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Last year, Lance Carlson, president of the Alberta College of Art and Design, set up the Institute for the Creative Process and, for the first time, forayed into research on how to apply the design process to things that aren’t about the look of something — things like the workplace.

“There are practical steps employers can take to use design thinking and plug it in to how they operate and develop their business models,” says Mr. Carlson, who spoke recently at a Calgary Economic Development forum about creativity and innovation in the workplace.

The British Design Council released a study in Britain that showed companies that embrace creative design thinking had a 200% greater profitability than firms that didn’t. “Traditional business thinking is about quantifiable, predictable gains. Predictable and quantifiable is reliable, but it’s not necessarily valid,” Mr. Carlson says. “It is design that makes a difference in the world. You don’t just work at a place because of how much money you’re making.” [...]

Mr. Carlson talks about an ethnographic approach to workforce design whereby business leaders analyze their workforce carefully, get to know what makes them tick and develop an innovative business structure that emphasizes creativity and the opportunity to demonstrate innovation.”

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