A wicked problem investigated by a diverse team using the design thinking process.

In the Autumn 2015 term, I have had the privilege to join in a greater team and use design thinking (even teach a bit of it) to explore and solve a wicked problem in the healthcare industry. The project teams come from combining the master students from Chalmers School of Entrepreneurship, Sahlgrenska School of Innovation & Entrepreneurship, and Business & Design – School of Design and Crafts at University of Gothenburg.

My team consisted of Oscar Brodin, Industrial Engineering and Management, Babu Raja Asokan, Biotechnology Engineering, Fredrik Nilsson, Law, and myself. While I am working on my Business and Design degree, these three are working on a masters degree within the field of Intellectual Capital Management. Needless to say: it was a diverse team that all had motivations to participate collaboratively and solve problems innovatively.

On the first day of the five-week long practical course, we were presented the problem of Lost Devices: “nurses spend on average one hour a day looking for devices.” We also were given the information that the contact person was a nurse anesthetist at Sahlgrenska Hospital’s Cardiothoracic Department. Within minutes, we understood our project would be a wonderful learning experience. Within in the first few days, we had stepped inside an operating room to witness a heart surgery (and watched a lung transplant surgery from the hallway window).

Initially we thought the “lost device’ problem would be about storage, about not having enough devices or even about losing the device INSIDE the patient; honestly, we had no idea. Thus, with using the design thinking process we were able to reframe our problem of devices being ‘lost’ to devices being ‘unreturned.’ We also developed a deeper understanding that there is an added stress to the job when one does not ‘see’ where needed instruments are. We also learned through our exploratory and design driven process that the devices move through the hospital through organizational barriers inside the hospital and communication between these needs to be made quickly, and preferably by passive measures. And finally, if we minimalized the stress and frustration of the hospital staff we could optimize the time used for patient care.

The Lost Device group dove in head first into using design thinking methods and co-created a solution with the help of the Thorax Department. To highlight a few key points, we held ethnographic interviews with key stakeholders. Through these interviews we realized that the accountability of returning or picking up the devices is not understood completely. We used observation to understand that in many respects they are super organized and that the motivation of being prepared for an emergency could be a key to our solution. Then, through a co-creation meeting, we learned that the empathy for other co-workers could never measure up to the empathy for each patient. Through this deeper knowledge we were able to customize the solution. We even managed to create a first prototype of our Seer Solution and we presented it both to our fellow classmates but also inside the department at Sahlgrenska Hospital. The department loved our solution and would like us to continue working with them to make an iterated and more advanced prototype! Which is exciting and I am so glad to be part of this amazing team in whatever way we choose to continue in the future with the project.