Avani Bhatnagar has spent the past 15 years in the space of Leadership and communication coaching with the intent of helping corporations and students grow and develop. Avani is currently the Associate Vice President – Leadership, Learning and Talent at Barclays.

The edited transcript of the podcast can be found below:


Q no 1- For the uninitiated, could you please give us an idea of what design thinking is?

Avani Bhatnagar –Design thinking is a form of dealing with problems that we come across every day at our respective workplaces or homes. You know we look for solutions to solve these problems and if we don’t have solutions, we look at alternatives. While we’re looking at solutions or alternatives, we need to be creative constantly. We need to innovate and while we’re innovative and we have to come up with a novel solution, new solution, and yet a very useful solution and that is what design thinking is all about.

Everything these days involves innovation and creativity. Let’s say; you’re a manager at a firm or a startup entrepreneur, professor or a teacher, etc., you’re required to innovate and create. You know the idea is to do more with less and come up with low-cost, yet new and effective solutions to any challenge. That is why we all need design thinking because it gives us those tools that are needed to become an innovative thinker and uncover all the creative opportunities that we may not have seen till now.


Q no 2- Why is there a sudden rise in interest for design thinking despite the concept existing since like the 60s and the 70s?

Avani Bhatnagar – The history of Design thinking started with the Nobel Prize laureate Herbert Simon. He was the first one to mention design as a science or a way of thinking in his book ‘The Sciences of the Artificial’published in 1969. In today’s scenario, things have evolved, so for example, you might have observed that, let’s say senior management in an organization does not sit in separate cabins. They tend to share the same cafeteria with all the other employees, or if you look at parents, they are more open to ideas from their kids, and they no longer operate out of the typical adult ego state, Right. Talk about women because I’m a woman so I’d like, I’d like to mention that women are stepping out of houses. With the current times, we also see many husbands taking up household responsibilities to the extent of being household husbands, househusbands. Everything has become more open. Because of this, the idea is from one, and all are encouraged and appreciated. If you look at the various stages of design thinking, they’re all about encouraging ideas, encouraging ideas without any judgment or evaluation. No idea is considered futile in design thinking. You know, so there is a very interesting example or anecdote from the Pacific Electric Board story. You know they faced a challenge of electric lines getting broken down due to the snow falling on them and freezing the lines. To find a very creative solution, what they did is they involved everyone, including the linemen. The linemen felt out of place in front of all the well-educated officers of the organization, but that is how the Pacific Electric Board was able to eventually reach a very creative and a very interesting solution where the electric lines are not broken down, and the end consumers keep receiving electricity. If I have to say design thinking emerged or it converged out of all the factors which combine the human, the technological and strategic needs of our time’s in a synthesis which is still being explored. Like many of us, we still don’t know a lot about design thinking, and all of us are still learning about it.


Q no –3 Can you give us an example of how you apply design thinking in your personal or professional life?

Avani Bhatnagar – Sure, design and design thinking are more like the narrative and the story, which is I think tremendously overlooked and undervalued in a lot of business functions. Design thinking is not just limited to somebody designing something, it can be for everyone, and that is where your question is very relevant.

If I have to share a personal example- Currently, because of the lockdown, all of us avoid stepping out of the houses. Something that Amazon have given us which is the product subscription is a wonderful example from my personal life that I use because we tend to be forgetful. It could be frustrating to run out of the things that we constantly need right. So, Amazon subscription gives us those leeways, and that’s the beauty of design thinking. Talking about a professional example that I can quote so let’s say that we are looking at the current challenge of low usage and low attempt of online training programs of an organization. We start applying design thinking in the format where the first step is empathy. You are empathizing with the end-users. We empathize with them by speaking with them, conducting meetings, one on one etc. and we find them their employees find it very boring to watch just a series or a video passively. Based on further research we came up with reframing this problem statement to how might we create more of learning and development opportunities for all work from home employees so that they enjoy and learn at the same time. Then we moved on to generating ideas as a part of the ideation stage, which is the third stage of Design thinking. We went on to conduct brainstorming sessions where we included stakeholders, end-users, reporting managers, their employees, their teams, the peers, and everyone around. This is how I think in learning and development, the implementation of Design thinking helps everyone.