Design Thinking for Mobility

  • Author: A Conrick
  • Date: September 19, 2017

The nature of mobility management makes professionals in the field experts at working with customers to reach the “right fit” solution to maximize communities’ access to resources and address their needs. Because transportation is such a valuable link to economic development and healthy communities, it’s vital to tailor mobility options to the ever-evolving travel needs of community members.

There are a variety of tools to facilitate this work, and one that merits particular attention is design thinking.  Using a customer-focused approach, this method leverages the skills, experience, and networks of local partners through ethnographic research to lower the risk of testing new ideas in solving complex mobility needs, and increasing the odds of developing and sustaining successful, responsive transportation services for a diverse set of community members. With an open, flexible mindset, design thinking is a valuable tool that can bring out ideas that practitioners may not have otherwise thought of as potential solutions

Due to the potential role design thinking can play in mobility management, NCMM’s CTAA staff have been working with communities to teach design thinking methodology, as well as guide some teams in addressing specific challenges they have identified.

Trainings, such as the one CTAA completed last week with Massachusetts Department of Transportation, offer a step-by-step review of the design thinking process for attendees. Workshops highlight the process for testing proposed solutions to determine if they are operationally feasible, financially viable and, most importantly, that the proposed solutions will meet customer needs—all before dedicating valuable resources to expensive implementation.

Attendees of these workshops are often from various sectors, such as transportation planners, non-emergency medical transportation providers, and government officials in Massachusetts, which incorporates a variety of perspectives into learning a new strategy for innovation. Despite thinking of themselves as professional problem solvers, many attendees appreciate the opportunity to reframe their challenges, then work through processes to test possible solutions with minimal risk.

Additionally, NCMM has supported the implementation of the design thinking process in practice through a variety of avenues. As a part of the Health Care Access Mobility Design Challenge of 2015, sixteen communities received grants to use the design thinking process to create innovative transportation solutions related to healthcare access. Take a look at videos of the community projects here.

Through this approach, design teams focus solutions on their stakeholders’ needs and develop a range of solutions to transportation challenges that they may not have considered using other processes. The information this type of research unearths helps mobility managers understand how an out-of-the-box solution would affect their clients, and how to enact strategies to test these ideas to provide maximum benefit.

Interested in learning more?

Complete our online Creating Innovative Transportation Solutions (offered by the National Center for Mobility Management 2016). Six free, self-paced, on-line modules that introduce an innovative human-centered design process, called Design Thinking, to the development of transportation solutions.

Host an in-person Creating Innovative Transportation Solutions Training for your organization, community, or region. Contact us here to learn more.

Apply for the Health Care Access Design Challenge 2017, a funding opportunity to assist seven communities in addressing health care access issues. The goal of this grant is to facilitate community teams in developing a plan to take promising health care transportation solutions from concept to the point of implementation by using the strategies laid out in Design Thinking. Read more about the opportunity and how to apply here. Note: Applications are due by October 5th!


Image Credit: NCMM e-Learning Center, Creating Innovative Transportation Solutions 


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