SIGUCCS 2019 Conference Takeaway – Applying Design Thinking

Applying Design Thinking: Panel

How familiar are you with Design Thinking? Were you aware of the 5 steps (Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test)? Did you know you could apply design thinking to IT support? The team from Texas Woman’s University provided an overview of how they used problem solving and empathy to get to the heart of what their customers were needing.

Texas Woman's University Team

Corin from Texas Woman’s University talked about how she and others went out into the campus, face to face, to ask customers how things are going with their technology because when you are in their space, you learn new things.

By making a house call (and not because the customer called, but just making a point to visit the customer), it allowed them to verify software/hardware performance and promote services or tools. It also provided Just in Time assistance and often the IT person helped the customer make the call to the Service Desk in order to assist and escalate.

Ultimately, design thinking is about solving problems. Empathy is key.

Design thinking is being used at more than just TWU however. This panel also included Mo from Oregon Health and Science University, who reminded us that design thinking is “more than just pretty stickie notes”. He learned about design thinking from online certificate courses available at IDEO U ( and then he started applying it through little experiments at his workplace to improve communications amongst groups and teams. Focus on “people before processes”.


Fantastic presentation on problem solving and empathy. Focus on empathy and solving their problems, not ours. – Laurie Fox

TWU mentioned that faculty should be considered an adult learner population – they are often hesitant to call the help desk. But IT cannot work on a problem if they don’t know about it. This method brought issues to light. It also brought misunderstandings and misinformation to the forefront – people would talk to the visiting IT professional about issues which might have been just rumors or bad information. – Lisa Brown

It takes a LOT of time to do Design Thinking at an institution. The primary communications person literally walked to every office on campus over a period of months, then to the next campus, etc. I worry about this, especially if there is not someone already dedicated to this type of work. Having said that, it’s a wonderful effort and the results speak for themselves. – Allan Chen

See their presentation materials at:

Read their abstract in the digital library:

Sched 2019: