Does L&D really need to be using design thinking with Arun Pradhan

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Episode summary 

In this episode, Robin is joined by returning guest Arun Pradhan, an expert in design thinking and learning. After seeing a recent post Arun published on LinkedIn regarding the overuse of design thinking and co-design, we invited him back to further explore this topic and ways that L&D teams can begin to use co-design tools more dynamically and effectively.

About Arun Pradhan

Arun is a leading innovator in the field of learning and development with over two decades in the field. He’s the co-founder of, a platform that aims to provide solutions that empower people to be smarter and faster by cataloging a playbook of the world’s most powerful ideas. These ideas can be used to make better decisions, interrupt bias, and solve complex problems.

He’s passionate and ever curious about topics such as cognitive psychology, behavioural economics, marketing, and anything that provides insights into how people think, behave and change.

With his understanding of consumer behaviour and experience in learning and development, he brings an interesting perspective to the table regarding the role of design thinking in L&D.

What is Design Thinking?

Design thinking, or co-design, is the process of understanding the user, challenging assumptions, and redefining problems in order to identify alternative solutions that may not always be evident at first glance. This process involves several steps, including empathizing with and understanding the user, defining their needs or problem, creating an innovative solution, designing a prototype, and testing.

Key takeaways:

  • Design thinking is still relevant and useful in L&D; however, it tends to be overused.
  • Co-design is overused because people tend to think of it as a way to convince others to buy into their idea or solution, be it the consumer or the executives of a company. People tend to associate it with getting sponsorship.
  • The overuse of design thinking can prove redundant for your audience. When done too often, an audience that’s already overwhelmed and busy will view the experience as just another project to add to their plate and won’t feel enthused about participating.
  • Design thinking is still useful when there’s a level of complexity to the problem you’re aiming to solve.
    When you’re engaging with your audience, the primary goal should be to understand their context, needs, and pain points, not for them to help you come up with a solution, per se. That happens behind closed doors once the data is being reviewed.
  • Sometimes clients just want a solution delivered to them. In some cases, it’s best to lean on previous experience and expertise to develop a viable solution rather than going through a design exercise.

Segmented time stamps:

2:25 How is design thinking being overused?
4:10 When is design thinking useful, and how can it be used more effectively?
9:09 The role the audience plays in co-design
15:09 What’s the best approach for the prototype phase?
23:18 What’s next for using design thinking in L&D?
25:17 How can L&D teams become more dynamic with the way they use design thinking tools?

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