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Design Thinking Program

Design thinking is at the root of startup innovation and is embedded in the culture of the world’s most influential tech brands—helping them outperform the S&P 500 by more than double. The Design Thinking Program is a way of embracing this culture of innovation at GE Transportation. It was developed as an initiative of the Innovation Lab at GE Transportation, to help teams to explore the evolution of freight and transportation beyond daily tasking and sprints. With this team training, our businesses are able to view our product portfolio through a variety of user-centered lenses, allowing us to collectively evaluate our next steps against the ever-changing needs of the industries and people we serve.

 To accomplish this, we produced an immersive training program available to all employees, to allow individual business units, project teams, and other groups to learn the value and how-to application of the design thinking approach in their everyday projects.


Conducted secondary research to identify leaders in the subject matter to learn from others' successes and failures when deploying educational training in general and classify what's become the most widely accepted framework for design thinking. We also interviewed employees at GE Transportation along with random external individuals to better understand the state of awareness for design thinking as an innovation accelerant.


We synthesized our research to find that

  • a majority of employees do not know how to approach innovation much less hear of design thinking and its value. They focus on near-term success metrics (e.g., sales) instead of looking ahead.

  • the program should be founded on open source materials with widely accepted terminology with a tiered approach to the learnings to increase the chance for high adoption rates.

  • identified a few of the foundational outputs: a design thinking book that could be used as a toolkit of sorts, additional resources for each level of certification and marketing materials to evangelize and familiarize participants with the value of the framework.


We approached the program outputs holistically to drive continuity between levels of certification training. At the center of the initiative was to operate on the assumption of a beginner's mindset to empathize with our end user's lack of experience with this framework in order to drive optimal adoption. We iteratively created and validated all the collateral that would be needed to begin communicating and executing against the vision of the initiative.


We led our inaugural training, the 1-day Design Enthusiast certification in Q4 2018, with one of our business units based out of Atlanta. We had 25 participants that were made up of cross-functional teams, from individual contributor roles to directors to executives. It was a wild success and we leveraged this session as a feedback loop to evaluate the continuous evolution of what has become a high demand offering for our business and customers.

During the retrospect and evaluation, we found that:

  • We needed to further reinforce learnings in everything we produced.

  • We needed to better explain how each phase was connected and evolved throughout the framework.

  • We needed re-imagine the branding language to better align with our company's heritage

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