Design Thinking in Meetings

How do you ensure that the meetings you host are shorter and more productive?

By applying design thinkinga concept popularized by IDEO founder David Kelly and Stanford’s, which was first applied to the design of physical objects, then other products, such as technological tools, and now to more complex challenges across a wide variety of industries. The idea is to put the “user” at the center of the experience — an approach that works with meeting design, too.

The key ingredients of design thinking to apply to meetings are: empathizing with attendees to ensure their needs are being met; using the right tools so ideas can be ‘brought to life’ and visualized during the meeting; having a wide range of skill sets to approach the problem from different angles; the realization of ideas through mockups or prototypes.

Let’s look closer at how these main principles can help to boost the productivity of a meeting and how they should be integrated into the three key steps in the design thinking process.


In the design industry, meetings are called workshops. In regular meetings, usually there is an agenda and people take it in turns to make a presentation, whereas in a workshop there is a process that uses creative tools.

Participants’ presence in a workshop is essential to its progress with everyone adding something to the process. Work is done using the head and the hands, the heart and the body. Models are made, prototypes are constructed. Participants approach the workshop with a mindset that’s open to change:

  • Values: positive and professional
  • Mindset: humble and empathetic
  • Production: participative and visual

To turn a classic meeting into a collaborative workshop, the entire format must change:

  • Setting: A relaxed space with walls that don’t ‘close in’ on the participants, rather than a small room with a central table. Think: an artist’s workshop with natural light and plants, white walls, sofas, comfortable chairs and tables equipped with paper to sketch on.
  • Movement: Get the body active by changing between seating and standing, rather than just sitting the whole time. How: have an opening discussion while sitting comfortably on sofas, then brainstorming in smaller groups around tables before presenting in front of the group.
  • Tools: Use shared creative canvases for participants to use collectively rather than each person having an individual screen.


Planner Pulse on Meeting Design – How have you employed design thinking in your meetings?



When you use design thinking in your meetings you provide better collaboration and communication between your Presenters and Attendees.  This leads to a more successful outcome for all!








Julie Surrey is a Partner at Creative Planette and is a seasoned professional in the events industry. Ms. Surrey started blogging actively in 2010 and writes industry specific pieces for i-Meet, the online business community for people who plan meetings and events.


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