A passionate creative thinker, this month’s Echos’ alum, Kristy Novak, is a dreamer with a curious mind that always asks ‘why?’ or ‘why not’.
Novak’s says that she remembers, as a kid, “staring at the sky and asking my sister a million different questions all beginning with ‘imagine i’”. As an adult, this inquisitive soul came in handy, as asking questions is a big part of her job as Service Designer & Change Management Advisor.
Kristy works for the Australian Federal Government, where she is creating a human-centred problem-solving footprint and making sure we all can experience our desirable futures.
RG- Hi Kristy, thanks for taking the time to speak with us. Can you start by telling us a bit about yourself?
KN- I was born in a small country town, Cooma, which afforded me the opportunity to see humans at their best: well-intentioned, kind, helpful people. I grew up playing games with neighbours on the spare block in between our houses, jumping on trampolines, playing tennis in our backyard and skiing the snowy mountains. Childhood was fun for me, three brothers and a sister to play with and no iPad to distract us! We were super imaginative when it came to entertaining ourselves, from inventing games out of sticks to charging the neighbours five cents to watch our gymnastics and dance routines! I was never a great musician or artist – even my stick figures look like scribble, but I still think of myself as a creative. I challenged my creativity through homework assignments. I remember in year three presenting an assignment on healthy food by cutting out the shape of an apple in felt and using that as the cover to a book on healthy eating. I am still challenging myself with creativity and supporting others in unlocking theirs. I’m most alive when I am around my two children and husband, of course. Their natural curiosity and creativity are truly inspirational, and I love that they remind me to be present in the moment. I aspire to work with young thought leaders solving complex problems and having fun turning ideas into action.
“I was never a great musician or artist – even my stick figures look like scribble, but I still think of myself as a creative.”
RG- You currently work as a Service Designer & Change Management Advisor. What is a day in Kristy’s life like?
KN- As a Change Management Advisor for an Australian Federal Government, I create and implement change management strategies to effectively build support and adoption of new business processes, technology changes and culture change. In addition, as Service Designer, I facilitate Design Thinking workshops to tackle complex systemic problems, nudge behaviour, and provide a value exchange between technology and people.
RG- Speaking of Design Thinking, when was the first time you heard about this approach to innovation?
KN- I heard about Design Thinking over five years ago, and the values align nicely to my personal values of courage, creativity and empathy. Plus you get to have a lot of fun!
“The ability to unlock creativity, generate and implement new ideas is an essential skill in today’s rapidly changing digital world.”
RG- In your opinion, why is innovation important in your field of work?
KN- Innovation arguably is important in any field. The ability to unlock creativity, generate and implement new ideas is an essential skill in today’s rapidly changing digital world. Consumer expectations coupled with choice architecture means we have to keep pace with delivering better services, products and experiences.
RG- You have recently attended Echos’ Service Design Experience course in Melbourne. How do you think these learnings can positively impact your industry?
KV- Attending the Service Design course in Melbourne offered an innovative way to develop solutions, services and even policies. It allowed me to see the entire service journey as customers see it, and the tools to design every interaction between customers and the organisation – front and back end steps. The Service Design approach offers a robust process that Service Designers can use when designing and developing products and services. It provided me with an awareness of delivering WOW experiences, and that even if these experiences were small moments, there is the potential to create a big impact.
RG- Whilst putting to practice the Service Design approach, have you had any “big learnings” or “a-ha moments”?
KN- Since commencing as Service Designer post this Echos course, I have been able to apply the Service Design approach, methodology and tools. The biggest learning for me so far is that I need to take more time in unlocking creative potential in others and how important it is to create a space that allows people to be curious, creative and to explore. The people we often invite into the room are not used to a creative approach, so the challenge is developing the innovative mindset in others, which takes time.
“Empathy fuels connection, and the ability to take the perspective of another person, stay out of judgement, recognise emotion in other people and communicate that, are skills that are critical in tackling world issues.”
RG- We have just entered a new decade in which we have many world issues to tackle. How do you think looking at services from a human-centred perspective can help us with the big tasks we have ahead of us?
KN- Human-centred design is a powerful approach, which starts with the people you’re designing for and ends with new solutions that are tailor-made to suit their needs. Design is a passion of mine, I am inspired by how rapidly the innovation mindset is brought to life through the values of design thinking: empathy, collaboration, and experimentation. Empathy fuels connection, and the ability to take the perspective of another person, stay out of judgement, recognise emotion in other people and communicate that, are skills that are critical in tackling world issues. My experience at the Department of Social Services in the Disability Employment Services Branch afforded me the opportunity to engage with people with disability. One of the most insightful conversations I had was with a work colleague who was legally blind, and her perspective and experience in applying for work fuelled my understanding of some of the pain points of the journey that were not surfaced during earlier workshops. I was truly grateful for her open and authentic stories as they shaped the way we tackled some of the challenges in the user journey. Collaboration is equally important and embracing the diversity of people and diversity of thought through user research was vital during the design and iterative implementation of a mobile app for people with disability. I believe engaging multiple and diverse perspectives enables people to navigate complexity to design a better future. The experimentation value of Design Thinking lends itself nicely to the Digital Service Standards and the Agile methodology as innovation and iteration are key to the process. Through rapid prototyping, our multi-disciplinary team designed solutions based on service provider, government and user perspectives that were inclusive and accessible, creating content that’s easy to understand and engage with, in an effort to increase employment opportunities for people living with disabilities in Australia.
“I believe engaging multiple and diverse perspectives enables people to navigate complexity to design a better future.”
RG- When we practice innovation, change happens both outwards and inwards. Have you recently learnt anything new about yourself?
KN- Hmmm… have I learnt anything new about myself? I think practising innovation reminds me that I am at my best when I am creative, courageous and collaborative. It has also reminded me that change takes time and sometimes we need to hear the same message over ten times in order for it to resonate, so I need to be more patient when taking others along the journey.
“We need a culture that truly appreciates and supports vulnerability – as empathy, creativity, courage and the resilience skills required for Design Thinking and Service Design cannot happen successfully without it.”
RG- That’s great. Patience is something we could all work on! Could you tell us more about using Service Design in your projects?
KN- I am currently applying Service Design in my current role, and the first step is all about education of what Service Design is. This alone, however, is not enough. We need to create a space for people to feel safe, generating new ideas, challenging the status quo and a complete shift in mindset. I think most of us understand that diversity of thought is important, but at the same time, we are offended if our idea doesn’t take flight, or feel the need to blame when failure occurs. We need a culture that truly appreciates and supports vulnerability – as empathy, creativity, courage and the resilience skills required for Design Thinking and Service Design cannot happen successfully without it. I am passionate about design, and through my love of positive psychology and wellbeing, I feel the power of uniting these two supports the development of a growth and innovative mindset needed to design new products, services and futures. I am also working with schools to teach Design Thinking to young thought leaders. Kids are naturally curious and have not yet been conditioned as much as adults so I love that they truly believe they can change the world… because they can. I love that they naturally learn through play, whereas the challenge in the workplace is to recreate the joy we once felt as kids and learn through play, build prototypes with lego, digital storyboarding or scenes made with arts and craft!
“We need to find a way where we can develop a shame resilient space for people to create and see failure as an opportunity to grow.”
RG- We can definitely learn a thing or two from children! What pearls of wisdom would you share with someone who is a beginner Service Designer?
KN- As organisations and government agencies adopt the agile or Design Thinking methodologies, it’s important to facilitate in a way that supports the development of the mindset needed to succeed. Carol Dweck’s research in fixed versus growth mindset underpins the ability to embrace failure as an opportunity to learn and to see effort as the path to mastery. Brene Brown’s research on shame, vulnerability, courage and worthiness encourages us all to support a culture in which we can be vulnerable. Learning is inherently vulnerable and as Brene says “the space you create may be the only space that student has that enables him or her to take the armour of his or her heart, but the one thing that will put it back on faster than anything else is shame. It’s like you have a classroom full of turtles without shells and the minute they put the shell back on, they’re protected from their peers or their teachers, but no learning can come in. No vulnerability, no learning”, so we need to find a way where we can develop a shame resilient space for people to create and see failure as an opportunity to grow.
RG- I couldn’t agree more. To finalise, could you please share a quote that inspires you?
KN- A quote that inspires me is “Leaders must either invest a reasonable amount of time attending to fears and feelings, or squander an unreasonable amount of time trying to manage ineffective and unproductive behaviour” by Brene Brown.
RG- Thank you so much, Kristy. It was a pleasure speaking to you.
KN- Thank you again for your invitation to undertake the Alumni interview.
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