Measuring the Performance of Individual Design Thinking Team Members

How do we know if a team member is »performing« well and displays the skills and »desired behaviors « for innovation?

There are certain contexts in which the behavioral change of the individual is the goal of an intervention: just think of a design thinking training, maybe in the form of a multi-day workshop. Before and after such an intervention we might want to measure changes in attitude and behavior of participants.

Most of the time however we work on projects, where it is crucial to have the right people in a team. And, if we don’t have the right people (yet), then at least the ones who are willing to grow and learn. This is why it is crucial and in the very self-interest of any innovation team to put quite some brain into team member selection. A warning at this point: evaluating a team member is not easy due to emotions and social dynamics. You might »feel« if your colleague is a good team member and you will have arguments in favor and against that but a reasonably objective assessment can usually only be made by neutral third-party observers, like a design thinking coach, HR specialist, or psychologist. They know how to use the more sophisticated methods for measuring individuals whilst they perform their team and project work (see infobox below).

So, the bad news is: none of the objective and meaningful measuring methods are simple. They all need this third-party observer or researcher for analysis and can’t be performed by anyone without prior training. This is why this level is the hardest for self-measuring in your team. But in the table below I collected some easy to use, yet sound heuristics, which you could use for help if you have no third party that supports you or your team along the whole project.

Evaluating an individual team member before, during, and after a learning experience or project
Individual Example MetricsBeforeDuringAfter
Reputation and track-record for design, innovation and entrepreneurship
Get information about the team member’s skill set and reputation before starting the project:

  • Are they a team player?
  • Do they have an entrepreneurial attitude?
  • Will the person complement the team with their T-shape skill-set?
  • etc.
Displays or demonstrably develops an innovation mindset

Are they willing to grow? → Find out by using Carol Dweck’s Growth/Fixed Mindset Scale ;

Are they open to discovery and challenging their own assumptions?
→ Do “I used to think, now I think/know” exercises regularly.
The number and quality of contributions the person made in the different working modes of design thinking
Some questions you can ask yourself here are:

  • Did the individual take the lead and support the team with their skills in the situations where they needed the person’s T-Shape the most?
  • Has the person increased both team cohesion and the quality of the project with their team interactions and content/craft contributions?
  • How often did this person ask good generative questions to advance the team conversation?
  • Did the person bring general ‘design abilities’ to the table, which are the basis for any DT work, such as basic interview and observation methods proficiency, visualizing/sketch-noting, prototyping, etc.?
  • etc.

How to measure: hold retrospectives and post postmortems after every sprint.
Some ways to evaluate a design thinking team member

As you see, the table’s focus is particularly on behaviors beneficial to design thinking. Basic hygiene factor behaviors, essential for all kinds of teamwork, like showing up at all, making time for the project, being social and polite, pulling work voluntarily, etc., are not part of this examination. Yet, I have to acknowledge that the lack of even such basic behaviors is often a problem in practice.

Besides above heuristics there exist some recent scientific instruments you could use to measure behavior beneficial to design thinking work. However, these are definitely more time-consuming and therefore often not so well suited for fast project business. In the next article of this series we will look into how one can measure the performance of design thinking teams.

Advanced methods to measure individual creativity and innovation behavior

Team Interaction Notation
(HPDTRP Program)

In this setup a researcher video-observes, codes, and analyzes critical DT team behaviours, such as supporting, blocking, asking questions, interrupting, deviating, building on (ideas of) others, and more as an indicator of how well they really support each other when being in a »design thinking working mode« . Behaviors can be analyzed for each person individually.

Design Thinking
Mindset Self-Awareness

With this instrument one can assess an individual’s set of attitudes, opinions, beliefs and behaviors widely associated with design thinking based on 22 constructs . In a similar vein the Innovation Self Efficacy Score (ISE) is an indicator for the development of confidence regarding important design thinking abilities .

Further Methods:
Creativity Tests

The Alternative Uses Test measures an individual’s divergent thinking ability and in addition the Remote Associates Test measures convergent thinking. The ‘Dual Pathway to Creativity Model’ is a creativity test, which helps examining whether a person displays a healthy alternation between flexibility and persistence. In other words are they willing to quickly let go of their own ideas and thoughts and engage with the ones of other team members, but also to want to thoroughly delve into a topic?

References
Sonalkar, N., Mabogunje, A., & Leifer, L. (2013). Developing a visual representation to characterize moment-to-moment concept generation in design teams. International Journal of Design Creativity and Innovation, 1(2), 93–108. https://doi.org/10.1080/21650349.2013.773117
Menning, A., Rhinow, A., & Nicolai, C. (2016). The Topic Markup Scheme and the Knowledge Handling Notation: Complementary Instruments to Measure Knowledge Creation in Design Conversations (pp. 291–307). https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-40382-3_16
Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (Illustrated edition). Random House.
Dosi, C., Rosati, F., & Vignoli, M. (2018). Measuring Design Thinking Mindset. 1991–2002. https://doi.org/10.21278/idc.2018.0493
Royalty, A., & Roth, B. (2016). Developing Design Thinking Metrics as a Driver of Creative Innovation (pp. 171–183). https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-19641-1_12

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