“Working across Boundaries toward Patient Safety: Using Design Thinking Methodologies for Transdisciplinary Team-of-Teams Collaboration”


Susan Melsop, Michael F. Rayo, & Maryanna Klatt
Published August 2019


This article describes design thinking methodologies, mindfulness practices, and design activities used to stimulate divergent thinking to enhance collaborative teamwork to advance patient quality and safety. The design and social theory methods, mindsets, and hands-on workshop activities provide valuable lessons and tools for others eager to facilitate transdisciplinary work from a playful, mindful, and participatory approach. As members of the human factors team, the authors were responsible for stimulating grant participants’ mindsets toward intersubjective care and developing authentic empathy to drive collaborative work. With eighty members divided into project-based teams on a AHRQ P30 research project, the authors devised ways to bring a diverse and hierarchically structured group of individuals toward a level playing field wherein hierarchies could dissolve and authentic collaboration could ensue. While the primary goal of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant was to improve patient safety, the primary objective of our team was to leverage our individual experiences and expertise in design, social theory, mindfulness practices, and human-centered integrated systems engineering to facilitate transdisciplinary collaboration. This article describes how three innovative designerly methods created a viable thread of modalities to enhance collaboration and an ethics of care among care providers in a hospital setting. The first method combined Theory U and participatory co-creation, which are both socially innovative approaches for collaboration. The second was Social Presencing, a form of drama enactment. The third was Mindfulness Training, a set of awareness practices based on wisdom of the East. The contribution of this work is to describe how these methods worked in the case study, but more importantly how they can be adapted for other contexts to guide and facilitate collaborative, transdisciplinary work.

Cite this article

Melsop, S., Michael, F. R., & Maryanna, K. (2019). Working across Boundaries toward Patient Safety: Using Design Thinking Methodologies for Transdisciplinary Team-of-Teams Collaboration. The International Journal of Design Management and Professional Practice, 13(3), 1-12.