We’re midway through Tom’s five-part series that explores innovation in the compliance function. In today’s episode, he considers how design thinking can help Chief Compliance Officers create more robust compliance programs that will become deeply rooted in the company’s core.

In a recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) article, Jon Kolko discussed how design thinking can bring innovation into a compliance program. The article,  “Design Thinking Comes of Age,” talked about how “the approach, once used primarily in product design, is now infusing corporate culture.” It can be used to redesign your compliance program for your internal customers, like your employees and contractors. The goal in redesigning the compliance program is to get these groups to fluidly follow compliance protocols without a second thought.

Here are Kolko’s Components of Design Thinking:

  • Focus on the users’ experience with compliance. Designers should focus on the “emotional experience” of the users. Doing so allows the user to find emotional resonance with the compliance program, since the users’ needs have been thoughtfully included vs. simply focusing on internal operating efficiencies.
  • Create “design artifacts.” This can be a physical item OR any document that has come to define the traditional organizational environment. Kolko shares that design artifacts are critical because, “they add a fluid dimension to the exploration of complexity, allowing for nonlinear thought when tackling nonlinear problems.”  
  • Develop prototypes to explore potential solutions. Building parts of your system and testing it from the user’s perspective is a better way to communicate ideas and obtain feedback. Although this might appear counterintuitive, it’s important to remember that the key component for design thinking is a tolerance for failure.
  • Exhibit thoughtful constraint when moving forward. Kolko ends this section by stating that sometimes you lead with “constrained focus.” That means one must be deliberate about which processes to include or remove in the compliance program redesign.

Now that you understand the key components of design thinking, it’s also vital that you understand the challenges that apply directly to the CCO or compliance practitioner in implementing design thinking.

  • First, there must be a willingness to accept more ambiguity, particularly in the immediate expectation, for a monetary return on investment.
  • Second, a company must be willing to embrace the risk that comes from transformation.
  • The third is the resetting of expectations since design does not solve problems but rather “cuts through complexity” to deliver a better overall compliance experience.

By following the key components of design thinking and overcoming these three challenges, the internal customers can demonstrate the compliance training’s effectiveness and the company becomes a better-run organization.

Ongoing Education

If you’re a compliance professional looking for a convenient and effective way to fulfill your continuing education requirements, go to FCPAComplianceReport.com/Courses and choose from 4 hour-long training packages that will keep you up to date with the latest developments in the compliance field.