Why putting people first provides the best results

Posted on 26 Aug 2020

By Lachlan Pollock, Our Community

Taking a human-centred approach to decision-making could be the key to harnessing your organisation’s potential, says CommBank relationship executive Claudia Smith.

Claudia Smith
CBA's relationship executive, Claudia Smith

Placing people at the centre of any problem, as opposed to looking at the issue through an organisational lens, will help unearth new ideas and solutions that may not have otherwise been found, she says.

“It’s about not just coming up with ideas that benefit [the] organisation, but rather stepping into the shoes of [others] to understand them at a deeper level.”

Over 600 attendees tuned in for a special webinar, Rethinking success with innovation and design thinking, hosted by Ms Smith during Not-for-Profit Finance Week, a joint venture by CommBank and Our Community.

The webinar, which is now available online as a recording, showcased the benefits for community groups that approach each decision with a human-centred mindset.

How a brainstorm could help your organisation out of a rut

When disability employment organisation Joblife measured staff engagement at only 36% when the COVID-19 lockdown began, the leadership team realised they needed to do something to help people feel more comfortable, connected and engaged.

They put their staff at the centre of the problem-solving process, creating a 48-hour brainstorming challenge to help improve engagement.

Light brainstorm
Could a brainstorming session be the secret to improving your organisation's staff engagement?

The challenge involved five key problems being faced by the organisation, with staff members enabled to choose which problem they wished to solve.

“This meant that staff may have selected a challenge that wasn’t relevant to their role,” said Ms Smith.

“This created real great thought diversity and added different perspectives from different departments.”

This human-centred solution to the engagement problem at Joblife meant that staff were directly involved in improving their engagement.

It proved to be a worthwhile endeavour.

“Their second pulse check, which they did after the challenge, saw positive engagement within their organisation of 90%,” according to Ms Smith.

Top tips on running a brainstorming session

For community groups looking to replicate this experiment to help boost engagement, Ms Smith offered her top four tips.

1. There are no bad ideas

All ideas, even the most extravagant, should be welcomed and encouraged, Ms Smith says.

“The reason for this is that even a small part of one idea can trigger an idea of someone else.”

“They could build on that idea or it may make them think of something completely different. Everyone’s feedback is encouraged and there is no bad idea.”

2. Capture everything

Ms Smith emphasised the importance of recording every idea offered up throughout the process.

“Capturing everything is really important so these ideas can be referred back to later on.”

“Make sure you capture all of these ideas on Post-it notes or by writing them down.”

Be sure to have some post-it notes ready so you can record everything.

3. Individual first, then together

It’s important to let individuals brainstorm first before bringing everyone together to formulate ideas.

Ms Smith says this is because “groupthink” often arises when preliminary discussion are undertaken by a large group.

“When someone is a little more influential or a more vocal person, [this] may limit others from feeling confident to share their ideas and beliefs.”

“Allow an activity where people can do their own brainstorming first to allow that confidence to build before coming together as a team.”

4. Quantity over quality

Quality is the end-game, but having a good quantity of ideas in the brainstorming phase will help you get there, according to Ms Smith.

“Get as many ideas flowing and building as possible.”

“Make sure there’s as many ideas on the table as possible. This gives us more to work with.”


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