and structures.

Tim Brown — IDEO’s CEO — is often credited with inventing the term “design thinking” and its practice. IDEO — an international design and consulting firm — was formed in 1991 as a merger between David Kelley Design, which created Apple Computer’s first mouse in 1982, and ID Two, which designed the first laptop computer, also in 1982.

Traditionally, designers were focused on enhancing the look and functionality of products. With design thinking, they have begun using design tools to solve real problems. By putting the end user at the center, they uncovered solutions and possibilities beyond enhancing only its look. “Design is not about how it looks, it’s about how it works”, as defined by Steve Jobs.

There are more and more examples of design thinking projects for social impact. Allow me to tell you about the one that I know more, because Saegus was a part of it. This mission was conducted jointly with the Sanofi Espoir Foundation on maternal and newborn health in Senegal. From 2010 to 2017 the Foundation funded many training projects, especially for midwives. But because of no evidence of real and sustainable impact, the Sanofi Espoir Foundation decided to take a step back. All together, we aimed to approach maternal and newborn health as a complex social process wich requires a multisector-field approach, centered on the local experience of women and health practitioners. We started a human-centered approach mission in 2018 that you can discover in this interview of Valérie Faillat, Executive Director of the Sanofi Espoir Foundation, talking about this mission.

#2 Human-Centered Design: a tool to find systemic solutions to social challenges

In 2008, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation asked IDEO to codify the process of design thinking so that every organization can use that methodology to undertake the design thinking process themselves. A team of IDEO designers summarized their approach in the Human-Centered Design Toolkit. HCD — including design thinking — isn’t a perfectly linear process, but you’ll always move through the following three main phases:

Human-Centered Design is a mindset, “it means believing that all problems, even the seemingly intractable ones like poverty, gender equality, and clean water, are solvable. Moreover, it means believing that the people who face those problems every day are the ones who hold the key to their answer.”

Extract from the Human-Centered Design Toolkit by IDEO.

“Seemingly intractable” problems such asinequality, political instability, death, disease, or famine are called “wicked problems”. The term was coined by Horst Rittel and refers to a social or cultural problem that is difficult or impossible to solve because of incomplete or contradictory knowledge, the number of people and opinions involved, the large economic burden, and the interconnected nature of these problems with other problems.

Nonprofit organizations are discovering design thinking as a way to find high-impact solutions to wicked problems. As the article Design Thinking for Social Innovation, by Tim Brown and Jocelyn Wyat, says, “social challenges require systemic solutions“. These problems can’t be “fixed”, but designers can play a central role in mitigating the negative consequences of wicked problems and positioning the broad trajectory of culture in new and more desirable directions. Thus, Human-Centered Design is a privileged approach for companies and organizations seeking to address wicked problems thanks to deeply creative and innovative solutions.

#3 Human-Centered Design approaches for Social Innovation

Below are 3 human-centered approaches that I find particularly impactful. I hope that these examples will inspire you too.

Jugaad: “doing more with less”

“Jugaad” is about solving concerning problems with limited resources and means “doing more with less” in Hindi. It requires that “the entrepreneur becomes blind, he must think about using the object other than for its original function,” explains Abhinav Agarwal, consultant at the Jugaad Lab, a “frugal innovation laboratory” he created in January 2017. Jugaad is not a concept limited to India: the American version of a jugaad is a “hack”, and in France it is called the “Système D”.

The start-up Go Energyless applied this principle by inventing “FRESH’IT”, a refrigerator that runs without electricity, based on clay and sand.

Jugaad has to be a quick fix, with little to no cost. However, this aspect of short-term fix makes it extremely difficult to discover all existing initiatives. Since these innovations are limited in time, they are very often limited geographically too. It complicates and limits their generalization and scaling up. I think that all these great ideas created from a strong need and little — if any — means can be extremely beneficial to a large number if replicated on a large scale. An open source library could be a valuable tool to share these innovations happening every day.

Circular Design: promoting sustainable production and consumption

Designing for the circular economy is about designing reusable materials that will create new value by enabling your own, as well as other businesses, to reuse those materials. An example is Shoey Shoes: children’s shoes made and produced entirely from waste materials, and engineered to be disassembled, be reused, and recycled. They were invented by Thomas Leech, an industrial designer in London who has embraced the principles of a circular economy.

Circular Design allows a responsible consumption pattern that reduces waste production, and design better products for consumer health. The approach is explained more in-depth in the Circular Design Guide, a collaboration between the Ellen MacArthur Foundation and IDEO.

Positive deviance: observing positive behaviors in order to generalize them

Positive deviance is based on the observation that in any community, certain individuals confronting similar challenges, constraints, and resource deprivations than their peers, will nonetheless employ uncommon and successful behaviors which enable them to find better solutions.

In 1990, Jerry Sternin — founder of the Positive Deviance Initiative — and his wife Monique were working in Vietnam to decrease malnutrition among children. The Sternins observed the food preparation, cooking, and serving behaviors of six families “very, very poor” whose children were healthy. They found few consistent yet rare behaviors: the positive deviants. Parents of well-nourished children collected tiny shrimps, crabs, and snails from rice paddies and added them to the food, along with the greens from sweet potatoes. Although these foods were readily available, they were typically not eaten because they were considered unsafe for children. The positive deviants also fed their children multiple smaller meals, which allowed small stomachs to hold and digest more food each day. By offering cooking courses to families, 80% of the 1,000 enrolled children became adequately nourished.

This is an approach that is very much rooted in local realities. The solution is already owned by a few inhabitants, it is not innovation — unlike jugaad — but rather discovering the solution among the habits of the positive deviants.

To conclude, Human-Centered Design approaches help companies and organizations generate impactful solutions for users as well as uncover unknown ways to fix complex issues. Returning to the example of mosquito nets used as fishing nets, responses to social problems cannot be enforced by outsiders far from field realities, even if the response itself is great in its essence. We need to co-create solutions with local populations: design thinking is proving to be particularly effective in addressing social problems and is becoming a key tool for social innovation.

Rédigé par Cloé Marche, Consultante Acceleration Tactics

Design thinking origin story
Design thinking : an enabler for social innovation?
IDEO, the Human-Centered Design Toolkit
Standford Social Innovation Review
Wicked Problems
Corporate Rush (on jugaad)