Lucy Finney MBE, Lumina Learning Practitioner, Thales



One of the challenges many companies face, and we face ourselves at Thales, is that we are a very process-oriented company. That can be a challenge as it can stifle creativity and innovation and make it harder to develop new products that meet the customers’ needs. So how can you bring in new approaches to encourage creative problem solving and create the right environment for innovation?


We’ve embarked on a whole new programme recently where we’re bringing in innovation centres, we’re bringing in new processes, and I’m bringing Lumina Learning into the middle of all of that.



Systems approach to creative problem solving

At Thales we have five key principles that underly the innovation work that we do:

  • Human-centred – Making people the heart and focus
  • Collaborative – Harnessing value from difference; releasing the ‘collective genius’
  • Discovery based – We learn together
  • Creative – Embracing ambiguity, making connections, working differently
  • Action orientated – Doing, not talking


To set our people up for innovation, we follow three steps:

  1. Help them understand themselves and value diversity (using Lumina Spark).
  2. Put them into a team environment to help them understand that we exist in paradigms and we need to come out of these and adapt and work together to create solutions.
  3. Once they understand themselves better and how to work better in teams, we bring in creative problem solving and design thinking, a process helping them understand how to be creative in a more systematic way.



Creating the right environment for innovation

To encourage creativity and innovation, you need to create the right environment. At Thales we use a systematic approach based around four Ps. You need a skilful balance of these:

  • People – A diversity of People (truly multidisciplinary)
  • Physical – The press of the Physical and Social environment
  • Process – A flexible, robust, purposeful Process
  • Product – The desired outcomes and Products



The press of the physical and social environment

You need to put everyone in the right location together. The social environment is very important to generate that communication and get everyone working together, whatever their personality. It’s important to take people out of their normal work environment and into physical spaces where they are stimulated to engage creatively and innovate. At Thales we have set up specific design centres for this purpose.


A creatively designed office space



The desired outcomes and products

The people should come in with some idea of the desired outcomes they want but not having thought of the solution – you have to get in early. You’re in the wrong place if people come into the room with the solution already worked out. You need to work early in order to put the customer back at the centre of what you’re doing.



A flexible, robust, purposeful process

So, what actually needs to take place in the physical spaces? Within our design centres at Thales people carry out creative problem solving.


Creative problem solving is a whole series of processes used together based on a combination of the best methods and tool sets. You should use the best one for the need at that time. Processes we use include:


What is design thinking? It is a process showing people how to be creative in a more systematic way – a process that actually generates disruption with the help of expert facilitators. The design thinking process follows 15 steps, starting with a focus on the problem at hand, and moving towards a solution focus.


Design thinking process



A diversity of people

So, how can you focus on people to create the right environment for innovation? Help people understand themselves first. We use Lumina Spark to help our people:

  • Value diversity
  • Understand how personality preferences affect behaviour
  • Adapt – change your behaviour to have greater impact
  • Team-up and use directed thinking to unlock the collective genius


We also teach our people the concept of teaming:

  • Aim high
  • Team-up
  • Prepare to fail
  • Learn fast


Everybody has a place in the design thinking process, everybody is valued and gets a chance to speak.


Using Lumina Learning and design thinking, people really get to understand much more than just process – they understand people, teams, and process in order to get to a final product that will actually meet the customers’ needs.



You can find more advice on problem solving by subscribing here.

Want to discover more about how we’ve implemented design thinking at Thales? Watch my presentation here or view the slides here.

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