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For this week’s Alumni Profile, I had the pleasure of speaking with Ann Holden – Design Thinking Experience alum and the person responsible for Engagement at the Australian Department of Environment and Energy.

A regulator of the law, Ann uses engagement to broker regulatory outcomes in an environmental context, and today we get to learn from her experience.

RG- Hi Ann, thanks for speaking with me. Could you start by telling me what an ideal day for you would be like?
AH- My ideal day begins and ends with an off-road adventure where I’m enjoying the variety of Canberra’s bush surrounds. I have a great interest in learning about ways of thinking and living and exploring the space where values clash. This is an interest I can immerse myself in across the spectrum of work-life balance.

RG- How would you explain what you do for work?
AH- I work in the Australian public service using the tool of engagement to encourage compliance with national environmental laws. I typically work at an industry or regional scale to understand the drivers of non-compliance and broker regulatory solutions to support voluntary compliance.

RG- Why is innovation important in your field of work?
AH- I engage with the regulated community and regulators to find ways to support voluntary compliance with environmental laws. Very often, the drivers of non-compliance are values-based and problem-solving to identify and build pathways to encourage voluntary compliance requires behaviour change. The latter requires understanding perceived value, i.e. innovation.

RG- When was the first time you heard about Design Thinking?
AH- I first heard about Design Thinking in 2018. A colleague and friend who had been investigating Design Thinking introduced me to the discipline and the Echos course.

RG- That’s great! Since then you have attended the course your friend told you about –  Design Thinking Experience. How do you think the knowledge you brought back to your work can positively impact your industry?
AH- There is law, and then there is the implementation of the law. Modern regulators understand that most people will comply when they know how. In light of this, as regulators, we are often seeking ways to make it easier for the regulated community to comply. Applying a human-centred design approach to understanding the needs of the regulated community and then the design and implementation of the regulation is key in making it easier to comply.

RG- What were your biggest learnings during Echos’ Design Thinking course?
AH- Learning the Design Thinking approach offers a discipline around solving complex problems. Design Thinking has a very broad application, including cultural change within organisations. “The Ten Faces of Innovation” – an Echos recommended text – is a new way of understanding complementarity in teams. Echos emphasises the importance of different skill sets to foster productive conflict and collaboration.

RG- Did you learn anything new about yourself whilst attending the courses?
AH- Experimentation is not my natural habitat but it is a valuable approach to thinking around complex problems.

RG- What pearls of wisdom would you share with someone who is starting their innovation journey through Design Thinking?
AH- We often apply empathy intuitively. The Design Thinking approach expands our practical application of empathy and its use as a tool to solve complex problems.  I highly recommend undertaking some structured learning to develop a familiarity with the Design Thinking approach and the concepts behind the integration of the core principles of empathy, collaboration and experimentation.

RG- Finally, could you share a quote that inspires you?
AH- “Intuition without concepts is blind”. This is a part of a quote provided during the course: “Thoughts without content are empty; intuition without concepts is blind”, by Kant.

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Rani Ghazzaoui Luke

Rani is a writer and actor based in Sydney, Australia. She is Echos Head of Content & Communications, and the Editor in Chief of The Echos Newsletter.

Before joining Echos, she worked in full-service advertising agencies as a copywriter, moved onto writing for Broadcast Media, and landed on Digital Media, working first as a Digital Producer and later as a Digital Account Manager. Most recently, she was Lead Client Solutions Manager for GumGum Inc, an ad tech company specialised in Artificial Intelligence.

Rani is a highly curious individual that believes creativity and innovation are the most important tools to propel any person or business forward.

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