Design Thinking Workshop: Overcoming Cognitive Biases for Innovation

By Mark Ogilbee posted 11-17-2022 09:13 AM

Deborah Jordan of the AgeTech Collaborative™ leads a design thinking workshop for the Institute for Senior Living

Based in Sacramento, CA, the Institute for Senior Living (ISL) is a think-and-act tank comprised of CEO thought leaders from across the country who are focused on innovation, strategy and leadership — all to generate ideas and act as a catalyst to advance creative solutions that optimize the aging experience. 

In September, 2022, the ISL invited the AgeTech Collaborative’s Design Thinking team to lead a workshop and consumer insights gathering session as part of ISL’s CEO Roundtable. 

To build on ISL’s members’ already-solid foundation of design thinking and innovation, the Design Thinking team focused the workshop on top innovation-impeding cognitive biases, leading participants through a discussion of several such cognitive biases — including a particular focus on the Framing bias — along with behaviors that can counteract and overcome them: 

  • Biases that Impede Innovation                                     Design Thinking Tools and Behaviors that Overcome the Bias

  • • Framing bias                                                                           • Word Swap
  • Curse of Knowledge bias                                                • Empathy

Availability bias                                                                                 • Freshness
Negativity bias                                                                                  • Greenhousing
Status Quo bias                                                                                 • Make/Break
Confirmation bias                                                                            • Opposing/Supporting Evidence (Devil’s Advocate)

The workshop was followed by a consumer listening session featuring an informal focus group of six adults, ranging in age from 61 to 69, who were living either in their own homes or in a life plan community. 

During the 90-minute, moderator-led session, the focus group shared their perceptions, opinions and wishes for aging in their homes and communities. ISL members had the opportunity to ask impromptu questions, which gave them an opportunity to probe deeper into specific points of interest. Critically, ISL members were encouraged to change their frame in order to listen and learn from the focus group with a beginner’s mindset; this helped them overcome their “Curse of Knowledge” bias and to listen from a consumer-peer perspective, rather than from that of a leader in the industry. 

Armed with an awareness of these cognitive biases, ISL members acknowledged that they listened and learned from consumers, staff and other stakeholders in a fresh way. 

To learn more about innovation-impeding biases and tools to overcome them, please contact the AgeTech Collaborative™ Design Thinking team at