Arts in Design Thinking

Arts in design thinking

Why Arts?

10 years ago, when we started on the journey of bringing Arts-Based trainings to India  brings arts in design thinking, we were sure of the power of arts as metaphors, as simulations that helped in expression, deal with ambiguity, and look at alternatives. Sharon Levine, a professor of medicine at Boston University and an early inspiration, had said “If you don’t deal with ambiguity, you will make mistakes. If you become fixated on one thing and don’t think about other possibilities based on your physical exam, then you do yourself and your patients a disservice.”

Our greatest inspiration was Joel Katz at Harvard Medical School tried bringing art appreciation to medical students, and found great success. Our anecdotal observation is that students who do this course have come back to us years later and said, ‘Oh, I feel much more prepared and much more confident in my ability to do physical exam,'”, Katz says.

Katz and his colleagues published a study in the Journal of General Internal Medicine showing that after completing the class, students’ ability to make accurate observations increased 38%. When shown artwork and photos of patients, students were more likely to notice features such as a patient’s eyes being asymmetrical or a tiny, healed sore on an index finger. Observations by a control group of students who did not take the class did not change.

After over 10,000 hours of Arts-Based trainings, we have seen the power of the arts to unlock potential, get past barriers and inspire exploration and creativity.

And now, when we use art in Design Thinking, we continue to see fantastic results. Arts has helped participants become more creative, look at problems through different lenses, find inspiration in applications, and come away more enriched and empowered. Results we will be leveraging actively at the ubqt Design Thinking School.

So excited to bring all that we love, all that have worked so well, all together.

The Costs of User Centered Design

What is the Human cost of disruption brought in by our deep UX focus?

Will organisations ever look beyond just UX of their customers to other X’s that impact their design decisions? We all know the push-backs companies like Uber are facing from taxi drivers, city administrators and in some case, citizens themselves across the world. But there are growing number of instances when brilliant customer-pleasing ideas (often coming from the genius brains of unicorn founders and designers) that are having side-effects that are not just disruptive but dangerous and damaging. And leading to anger and anguish across societies.

Some cases to point:

  • People died at Bangalore streets got flooded this year. The cause (beyond heavy rains) is always clogged drains. Among the major culprits – styrofoam, cardboard and other packing material used by #e-commerce companies like #Amazon and #Flipkart that end up in garbage and make their way into the sewers.
  • An musician friend in NYC was telling me that it is difficult to sustain as an artist as revenues from record sales are plummeting. The reason – sharing on #AppleMusic and others, where one can access songs for a monthly fee and not buy an album any more. Result – old artists are forced out of retirement to go on tours, as Donald Fagen of Steely Dan recently pointed out, and budding musicians are thinking twice about taking the plunge.
  • The same challenge faces young authors, who are now finding royalty earnings difficult as #Amazon is driving down prices by pushing publishers and who in turn are squeezing authors to compromise on their earnings. Result: authors are not sure if they will make enough to sustain, and some are giving up before trying, making the reading world lose out.
  • There are also many reports on how communities are responding to the “boom” in tourism. On one side we have citizens like those in AmsterdamBarcelona, Venice and other cities taking to streets against the huge increase of tourist arrivals that are threatening to disrupt local cultures and economies. On the other is the steady increase in popularity of companies like #AirBnB, which, while being great for travellers, is making renting apartments in cities increasingly difficult for people, especially students and lower income groups.

Can companies think of long-term impact and other effects of their business models more systemically? More holistically, keeping in mind the larger picture? Beyond customer acquisition numbers, valuations and ROI?

When will Human-Centred Design become Society-Centered or Humanity-Centered Design?

 

Our recent work in #DesignThinking has looked into this deeply, and tried to address the challenge keeping all sides in mind – profitability, ecological and societal impact, and UX. The journeys are fascinating, unearthing nuances and new details that are often overlooked, to find #sustainable solutions.

Isn’t #innovation all about that?

Importance Of Data In Design Thinking

Importance of data in design thinking

IMPORTANCE OF DATA IN DESIGN THINKING

“China’s banking system is riskier than it has ever been, the latest global data shows”

“Data Shows Urgent Need for Civil Services Reform in India”

“Neanderthals made their own jewellery, new data confirms”

“One in three Saudi air raids on Yemen hit civilian sites, data shows”

Data. How important is data in design thinking?  Every day, on every social media and news platform, we are bombarded with “data”-based news. From economic trends to evolving sex habits, from global pollution studies to the link of chocolate and longevity.

Now I am neither questioning the research, nor challenging the findings. I am sure that ALL the above (and others) are based on solid field work, analysis and compilation. And that the insights drawn are watertight.

And in our work in the twin spaces of Innovation and Design Thinking, data is key. We often say that “without data, a belief is a bias”.

And we also say, and say often, that “there are lies, damned lies, and statistics.” That data, badly collected, poorly collated and deliberately misinterpreted, can be dangerous. For products and governments (just ask the BREXIT supporters).

We often say that “without data, a belief is a bias”.

How do we reconcile, then, between the two extremes? Between the dependence on data and the possible misinterpretations and resultant fallacious conclusions?

In our work as a Design Thinking consulting firm, we always prioritize on data collection and assessments, even more than the sexier bits like brainstorming and prototyping. The assumption, often validated by results, is that if the data collection and analysis is done well, we can get to some fascinating insights. And, as we all know, these leads to excellent reframing of problem statements, helping us focus on real issues and needs.

Creativity and data analytics are both fundamental to design thinking and the framework of design thinking includes three, non-sequential, phases: c ideation and implementation. During this process, vast amounts of structured and unstructured data are generated that provide the insights required for human-centred innovations. Without a thorough understanding what drives our customers, it becomes impossible to create customer-focused products and services.

Susan Wojcicki, Google’s Senior Vice President of Advertising, had given an example in her article on the Eight Pillars of Innovation in her company that has remained with me. Under the pillar called “Spark with imagination, fuel with data”, she had written:

“What begins with intuition is fueled by insights. If you’re lucky, these reinforce one another. For a while the number of Google search results displayed on a page was 10 simply because our founders thought that was the best number. We eventually did a test, asking users, ‘Would you like 10, 20 or 30 search results on one page?’ They unanimously said they wanted 30. But 10 results did far better in actual user tests, because the page loaded faster. It turns out that providing 30 results was 20 percent slower than providing 10, and what users really wanted was speed. That’s the beautiful thing about data – it can either back up your instincts or prove them totally wrong.”

The last line is key. And in my experience, how we look at data is the critical piece of the puzzle. And let me share two examples from our recent work, on how data can impact research, and results. For reasons of confidentiality, I am not sharing the names of the clients.

“That’s the beautiful thing about data – it can either back up your instincts or prove them totally wrong.”

A Bookstore in Bangalore

When this client, which runs a chain of bookstores across the city came to us, they came with their own research and defined the problem simply as “How do we get more people to visit our stores?” The focus was on increasing footfalls, with the hope that the more visitors the stores have, the more books they will sell.

With the problem, we received two Insights from the management:

  1. Books are not being sold as much as they were a decade ago because the public’s tastes have changed – they don’t read as much any more.
  2. People are not visiting bookstores any more as they have too many other sources for entertainment.

These claims, however, made us suspicious that these were more assumptions than insights. So, we started with some Secondary Research, to find out the trends in book publication and sales in India.

 

What we found was interesting: the Indian publishing industry is growing at an impressive pace and India is one of the few major markets in the world which is still seeing growth in both print and digital publishing.

India’s book market, currently worth Rs 261 billion making it the sixth largest in the world and the second largest of the English language ones, is expected to touch Rs 739 billion by 2020, says a Nielsen survey. The study estimates a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 19.3 per cent for the industry in the next five years.

Although organised retail is growing in India at 15% per annum it still only accounts for 7% of book sales in India. Flipkart claimed earlier this year that it had sold 30 million books in its 8 years of existence. And then came a clincher: while analysts once predicted e-books would overtake print by 2015, e-book sales fell by 10% in the first five months of 2015, according to Association of American Publishers.

To us, this negated the assumption that “Books are not being sold as much as they were a decade ago because the public’s tastes have changed – they don’t read as much any more”? Clearly, more books are being consumed in India than ever before, and coupled with the slowing down of e-book sales, the market for offline bookstores could be promising.

Next, we embarked on Primary Research to ascertain the tastes and preferences of the public, who are seen to shunning bookstores. Our team interviewed close to a hundred respondents in Bangalore and found out some even more interesting.

When we asked the respondents how they spent their weekends, almost 50% mentioned that they visit bookstores at least once a month (even more than the National Book Trust findings)! That too, mostly over weekends! And yet, none of them had mentioned the bookstore visits when asked how they liked to spend their weekends.

So, clearly, the second assumption that “People are not visiting bookstores any more as they have too many other sources for entertainment” also did not seem to hold water.

The apparent incongruity was soon sorted out when we dived deeper. Most people who said “yes” to bookstores mentioned that they visited a bookstore on the way to other places. They often just “dropped in” to pick up stationary or gifts, and as bookstores make space for toys and mobile phones and groceries, all other kind of stuff. When we probed more, a number of reasons for not wanting to spend too much time in the bookstore came up: the location of the store, traffic on the roads, easier to buy online featured high on the reasons. Other reasons included poor staff quality in terms of knowledge and communication skills, poor ambience and limited titles on offer, lack of discounts vis-a-vis online options, no options for family entertainment while browsing topped the list.

Our team went back to the store owners with our findings. They were surprised, but agreed that our research had thrown some strikingly new angles into the equation. We met a couple of times, and finally managed to Reframe the problem statement.

The new statement was different: “How can we make the visitors bookstore experience more memorable?”

So, what did the data lead us to? And why did it work? Before I provide an answer, let me talk about a second, more recent case. (Those interested in the story can read it here, on the website)

Employability in India

On a recent project for a adult education institute based in Mumbai, we embarked on a journey to figure out how we can help India’s growing rural and semi-urban youth find better employment. Here’s the background: today, India is the world’s second largest emerging economy, but the rapid economic growth has not transformed the labor market in India, even when 62% of the population are of the working age (Census, 2011). And in 2014-2015, the annual dropout rates for students between class I and VIII was 4% across India and even higher among social and economically backward communities. Secondary level dropout are attributed to low levels of learning and poor engagement, inadequate school infrastructure and poor functioning schools, and many parents felt existing education does not equip child for life or skills for earning livelihood.

In 2014, report published by the Institute for Human Development indicated that the labor-force to the working age population ratio (15-60) at 56%, compared to the global average of 62%. And 92% of the existing workforce are employed in the informal sectors, that offers no social protection and very little pay. 30% or fewer workforce have secondary education or higher, less than one-tenth received formal/informal vocational training.

With this data, the client, a well-known chain of vocational training institutes, approached up to conduct an extensive research with our corporate clients, to find out:

  1. What do they look for when they recruit those candidates who are from such backgrounds?
  2. What do they consider when they promote those candidates?

During the initial discussions, we submitted that the scope of the work should be largely exploratory, to discover the motivations of companies and their recruitment leaders, and then use these findings to generate insights about recruiter preferences and behaviors. The assumption was to use this data to identify current gaps in the schooling system, the curriculum, the opportunities in vocational training etc., and see how we could brainstorm and create alternative approaches.

With this in mind, we created a questionnaire which had the objective of engaging and observing the respondents, to unearth motivations and interests. We deliberately kept the questions open-ended and broad, to allow respondents to express themselves freely, without prejudice or provocation. We vetted this with the client who gave us a big “thumb up” to proceed.

As per the contract, we used this questionnaire to interview 10 HR managers, and the findings looked really good. The respondents not only shared information and opinions, but also seemed to enjoy responding to the open questions that allowed them space to talk and share how they felt. The data was also very interesting, and in some cases, surprising (yes, the “juicy” bits that can make for exciting insights and problem statements).

When we submitted the findings, we got a an even bigger surprise. The client reverted by rejecting the responses as being too open and generic, and questioned the questionnaire itself as not designed effectively to capture real data. We questioned them on the reasons, and they promptly send us their own questionnaire!

This questionnaire was a very different animal. It opened well, but very quickly changed tracks into giving respondents a curated list of options to choose, whether it on recruitment criteria or leadership skills that need to be demonstrated. Yes, multiple choice questions that demanded that the respondents pick from a set of alternatives. Only.

When we got on to a call to question this, we were told that this will help narrow down the requirements and help them plan better for the interventions. Being me, I objected, stating that “this was validation, not discovery”. We also questioned the basis for selection of those choices from which the respondents were required to pick, and got that dreaded answer.

“Our experience.”

So there it was – we were just getting data to bolster what these good folks thought were important issues. And leaving out what could be the nuances, the key interests and underlying motivations. In other words, we were being asked to collect data to support decisions already made, possibly based on biases and exposures. While we all value experiences and exposure, can we consider that enough to base decisions on? And if yes, do we need to collect fresh data at all?

_________

That, in my opinion, brings out the essential contrast in the way we look at and deal with data. It is our attitude, our openness and our focus on the true objectives. In the case of the bookstore owners, their readiness to reject their own assumptions and go with the data helped them (and us) co-create some very interesting ideas. For the vocational training institute, however, their rejection of data and the collection methodology to explore ground realities severely restricted what could have emerged and helped reframe beliefs. At the end, it was the mindset that mattered.

Beginner’s Mind

If we have open minds, what is called the “Beginner’s Mind”, we find that to be very useful to look at data and be open to be surprised.

Kenneth Cohen put this beautifully here: “A “Beginner’s Mind” feels open and aware. When we cultivate it, we free ourselves from expectation, but we experience greater anticipation. Because we are alert and constantly taking in new information and experiences, we are renewed moment by moment. An open mind can relieve you from stress, preconception, and prejudice and enrich every aspect of your life.

“The wise person,” said Mencius, in the fourth century b.c., “is one who doesn’t lose the child’s heart and mind.” ”

There is no right or wrong way, just different ways. And data is therefore key to support or question preconceived ideas, those ways we live by, and travel on…

To quote Susan Wojcicki again, “data – it can either back up your instincts or prove them totally wrong.”

Importance Of Empathy

Importance Of Empathy

The Cornerstone of the Philosophy, the Principles, the Process of Design Thinking is Empathy.

 

What is the importance of empathy?

We conduct Design Thinking talks and programmes quite frequently. And during most of my sessions, for audiences as varied as Finance professionals, Sales managers, HR leaders, Engineers and Designers, someone from my participants always asks me: “but isn’t the idea of creating solutions based on User needs common sense? A no-brainer? A piece of wisdom from our grandfather’s time?”

And my answer is invariably and emphatically “YES!”

And yet, when we dive in to understand the and apply Design Thinking, I see participants struggle to do exactly that. Immerse themselves in the User/Stakeholder’s experience. Observe, Engage, Watch and Listen, for clues and signs that tell of habits and behaviors, needs and interests, fears and desires. The critical “why” behind decisions and actions, the “what” behind causes and motivations.

Everybody knows the need for Empathy. Everybody understands the significance and implications of User-Centered thinking, before designing and solution. Yet, very few can practice it.

 

Because years, maybe lifetimes of conditioning, experiences, frames of reference and biases come in the way of objectively looking at data and facts, to take in user experiences for what they are, and not judge and prematurely evaluate. The conflict between what we think “we know already” and the surprising realities of “what we find” when we observe are not easy to reconcile with. We are not listening beyond the noises in our heads, and missing important clues that can help us make sense of the world. What Tim Brown at IDEO calls “sense-making”.

And yet, there lies the only way ahead. The ONLY way to Customer Centricity, to meaningful solutions and products, to real innovation. To counter assumptions and biases, and understand, really understand what really matters. That’s why we start with Empathize, before we can even Define the problem to solve.

To be clear, this focus on Users neither rejects nor diminishes the knowledge and experience the participants bring to the table. Subject-matter expertise is not only a critical multiplier of Design Thinking, it is also essential to developing meaningful, collective insights or points of view (as further source of data).

However, there is no alternative to Empathy and generating insights through Empathy research. And it is the cornerstone of not just Design Thinking, but getting better in life. As David Kelley puts it “The main tenet of design thinking is Empathy for the people you’re trying to design for. Leadership is exactly the same thing – building Empathy for the people that you’re entrusted to help.”

Empathy helps us understand other people, put ourselves in their shoes, and only when we are able to do that can we see things from different perspectives. And that is what we need to solve their problems, and improve our situations.

 

To achieve this understanding we need to build a new kind of relationship with those for whom we design. We need to move from a vertical relationship where “users” are a mere source of information that designers mine for our various purposes, to a more horizontal relationship where users are considered experts of their own experience and are regarded with the same respect and credibility as any other consultant in the design process.

Establishing this type of horizontal relationship reduces the perceived distance between “users” and designers, blurs the boundaries between “us” and “them,” and helps us in recognizing our commonalities as human beings, which is a first step in achieving empathy for others.

The next step for crossing the bridge to the users’ reality is to access and explore their experience through different methods like observations, interviews, prototype testing, sessions of co-creation, among others. Each of these techniques allow for different kinds of interaction and levels of involvement with the users. For instance, when conducting an observation, the level of interaction tends to be minimal since the purpose of this method is to gain insights about the users’ behavior and experience in their natural setting (i.e. where they dwell, work, study, or play). On the contrary, when conducting a session of co-creation, the level of interaction is maximized since users and designers collaborate to improve and develop new products, services, or experiences.

These interactions expose the designers to the experiences and circumstances of the users and lead them to take their perspective on a particular situation, which is one of the mental processes that generate empathy for others.

 

An example of how these interactions can generate empathy is the dialogue between a young diabetes patient and a designer who is creating a new system to administer insulin. Imagine the patient describing her daily life: how she has to calculate the amount of insulin she needs to inject according to what she’s planning to have for lunch, how she has to prick her fingers several times a day to measure her blood sugar levels, and how she needs to alternate the places where she injects insulin to avoid the appearance of lumps under her skin.

Now imagine the designer trying to understand her situation and feel her discomfort: listening at how this condition impacts her daily routine, observing her actions and gestures when she demonstrates her “ritual” to inject insulin, mapping her experience at dinner time when she describes the steps she follows before and after eating, and noting the risks involved when she expresses her concern about going to bed and not waking up the next day.

Beyond the initial feelings of sympathy or concern that the designer may have developed for the diabetes patient in this interaction, what is important here is how he responds after crossing the mentioned bridge and after having a glimpse into the patient’s reality, that is, the meaningful actions he can undertake to address this patient’s needs and aspirations in order to improve her situation. This response mediated by empathy is what makes this skill so valuable to design.

In sum, empathy allows us to access and explore other people’s lives, to feel and understand their circumstances, and, in the case of design, to respond to their situation by creating solutions—products, services or experiences—that resonate with their realities. Ultimately, empathy is instrumental in achieving our goal as designers: to improve people’s quality of life.

 

Here’s a great video on Empathy. Empathy is something that can make us better as human beings. And also create better cities where we listen to citizens, schools where we listen to students, relationships where we listen to partners. Empathy is our sign of success as a race, and our hope for the future.

 

At The Painted sky and UBQT Design Solutions, we help clients use Design Thinking in finding the best way forward past problems and challenges. Be it in trainings that merge business experiences with robust processes or in projects that help create better experiences for stakeholders across the board.

Get in touch, for more.

Two words that can destroy creativity

TWO WORDS THAT CAN DESTROY CREATIVITY 

Two words that can destroy creativity We run brain-storms around the world, for folks from different cultures, backgrounds, specializations and expertise. And we always see how easy it is for a session to fail. And often, all it needs are two terrible, terrible words.

“No, but”…

No two words can destroy creativity, stop thinking, build animosity and disrupt collaboration in an Innovation session than someone saying “no, but” to an idea. Saying “no, but” is like throwing a wet rag on someone’s thinking. Everything ends with it. (Of course, my Transactional Analysis friends will take this further, to the infamous Game of the same name).

So, what are the words that we should use in a session, to encourage and enhance ideas?

“Yes, and”…

The most powerful two words that encourage and empower participants, and enhance their work. It promises more, a collaborative “adding” process that excites everyone, especially the participant, who feels supported by others.

And “yes, and” opens up possibilities to build the ideas into more meaningful engagements where others contribute, the make the whole truly greater than the sum of the parts.

As Steven Johnson, in his classic work “Where Good Ideas Come From” had mentioned that sometimes all a good idea needs is another good idea to combine with, to become a great idea. The word “and” offers enormous promise for that – the possibility of convergence, of combinations and cohesion. It pushes everyone to add more value, look at each idea positively and removes the elements of criticism and negativity.

“Yes, and”… The two most powerful words to inspire creativity. Try it today.

Design Thinking Solve The Human Impact Of Autonomous Cars

DESIGN THINKING SOLVE THE HUMAN IMPACT OF AUTONOMOUS CARS:

Considering a large number of clients we work with are leaders in the auto industry (OEMs and support businesses), discussions in most Design Thinking programmes always veer towards the disruptions in the industry. Reports state that autonomous cars will be commonplace by 2025 and may have a near monopoly by 2030, and the sweeping change they bring will eclipse every other innovation our society has experienced.

We all know the data:

  1. According to Bloomberg News, GM’s 2017 Cadillac is planned to feature “technology that takes control of steering, acceleration and braking at highway speeds of 70 miles per hour or in stop-and-go congested traffic.”
  2. Both Google and Tesla predict that fully-autonomous cars—what Musk describes as “true autonomous driving where you could literally get in the car, go to sleep, and wake up at your destination”—will be available to the public by 2020.
  3. A full 60% of US adults surveyed stated that they would ride in an autonomous car, and nearly 32% said they would not continue to drive once an autonomous car was available instead. Which is logical – Morgan Stanley’s research shows that cars are driven just 4% of the year, which is an astonishing waste considering that the average cost of car ownership is nearly $9,000 per year.
  4. And a January 2013 Columbia University study once suggested that with a fleet of just 9,000 autonomous cars, Uber could replace every taxi cab in New York City, and that passengers would wait an average of 36 secondsfor a ride that costs about $0.50 per mile.

That’s on one side. On the other is rise and rise and rise of ride-sharing businesses, and where the two shall meet. Uber CEO Travis Kalanick has stated that Uber will eventually replace all of its drivers with self-driving cars.

Now, for some, especially the consumers, this is great news. But what of the humungous cost of this transition?

What will the disruption do to the auto giants that rule the business today? How will major automakers like General Motors, Ford, and Toyota survive the leap, as they continue to produce millions of cars in dozens of different varieties to cater to individual tastes of the past and have far too much overhead to sustain such a dramatic decrease in sales?

And as a recent report I read pointed out, ancillary industries such as the $198 billionauto mobile insurance market, $98 billion automotive finance market, $100 billion parkingindustry, and the $300 billion automotive aftermarket will collapse as demand for their services evaporates. We will probably see the obsolescence of rental car companies, public transportation systems, and, good riddance, parking, and speeding tickets.

And that brings in the direct human costs – the US Bureau of Labor Statistics lists that 915,000 people are employed in motor vehicles and parts manufacturing. Truck, bus, delivery, and taxi drivers account for nearly 6 million professional driving jobs. Virtually all of these jobs will be eliminated within 10-15 years, and this list is by no means exhaustive.

It will be cataclysmic for the human population if we consider the impact across the planet. India was the sixth largest motor vehicle/car manufacturer in the world in 2015, and Indian auto manufacturers produced a record 23.4 milion motor vehicles in 2014-15 (Apr-Mar), including 3.22 million passenger vehicles. India is the largest manufacturer of three-wheelers (949 000 in 2014-15) and the eighth largest commercial vehicle (697 000 in 2014-15). None of these are autonomous.

Of course, there will also be incredible positives: Morgan Stanley estimates that a 90% reduction in crashes would save nearly 30,000 lives and prevent 2.12 million injuries annually. Traffic will become nonexistent, saving each US commuter 38 hours every year—nearly a full work week. The environmental impact of autonomous cars has the potential to reverse the trend of global warming and drastically reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. As most autonomous cars are likely to be electric, we would eliminate most of the 134 billion gallons of gas used each year in the US alone.

But let’s focus on that human cost. The result on industry as employers will lead to huge lay-offs in the industry and will also hit those who live off the industry hard. In the Indian city of Bangalore where I live, with the booming business scene and inadequate public transport systems, cabs are ubiquitous, as are three wheeler “auto-rickshaws”. Most drivers come from lower income backgrounds, who are also bread-winners for their families. And thanks to the recent ride-share entrants, many are just beginning to earn well. The shift, which will happen eventually for India as well, will have catastrophic impact on them.

So while this shift is inevitable, and good for a lot of reasons, as responsible citizens we must also be cognisant of the HUMAN impact. And think what can be done to ease the blow on those who are going to be hurt by it. Especially in developing countries.

 

Can Design Thinking come up with some ideas? Can the process help us first empathise with those effected by the change, and then come up with ideas and answers?

Design Thinking is best for such “big” problems. Can it be applied to find “big” solutions?

Design Thinking in the Corporate

Design Thinking in the Corporate

How Intuit changed the mindset, skill sets, and environment to help its designers spur on innovation.

Suzanne Pellican is the Vice President and Executive Creative Director for Intuit’s wide range of small business products. This role, focused on crafting a phenomenal end-to-end experience for Intuit customers, brings her back full circle to her origins. Although she came of age as a product designer – launching multiple v1 efforts at Fitch, V2 group and in her early years at Intuit – over the last decade, she expanded her focus to utilize the power of design to transform organizational culture.

She presents here one of the best pieces on Design Thinking I have read. Appeared in O’Reilly Media, Inc., in November 2015.

Design Thinking in the Corporate DNA

November 17, 2015 

2016 O’Reilly Media, Inc.

We started our journey to bring design thinking into Intuit more than eight years ago. We call it Design for Delight (D4D) — because it’s not about the process; it’s about exceeding the expectations of our customers in ways they couldn’t imagine. We realized that not everyone had the necessary innovation skills. Most of our employees hadn’t been trained, in school or at other jobs, to solve problems with design thinking. So, we needed to build the capability into all 8,000 employees to spur on innovation and ensure we create amazing experiences for our customers.

We’ve come a long way. And because we invested in building innovation skills into our employee base, we are not only a design-thinking company — we’re a design-drivencompany. Meaning, we’re going from creating a culture of design thinking to building a practice of design doing, where we relentlessly focus on nailing the end-to-end customer experience. This means that before anything gets built, the whole team — engineers, designers, marketers, product managers — are interfacing with the customers to ensure they understand the problem well, and together, they design the best solution.

This is a big change from just a few years ago, where much of our teams’ time was spent figuring out how to make our existing technology look good. Today, we’ll throw out code and start over.

A designer’s dream, right? Change the mindset, the skill sets, and the environment to help designers do the best work of their lives.

But it doesn’t come easy. Leading this kind of cultural change takes time, and you get your bruises — a lot of them. Here’re my top seven and how we overcame them.

1. STOP THINKING,START DOING 

One of the most ironic things that happened to us was to fundamentally miss one of the core principles of design thinking — we talked about it for two years before we prototyped anything. First, it was fancy decks at leadership conferences. Then, when not enough was happening, 10 of us were asked to do something else. We were so intellectual — we sat around for months — pontificating how to roll this out. We had so many ideas and kept arguing with each other on what to do. We were almost paralyzed thinking about how to scale to all employees.

After months of us not doing anything, Scott Cook, our co-founder, came in and told us we were wasting time and asked us to just get going — maybe run a workshop for 10 people. Everything changed after that; we learned so much and iterated quickly. The biggest lesson: you can’t steer if you’re not moving. So, get going.

2. Principles over process

I know design thinking is a process, and I worked really hard to create a diagram for everyone to understand the process in the context of software development. Know what happened? Nothing. They didn’t understand how to reconcile this new process with their existing go-to-market or create-an-offering process. So, we pivoted. We stopped assuming we had to show the process. Instead, we boiled it down to three core principles that we really wanted our teams to focus on, principles they could apply to any process they were already using. They’re understandable, memorable, and repeatable:

Deep Customer Empathy: know your customers better than they know themselves. Our employees are out in the field all the time, watching, listening, and synthesizing, not just asking our customers what they want. A great example of this is with our TurboTax customers. It turns out that for most of our base, preparing their tax returns isn’t a burden — rather, they look forward to it because it’s the single biggest paycheck of the year for them. From that place of empathy, we are driving major changes up and down the funnel — from marketing, into the product, and into the care experience.

Go Broad to Go Narrow: recognizing that to get to a great idea, you have to create many. We’ve made a ton of progress here — there are sticky notes everywhere, covered with brilliant ideas. But one of the more curious learnings is what happens when we have to pick what we’re going to do. More often than not, the idea that’s most selected is the one that’s easiest for us to implement. In other words, the safe choice. So, we’ve had to push teams to remember to pick the ideas that would most delight our customers. And oftentimes, that’s not the easy choice; innovation never is.

Rapid Experimentation with Customers: Utilizing iterative cycles with working prototypes or live code so that you can see behavior versus just listening to what someone says. We learned a lot from Eric Ries and his book The Lean Startup to bring this to life in our culture. We’ve created “Lean Startins” — a bootcamp, of sorts, to help teams go from idea to prototype to live experiments within a week. This bias to action is another manifestation of lesson #1. I will say, though, that there has been a shadow to this principle. We’ve had teams stop making judgment calls in favor of running experiments, which slows us down. But even worse, we’ve had teams ship badly designed or undesigned products in favor of being fast. The biggest learning here: scrappy doesn’t mean crappy. So, if you go down this route, hold your teams accountable to stellar design and quality execution, even if the full functionality of the idea isn’t built out yet.

3. Take the long view

A common trap for us is to take something in its infancy and try to scale it big. Build it. Launch it. Move on. Well, it doesn’t work like that. Remember how long it took before you mastered design thinking? This isn’t something that you have people try once and then expect them to get it. It takes about six to 10 experiential, immersive, contextually relevant experiences before someone finally “gets” it and can make it their own. Eight years later, we’re still building this skill into our employees, one experience at a time.

4. Don’t bother measuring why design thinking is a must-do

The best advice I got from an SVP at the company was to stop wasting my time trying to find metrics to prove that Design for Delight was worth doing. It was such a relief. Because the fact of the matter is, you’ll never be able to show causality between the technique by which you design an experience and the financial outcomes of that experience. Ever. It’s an investment in your employees to make them more capable of solving the right problems in the best way for your customers. And there’s enough evidence in the industry and on your most successful teams that design thinking is the way to do it. So, take the leap.

5. Quality over quantity

About a year into the Innovation Catalyst program, we were pulling together our third or fourth round of training. We started to introduce folks to new methods for each of the principles — like digital mind mapping, a new format of a need statement, or physical prototyping. They had hardly gotten the basics, and we said, “Oh! By the way, here are five to 10 other ways you can do this, too!” We thought we were being helpful — and even smart — showcasing to folks just how capable we were. The problem was, it was overwhelming. Folks ended up focusing on methods and learning as many as they could rather than helping teams get to better designs for their customers. It was a mess, so we pulled back to the bare bones. From then till even today, we train with the minimal set of methods for our D4D principles.

For deep empathy, we take folks out in the field with a design challenge and no moderator’s guide. When they come back, we have them fill out empathy maps and craft problem statements. When going broad, we start with an improv activity to loosen everyone up, then usually start with quiet brainstorming, then sharing out, and then grouping. We tend to ask folks to do this a few times. For experimentation, we crafted our own interpretation of the Lean StartUp methodology and created tools for teams to use to help them articulate their insights, their assumptions, hypotheses, and then their experiments. It also helps them capture their learnings from each of the experiments they run.

Having these go-to tools and techniques — some that are time-tested and some that are made from within — reduces the noise for folks so they can concentrate on the content, not the method.

6. Give it away

One of the biggest surprises of all the learnings was after the first class of Innovation Catalyst training. We really wanted to incent folks to go out and create experiences for others — of which half the class did. The other half? Nothing. They kept it to themselves, did better work on their teams, and took the credit. Which made us realize: when you want to make this kind of change, it takes a certain type of personality, one of humility and of service to others. So, find the folks that are ready, willing, and happy to give it away. Enlist their help first because this is work of passion and commitment, not ego.

7. Be bold

Look, let’s be real. We were not done after we got D4D into our DNA. Design thinking is nothing without design doing. We have incredible designers and engineers at Intuit, but there are still barriers that get in their way — our organizational structure, technology, apathy, fuzzy roadmaps, you name it. So, while you’re bringing design thinking capabilities into your company and empowering folks, don’t forget to use it on yourself, too. Get that deep empathy for your leaders, for your team members. Create experiences for them to get that empathy, too.

One of my favorite examples was designed by Lionel Mohri, director of customer insights and design strategy at Intuit, to help leaders understand how they slow down decision-making and get in the way. He grouped all the leaders into teams of three to build a Lego truck in 30 minutes. Easy, right? Except, he made them build a deck to justify why they had to build the truck. Then he made them get approval from three different people for the color of the truck, where to put the stickers, and for the timing of its creation. Then, to get the tires for the truck, you had to go to a “Chief Tire Officer,” who held all the tires for everyone’s trucks. Only one team finished putting the truck together — and they did it by totally ignoring what was asked of them. The experience was so effective in helping the leaders understand how they get in the way that many went back to their teams to apologize and started removing barriers immediately. So, assume you can poke at those sacred cows.

I hope these are helpful to you. I would’ve never have guessed, as a practicing designer, that I would spend so much of my career building capabilities in others to create a culture of innovation. Or that I would spend so much of my design skills on challenges that are more employee-facing than customer-facing.

But what I now know is that when I do that, designers can really do the best work of their careers — in ways that are delightful to our customers. And for me, it becomes the best work of my own career.

O’Reilly Media

Cisco HR Breakathon- Design Thinking Employee Experiences.

Cisco HR breakathon- Design thinking experience

As many of us read, in the recent report titled ‘Human Capital Trends 2016’, Deloitte surveyed over 7,000 HR Managers in over 130 countries around the world, 92% of whom saw a need to redesign the organisation itself. In this report, most significantly, 79% of the respondents felt that Design Thinking is an “important” or “very important” issue that must be addressed to reduce unnecessary workplace complexity. (more here)

Now, what does that mean, for HR and the organisation?

Here’s Cisco’s approach (Cisco HR Breakathon) 

At Cisco, a transformation is happening in their HR department led by the inspiring Chief People Officer, Fran Katsoudas. “The goal,” says Fran, “Is to create a nimbler, more responsive HR department where silos, time zones and cultural barriers are broken down so we can create innovative new HR solutions.”

The Cisco team used design thinking to “break” and then re-imagine HR solutions for 71,000 global Cisco employees. The company actually closed HR for 24 hours and announced to the employees they were using the time to engage the HR team and key stakeholders to create innovative HR solutions to deliver a memorable employee experience. They conducted an HR Breakathon to address four key steps; from changing the mindset to identifying and implementing a set of HR solutions.

A block diagram representing Cisco HR Breakathon
A block diagram representing Cisco HR Breakathon

 

 

The entire process for the Cisco HR Breakathon was 24 hours, spanning 16 time zones, 39 countries, 116 cities, and, in the end, generating 105 new HR solutions.

At the core of the Breakathon, Cisco applied Design Thinking to focus on creating an employee experience that is intuitive, engaging, and mirrors a consumer experience. They had great benchmarks – companies such as Qualcomm are using Design Thinking to rethink corporate learning, and Zappos is using this to re-imagine the candidate experience.

The result: the Cisco Global Breakathon gave birth to 105 new HR solutions covering talent acquisition, new hire on-boarding, learning and development, team development, and leadership.

Jeanne Meister, a Partner with Future Workplace, and author of the best selling book, ‘The 2020 Workplace: How Innovative Companies Attract, Develop & Keep Tomorrow’s Employees Today’ decoded the five key takeaways in an article in Forbes recently:

Lesson #1: Use Design Thinking To Form The Foundation Of The HR Hackathon
Applying Design Thinking to the workplace experience requires HR to move from its process mindset to a marketing mindset, focusing on the employee and how to create a truly extraordinary experience for employees. And in many cases the winning HR solutions incorporated consumer technologies increase productivity and innovation in the workplace.

Lesson #2: Create A Global Experience Where Diversity Of Thought Predominates
The Cisco HR Breakathon was hosted on site in nine locations (Tokyo, Shanghai, Singapore, Bangalore, Jerusalem, Krakow, London, Raleigh, and San Jose), plus it incorporated Cisco collaboration tools, including TelePresence, WebEx, and Spark rooms. The Breakathon was executed according to a follow-the-sun approach, starting in Sydney, moving to Tokyo, and then throughout the globe, ending in San Jose, CA. Says Fran Katsoudas, “I launched the Breakathon from Cisco’s Bangalore, India location to make the point we wanted a have a global dialogue on this important topic.

Lesson #3: Use Collaborative Technologies To Engage, Inspire And Reward
Often Hackathons are executed by bringing everyone together in one location so they can generate new solutions offerings while engaging in a fun group activity. What Cisco did was re-create the energy of bringing a couple of hundred people together by using a mix of their technologies to capture the excitement and energy in each location. The judges and experts were also on call using collaborative technologies such as Spark, Jabber, and WebEx. Finally hackathons at their core are a lot of fun. So to be sure everyone was having fun and sharing this with others, Cisco used their own Web Tracking App and all forms of social media using the hashtag #WeAreCisco to provide a visual pulse of the Breakathaon in each location.

Lesson #4: Create A Robust Communications Program To Generate Early Excitement
The Cisco Breakathon was anticipated by a well thought out communications campaign which started nine months before the actual event. The campaign included weekly newsletter to key executives, and culminated in the asking participants to answer a quick quiz, starting with the question, “What is a hackathon?”

Lesson #5: Partner With Key Stakeholders And HR Customers
Cisco’ s Breakathon was inclusive not only globally but also in reaching out to key business units to involve them in the experience. The key, according to Fran Katsoudas, “We created a global and cross-functional event dedicated to hack all the ‘little and big things,’ that hinder HR from providing an extraordinary employee experience” Fran believes the power of the Cisco HR Breakathon was in empowering the HR organisation to let go of process thinking, engaging an extended global community and putting the Cisco employee experience at the centre.

 

 

According Ben Whitter, of The University of Nottingham Ningbo China (UNNC) and a key voice on Employee Experience (Ex) thinking, pointed out recently that “What is clear is that this move quite visibly positions the employee experience as critical to the business, not HR”

For that, HR needs to establish itself as no longer just a support function within the business. Because the employee experience, to a large extent, is the business. 

 

At The Painted Sky and UBQT, we work with HR teams to address exactly these and other needs to co-create solutions. We have both the experience and the expertise to develop, design and deliver solutions through a powerful approach that helps HR understand, focus, build and test what works for their personnel in the real world. And we support our clients in both of the above areas: learning Design Thinking as a process, and applying Design Thinking as a tool. 

Through Training Programmes and Consulting Practices, The Painted Sky can help HR master and apply Design Thinking in everything it does. Over the last year, we have helped HR clients develop:

  1. An improved Employee Engagement platform that reduces attrition and builds morale,
  2. A powerful Performance Management process that help improve communication, clarity and collaboration,
  3. A revolutionary Training Needs Assessment tool that changes the way Development Needs are mapped and identified.

As the Deloitte report states, “Design Thinking promotes a virtuous cycle, generating higher levels of employee satisfaction, greater engagement, and higher productivity for the company.”

So, do get in touch with us to know more about our Design Thinking solutions, from Training to Transformation. And how these can help you become more employee centric and boost productivity and performance.

anirban@thepaintedsky.com

HOW TO INCREASE SALES AT A BOOKSTORE ? 

HOW TO INCREASE SALES AT A BOOKSTORE ?  

RE FRAMING THE PROBLEM IS THE ANSWER. 

The Background
Traditional bookstores are struggling in India. First came the onslaught of big chains that put many independent stores out of business, leveraging their muscle and economies of scale. But within a few years, the big boys themselves were struggling against the biggest of them all: online retail, a.k.a., Flipkart and Amazon. Endless volumes, unbelievable discounts all year round, only on online launches, convenience of buying, safety of transactions, easy returns policy… the benefits are endless.

The most recent trend has been “showrooming” – a customer walks into a store, checks out a product, then takes a picture of it or the barcode and finds a better on an e-commerce site and buys online! Bookstores have not been immune to this trend either.

The Client
Dreamland Books (not the real name) is a mid sized bookstore, with 3 outlets in Bangalore, and 2 more in Mysore. Second-generation owners, struggling with reducing footfalls and diminishing sales. The company has tried different physical formats – kiosks in airports and bus stations, a short-lived lending library, home delivery etc. But the last few years have been bad, and the company is facing unprecedented pressure on margins, as costs escalate. They have been forced to close the stores in Mysore, and now the pressure on the Bangalore stores is growing.

Does Dreamland continue to run the bookstores as they are running, take losses and shut shop, like many of its erstwhile competitors? Already, there are rumblings in the family and the managers, and the value of the real estate on which the bookstores sit is being considered more valuable than the brand and its books.

The Problem
Dreamland Books did their own research and defined the problem simply as “How do we get more people to visit our stores?” The focus is on increasing footfalls, with the hope that the more visitors the stores have, the more books they will sell.

With the problem, we received two Insights from the management:
1. Books are not being sold as much as they were a decade ago because the public’s tastes have changed – they don’t read as much any more.
2. People are not visiting bookstores any more as they have too many other sources for entertainment.

The Project
The UBQT met with the promoters of Dreamland a number of times to understand the problem they were facing and to decide the context and the scope of the work. Then the team went about using Design Thinking processes and steps to dive deep and create solutions.

Understand: Developing Empathy
The first step was to Identify the Problem. And that posed a challenge – the two “problems” that Dreamland faced were big, but they were also not based on any data. And that made us suspicious that these were more assumptions than Insights. So, we started with some Secondary Research, to find out the trends in book publication and sales in India.

What we found was interesting: the Indian publishing industry is growing at an impressive pace and India is one of the few (if at all any) major markets in the world which is still seeing growth in both print and digital publishing.

India’s book market, currently worth Rs 261 billion making it the sixth largest in the world and the second largest of the English language ones, is expected to touch Rs 739 billion by 2020, says a survey. “Nielsen India Book Market Report 2015: Understanding the India Book Market” was conducted in association with Association of Publishers in India (API) and the Federation of Indian Publishers (FPI) to evaluate the opportunities and challenges facing the industry, as well as where its future lies. The study estimates a CAGR (compound annual growth rate) of 19.3 per cent for the industry in the next five years.

A nationwide survey conducted by the National Book Trust of India in 2010 revealed that one-fourth of the youth population, a staggering figure of 83 million, identify themselves as book readers. India also has about 19,000 publishers although out of those only around 12,400 have ISBN’s. It is further estimated that about 90,000 titles are published in India every year which includes books across all genres.

Given that almost half of India’s population is under the age of 25, it’s no wonder that a large part of the book trade is dominated by academic and children’s books which account for 40% and 30% of the market respectively. The remaining 30% constitutes trade publishing. In terms of print languages, 20% of sales volume comes from English language books which also makes India the third largest market for English books consumption after the US and UK markets. The largest sales volumes among Indian languages are that of Hindi books which constitute 25% of the market while the rest of the market is divided between other Indian language books. However, 55% of trade sales are of books in English. Books in Hindi account for 35 % of Indian language sales, but the largest share of these sales is taken by “Others,” despite what the report identifies as a “highly disorganised” local publishing sector. Barring some run away successes, print-runs for non-academic books rarely exceed 2,000 copies in the first instance and a bestseller is often a book that has sold only as many as 10,000 copies.

Although organised retail is growing in India at 15% per annum it still only accounts for 7% of book sales in India. Flipkart claimed earlier this year that it had sold 30 million books in its 8 years of existence. And then came a clincher: while analysts once predicted e-books would overtake print by 2015, digital sales have instead slowed sharply , with signs that some e-book adopters are returning to print, or becoming hybrid readers, who juggle devices and paper. E-book sales fell by 10% in the first five months of 2015, according to Association of American Publishers. Digital books accounted last year for around 20% of the market, roughly the same as they did a few years ago. The surprising resilience of print has provided a lift to many booksellers. The American Booksellers Association counted 1,712 member stores in 2,227 locations in 2015, up from 1,410 in 1,660 locations five years ago.

Did this not fly in the face of the assumption that “Books are not being sold as much as they were a decade ago because the public’s tastes have changed – they don’t read as much any more”? Clearly, more books are being consumed in India than ever before, and coupled with the slowing down of e-book sales, the market for offline bookstores could be promising.

Next, we embarked on Primary Research to ascertain the tastes and preferences of the public, who are seen to shunning bookstores. Our team interviewed close to a hundred respondents in Bangalore and found out some even more interesting.

When we asked the respondents how they spent their weekends, we got the usual answers: out of town with the family, movies, restaurant visits, parties, visiting parents, trekking and cycling trips, sleeping. All sorts of answers.

A little later in the questionnaire we asked pointedly “what did you last visit a bookstore?” The response was surprising – almost 50% mentioned that they visit bookstores at least once a month (even more than the National Book Trust findings)! That too, mostly over weekends! And yet, none of them had mentioned the bookstore visits when asked how they liked to spend their weekends.

So, was there a disconnect?

Defining the Problem
The apparent incongruity was soon sorted out when we dived deeper. Most people who said “yes” to bookstores mentioned that they visited a bookstore on the way to other places. They often just “dropped in” to pick up stationary or gifts, and as bookstores make space for toys and mobile phones and groceries, all other kind of stuff. They did pick up books, but did so quickly and picked up pre-decided titles as they did not want to “waste time” browsing.

When we probed more, a number of reasons for not wanting to spend too much time in the bookstore came up: the location of the store, traffic on the roads, easier to buy online featured high on the reasons. Other reasons included poor staff quality in terms of knowledge and communication skills, poor ambience and limited titles on offer, lack of discounts vis-a-vis online options, no options for family entertainment while browsing topped the list.

So, we were clearly looking at a different problem. Like the earlier assumption, the view that “people are not visiting bookstores any more as they have too many other sources for entertainment” turned out to be unsustainable in the face of primary data. Clearly, the problem was not in bringing potential buyers to the store, but keeping them there, engaged and interested, for them to buy!

Our team went back to Dreamland owners with our findings. They were surprised, but agreed that our research had thrown some strikingly new angles into the equation. We met a couple of times, and finally managed to Reframe the problem statement.

The new statement was different: “How can we make the visitors bookstore experience more memorable?” This rested on three major Insights: one, the majority of the people interested in books would like to spend time in a bookstore if the experience was right. Secondly, the majority of those who came to bookstores buy books if they can be motivated to spend more time in the store. And finally, online book buying still was a preference for the majority of the public, due to price and convenience factors.

Ideas Flow Fast
In this project, the Definition of the Problem Statement was the most crucial thing. Once we could Reframe and Redefine the Problem, we found the course correction to be a great new driver for Ideas. We went into structured brainstorming sessions with the new energy and spend time generating ideas that could transform the bookstore experience.

We also found that talking of “experience” as a more esoteric and subjective space led to greater creativity and idea-generation (we feel talking of number of visitors would have been more restrictive). We coached the participants who attended the Ideation sessions on how to suspend premature judgment and be open to ideas, used our proprietary Divergent Thinking tools, and also introduced an interesting model for scoring ideas that emerged.

What emerged were a bunch of brilliant new ideas! These included innovative hiring and training plans for the staff (hiring bloggers and aspiring authors to moonlight as store staff for instance) to digitising the whole store with special apps that read ISBNs and provided immediate reviews and automated check-outs (to remove the staff entirely), selling books in a pub or cafe or a massage parlour ambience (redefine and redesign the physical space), add children’s movie experience to allow parents time to browse uninterrupted, to offering “Happy Hour” discounts, student loyalty cards for price cuts on academic books, and mixing new and old editions of the same title to offer different pricing for the same title (this came from my own experience in the US recently).

Prototyping and Validating
Since we had the opportunity of making “live” changes to the existing store, we went right ahead with some of the best ideas, to prototype. It started with the recruitment and training drives, and we used social media extensively to attract the right talent. This cut costs and also helped us break down the stereotypes of “sales person” profiles, and Dreamland managed to hire intelligent, passionate and articulate resources, often for less salary!

The store layout has also been improved, with less clutter and more seating and browsing space, to create a relaxed ambience that invites spending time in the store. The display is being reworked to build more focus on the newly launched loyalty programme, and the focus is being shifted to more visibility for “class” offers that signify taste and value rather than just “mass” (or bestseller) offers driven by numbers.

As I write, the partial automation process is on, where the app-based ISBN reader is being explored. Also, the Dreamland owners are reviewing their supply chain model to see if they can incorporate used book sellers as suppliers, to augment their collection and offer differential pricing. As a part of this project, they are also looking at creating a book buying centre to attract book owners to come and sell their old books, which can be evaluated and placed in the store (the metrics are being worked on). The downstream benefits of this will be community building and promotion, as well as the possibility of offering these sellers loyalty options to convert them into buyers!

Since some of the ideas are still on the drawing board, we will have to wait to divulge more. But in terms of validation, we are seeing a definite surge in customer numbers. They are also spending more time in the stores, engaging with the staff more in meaningful conversations.

Sales revenues, in the last three months since the implementation of the ideas, has increased a good 40%. Profit numbers are awaited.

Conclusion
Overall, this project made us acutely aware of the need to Define the Problem clearly with data and research to support the Insights. It is easy to work on assumptions and biases and they may lead to incorrect problem identification and therefore provide false relief.

Design Thinking as a process is an exercise in Creativity strongly backed by Data. It is a great example of the Emotional meeting the Rational. For some great results!

#DesignThinking #UserExperience #SolutionsToProblems #UBQTSolutions