48 minutes | Apr 14th 2020

Adding System Awareness to System Design to Your Innovation Stack with Julie Guinn — DT101 E43

Julie Guinn combines design, research, strategy, and systems thinking to help teams build innovation capabilities, solve complex business challenges and deliver delightful, intuitive product experiences. We discuss systems awareness, leading design work inside complex systems, and ways to pull system awareness and system design into your innovation efforts. Show host: Dawan Stanford.

Show Summary

Julie defines the differences between systems and complex adaptive systems, and how the many elements that are highly interconnected in complex adaptive systems create complexity and how that impacts the way you approach the design process. She talks about her first foray into designing for healthcare, and how she quickly discovered that none of the typical tools in a design thinker’s toolkit were working. Her discovering  Designing for Care by Peter Jones started her on the path of learning about systems and system-centered design, which led to a whole new skillset and toolbox of methods specifically geared towards designing systems and designing inside systems. 

She discusses the unique challenges of designing for systems and how multiple phases and iterations are key when implementing change in complex adaptive systems. She also talks about some clients that were more challenging when it came to design implementation, and how some companies weren’t ready for design, and what she did to overcome these challenges.

Julie talks about how to be intentional when building a plan for convening and facilitating systems design experiences, and why you should think differently when you plan projects, especially when considering how much time each step will take.

Listen in to learn:

  • Differences between systems and complex adaptive systems
  • Critical parts of complex adaptive systems and the elements they encompass
  • Mapping systems and how you can use mapping systems in design
  • Types of considerations to think about when designing for healthcare systems
  • When you need a system-centered practice as opposed to a design-centered practice
  • Ways to address obstacles in client work
  • Timescale and system change with placing new interventions in place
  • Why you should break optimized systems around your target outcomes
  • What can you do if you find yourself in a much more complicated system than you anticipated?

Our Guest’s Bio

Julie Guinn is a User Experience Research Principal at Dell Boomi, where she focuses on understanding complex enterprise data ecosystems. She has 20 years of experience leading human-centered design and research in technology and healthcare organizations, including Microsoft, Intuit, the University of Pennsylvania Medical System, and Elsevier. Her collaborative, human-centered approach is founded on a passion for understanding human behavior and a deep belief in the transformative power of design. 

Julie’s first experience with design came from watching a PBS Nova episode on the development of new snack foods when she was a teenager. Watching the research team ask consumers questions about snacks hooked her interest. She holds a Master's degree in Human-Centered Design from the Illinois Institute of Design and a Bachelor's degree in Human Factors from Tufts University.

Show Highlights 

[03:30] Julie talks about her path to a career in user experience and enrolling at Tufts University.

[04:56] Defining Systems Design and the multiple fields of study which are encompassed in this career.

[05:56] Julie defines the differences between systems and complex adaptive systems. 

[08:18] Systems and mapping systems commonly found in design projects today.

[10:14] Considerations when designing healthcare using mapping systems.

[14:20] The “invisible furniture” that can get in the way when designing healthcare systems.

[16:07] Aspects to build into your design program for healthcare design.

[19:45] The importance of understanding incentive structures that influence behavior in systems..

[23:05] Creating space to work inside complex adaptive systems.

[26:06] How setting boundaries on where you will work inside complex adaptive systems improves your success chances..

[27:37] What works well in the realm of collaboration for people and teams.

[31:40] How can you make the system visible to everyone using it?

[34:44] Changes and impacts that happen when people see the systems they inhabit.

[38:38] Advice for those who are finding themselves in a much more complicated system than they expected.


Design Thinking 101

Fluid Hive Design Innovation

Julie Guinn on the Web

Julie Guinn on Twitter

Julie Guinn on LinkedIn

Service Design Network Talk

TISDD stakeholder mapping method

Book Recommendation: Designing for Care

Book Recommendation: Thinking in Systems

Book Recommendation: Systems Thinking for Social Change

Other Design Thinking 101 Episodes You Might Like

Designer's Role in Healthcare & Public Health + Studio Thinking with Jess Roberts — DT101 E21

Nursing + Service Design + Healthcare Innovation with Brittany Merkle — DT101 E38

Healthcare Design Teams + Wellness + ScienceXDesign with Chris McCarthy — DT101 E24


Thank you for listening to the show and looking at the show notes. Send your questions, suggestions, and guest ideas to Dawan and the Fluid Hive team. Cheers ~ Dawan

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