6 Insights In A Design Thinking Bootcamp For Healthcare


For the past 5 years I have had the opportunity to expose myself to the world of design. Each year I get to devote a portion of my time, priorities, and focus to learning more about the tools and concepts used in industrial design and design thinking. For me, the world of design opens a different door, full of brand new lenses for me to view the world. Especially the world of healthcare globally.

Over the past 2 weeks I have been immersed into my annual learning, education, and practice of design thinking and its application to healthcare.

And it all begins with the Chateau De Versailles in France.

A small group of 15 people met in Versailles. We came from all different backgrounds. Some of us have a background in healthcare, some have a background in sales, or scientists, some are industrial designers, and a few are lawyers.

As we begin to learn about some of the tools and how to apply them, we are broken into 3 teams and presented with our challenge:

“Improve the Chateau De Versailles experience for tourists and visitors.”

It was brilliant. It forced all of us to immerse ourselves in the real world, in a different experience outside of our daily routines and knowledge, and to apply the theory. For me personally, the best way to learn is to do.


Day 1: Immersion

My team went to the Chateau De Versailles and we began in the parking lot. It was towards the end of the day, so not as busy as it is in the morning and afternoon, but parking was still difficult.

Goal 1–interview people.

We started to walk up to people and ask if we could talk to them for a few minutes. Some people did not want to talk to us at all. Some visitors asked if I was trying to sell something, while others wanted to do know if we worked for the Chateau or a travel agency.

We experienced rejection and acceptance. We experienced empathy due to a language barrier. We found other ways to communicate through use of pictures and drawings.

We were able to talk to people that were visiting for the first time. We met one gentleman that leaves nearby, visits monthly, and has been visiting for the past 20 years. We spoke to a family from New Zealand. We talked to a family with 3 kids and a grandfather in a wheel chair from Beijing, China. We had the fortune of interviewing staff members from their fire safety team, security, and the information booth. We also spoke to a group  of women from Dubai that are on a mission to visit all of the palaces in the world. We also interviewed a school group of children, their chaperones, and their guides. Lastly, we found a couple from California that were there with their new born infant.

Goal 2–observation


One of the easiest observations to make is the cobble stone that begin in the parking lot and extends all the way to the entrance of the Chateau De Versailles. We noticed the family with a wheel chair struggling to maneuver it over the cobble stones. We saw a woman roll her ankle because she was wearing high heel pumps. Families that used buggies or baby strollers had difficulty in pushing their children around on the cobble stones. In addition, if you have a stroller or buggy, you are not allowed to use it inside the Chateau.


In some spaces such as the hall of mirrors, it is crowded. It is a large space, but it is a place where everyone gathers, wants to take pictures, and wants to take in the vast beauty of the chandeliers, mirrors, and ornate decorations. If you have a child, or a wheel chair, or are with a group of people it makes it difficult to stay together or enjoy the experience.


In other large spaces such as this one full of art works and statues, hardly anyone gathers to take pictures. Most people rush through this space to get to the more decorative rooms such as the bed room, the dressing room, or the hall of mirrors. We decided to take a moment and sit, do some people watching, and take in the beauty of the art.

As we completed the tour ourselves, we worked late into the evening to collate our observations and interview notes.

My 6 takeaways from being immersed in the experience:

1. When you take 60 seconds to find a common interest with a perfect stranger, they are usually willing to talk to you, share a story, and make a connection

2. Language barriers are not a relevant excuse to make a connection with people

3. When you spend the time to focus and listen to what people are saying, you can usually make a pretty accurate conclusion to what people are thinking

4. Take the time to watch what people are doing, where they are doing, and in the manner in which they do it. If you truly observe the situation of others, you can gain a sense for how people feel in that moment (Empathy)

5. People have different needs and desires, yet most of us usually share at least one global view

The most important takeaway for me was the following reminder….

6. Most patients do not speak or understand the language of healthcare.

Those of us that work, practice, and are educated in the language of healthcare take it for granted that a patient knows what we are saying, why we are saying it, and how it applies to them as a patient.

As healthcare professionals we tend to be confined to a time schedule, worried about how far ahead or behind we currently are compared to our schedule, and are focusing on the next task to be completed.

We need to remember that it is not our language that matters, but the language our patients understand. We can only focus on one patient at a time, one story at a time, and one language at a time.

We need to pause and listen to what patients are saying to us. Make sure that what they ask we answer and address. Asking a patient to repeat what you shared with them helps you to observe if they understand or if you need to communicate differently. Observing how your patient greets, reacts, and leaves can help you understand how they are feeling and how well they understand the information you share with your patients.

Language matters. Identifying barriers to communicate are imperative.

Speaking in the language of patients rules all.

As always, you can feel free to contact me at: CANCERGEEK@GMAIL.COM or follow me on twitter @cancergeek



2 responses to “6 Insights In A Design Thinking Bootcamp For Healthcare

  1. #6 and what follows may be the best quote I’ve read about communication in a long time. Nice.

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