The Federal Government and the Department of Defense in particular, see the value of design thinking, and Mohr Collaborative has been fortunate to help apply it to a critical mission.
We recently spent three days leading a design thinking workshop / design sprint kickoff for the team building the new National Background Investigation System (NBIS). The government uses NBIS to manage the process of issuing security clearances to government employees. The new system will, ideally, reduce the huge backlog of people waiting for security checks and prevent a repeat of the 2015 data breach that exposed more than 21 million people’s personal information.
The team from DISA (Defense Information Systems Agency), under the leadership of Dr. Robert Whetsel and Aasha Shepherd, recognized the value of taking a design thinking approach to a remarkably complex system. Applicants, investigators, adjudicators, and many more kinds of users each have their own unique needs and ways of interacting with the system. DISA wants to design a system that responds to those needs, so the initial exploration phase had to be efficient and thorough.
A major part of the the first day focused on interview skills to create personas and experience maps. Participants learned how to identify the right people to interview and observe, and they practiced asking better questions, probing for detail and empathizing. They learned to share their findings effectively and they collaborated on generating insights and uncovering and prioritizing needs. It was a fast-paced morning followed by immediate application. The users were there in the room, too, and it was fun to see the tables turned on the background investigators who are used to asking all the questions!
We are looking forward to the innovative approaches that the DISA team proposes, making our government safer, more cyber secure, and more efficient at the same time.