SGI49: Creative Problem Solving (or Design Thinking) With Randy ‘Salz’ Salzman

Have you ever felt that your organization could achieve better results if they just faced problems differently? If so, this interview is for you. Randy Salzman shares some background about thinking through and addressing problems more comprehensively, or design thinking, and how to help your organization shift to that approach. He is a co-author of Design Thinking for the Greater Good: Innovation in the Social Sector, which covers this topic in more detail.

The key points covered in this podcast discussion are:

  • Design thinking is simply a problem-solving process
  • A wicked problem is most detected when you realize there is no single easy fix
  • Overcoming bureaucracy is often necessary to create change (even in the nonprofit sector)
  • Rethinking the need is often a good first step in determining the change that is needed
  • From a small struggling nonprofit to a regional instigator of social good
  • Start by bringing people together for a conversation
  • Work together better by valuing diversity in perspectives
  • Empower both instigators and analytics in problem solving by giving each their own (separate) turn
  • Look to other sectors to find analogies that can be applied to your challenge


Episodes are also available via Stitcher, iTunes, GooglePlay, and iHeartRadio.

About the Guest:

Randy Salzman is a journalist and former communications professor. His work has been published in over one hundred magazines, journals, and newspapers, from the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times to Mother JonesBicycling, and Style.

About the Book:

Design Thinking for the Greater Good: Innovation in the Social Sector by Jeanne Liedtka, Randy Salzman, and Daisy Azer (Columbia University Press; September 5, 2017).

As a way to reframe problems, ideate solutions, and iterate toward better answers, design thinking is already well established in the commercial world. Now, social sector organizations are searching for powerful new methods to understand and address problems—and are turning to design thinking as a solution. Through ten stories of struggles and successes in fields such as healthcare, education, agriculture, transportation, social services, and security, the authors show how collaborative creativity can shake up even the most entrenched bureaucracies. Design Thinking for the Greater Good goes in depth on both the how of using new tools and the why and provides a practical roadmap for readers to implement these tools.

The authors explore how design thinking helped impoverished farmers adopt new practices in Mexico, kept at-risk California teenagers in school, reduced the frequency of mental health emergencies in Australia, and helped manufacturers and government regulators in Washington find common ground on medical device standards. Across these vastly different problems and sectors, these groups have used the tools of design thinking to reduce risk, manage change, use resources more effectively, bridge the communication gap between parties, and manage the competing demands of diverse stakeholders. Along the way, they have improved the quality of their products and enhanced the experiences of those they serve.

With strategies accessible to analytical and creative types alike, and benefits extending throughout an organization, Design Thinking for the Greater Good will help today’s leaders and thinkers implement these practices in their own pursuit of creative solutions that are both innovative and achievable.

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