Design thinking driving change in healthcare


The Challenge

At Epworth HealthCare, the People & Culture leadership team wanted to solve some ambitious problems and enhance the employee experience. They wanted to shake things up, to innovate and to change the way people went about their day-to-day tasks.

Epworth HealthCare Group Manager of Learning and Organisational Development, Fiona McUtchen, approached us to help the organisation deliver on some of the initiatives in their ‘Working Well’ project, a part of the organisation’s new Empowered People Strategy which focused on better work practices and experiences for employees.

Although Epworth is already known as an innovative hospital, the goal with this engagement was to develop grass roots innovation capability, particularly around everyday work process and practices. But how do you do that in an environment where people are often stretched for time and headspace?

This was the kind of challenge we couldn’t wait to sink our teeth into it. After all, that’s what Naked Ambition is all about – building innovation culture through capability and deliver value to the business. We helped this group of passionate and curious humans change their workplace DNA through a Human Centred Design capability program wich led to three creative solutions, two prototypes and a new cohort of HCD thinkers and doers.


The Program

Together with Fiona McUtchen we designed an innovation capability program that started with the fundamentals – with the intent of delivering lasting capability.

“NA was really supportive and adaptable in building this program with us. Co-designing with employees, taking into account the operational pressures of running a hospital is challenging due to workload.  There are more layers of planning and preparation involved.”

This program empowers the organisation on multiple levels simultaneously by upskilling strategically selected employees across different teams and then helping them apply these skills to solve real workplace challenges. The program was structured across three levels – Mastery, Practice and Awareness – to bring more people across the method – while allowing a select group to go deep in their understanding and practice.

This approach begins to change the DNA of the organisation by transforming people’s thinking, upgrading the operational skillset and creating a long-lasting change that sets a new course for an organisation’s success.

The program ran in three phases:

During phase one, we worked with a core group of leaders (the masters) who were passionate about driving innovation and change within Epworth. Using our unique approach, design tools and experienced coaches, we challenged their assumptions and helped them pin down specific problems they wanted to tackle within the target areas of Workload, Learning and Data sharing.

“NA was instrumental in helping us define the problem and shape the opportunity area. They helped us outline our challenges in a way that allowed us to unpack them with people. We could articulate what we were trying to do. It led to a higher chance of overall project success.”

In the second phase we immersed leaders and their selected project (practice) teams in the design thinking methodology coaching them in research, visual facilitation and collaboration, ideation and product development, to testing, business model generation, and finally business storytelling; so we could guide them through the process of solving their challenge, using design thinking techniques and expertise.

The focus in this phase of the program is to provide the right amount of support to participants – include provocation of thought where needed.

“NA has brought the expertise and experience to the table.  Being a healthcare organisation, we are very evidence based, we want to know if you have done it before, how and where, what the results and the outcome have been.”

The third phase involved supporting the teams through experimentation and implementation of a proof of concept or minimum viable product (MVP) to ensure that the chosen concepts deliver real business value.

The Impact

The application of these new skills has been a catalyst for driving a new culture of collaboration and innovation at Epworth.  The program has also delivered three innovative solutions and three prototypes – two of which are currently being tested and iterated in the business.

The Workload Team has found a simple but ingenious answer to one of the most painful issues in the health industry.  After identifying misalignment in the meaning of workloads for health professionals in different roles they designed a new communication tool. A deck of cards now facilitates conversation and removes assumptions around workload and has been rolled out to a number of Epworth teams in the proof of concept stage.

Applying design principles in their research helped The Learning Team pin down the core reason behind ineffective knowledge sharing. This led to the development of a prototype of a platform and a community of practice that will allow Epworth employees quickly share and access the knowledge pools within the organisation. This exciting product is soon to be tested with an internal team of users.

This journey will no doubt, continue to infuse their work culture with human centered design principles driving innovation and creating a better customer experience for employees and patients as a result.

A great inspiration for other healthcare organisations that are tackling the same problems.


NA has brought the expertise and experience to the table. Being a healthcare organisation, we are very evidence based, we want to know if you have done it before, how and where, what the results and the outcome have been.

NA was really supportive and adaptable in building this program with us. Co-designing with hospital staff is challenging due to workload. There are more layers of planning and preparation involved.

I think it’s going to be a long-term relationship. They have our trust and they understand Epworth. They know people across hospital. Fiona actually knows people by name!

– Epworth team