Dealing With Complexity and Wicked Problem Using Design Thinking
A few months back, our retail client gave us a very broad brief – “design the approach and vision for our digital presence to our customers in India” – and with seven weeks to get there; kickstarting the activity was a bit overwhelming.
With this brief in hand, we were mostly excited and a little nervous about the scale, scope and reach of the problem in hand. We knew that omnichannel transformation is a journey, and our client needed to have a clear purpose and a customer experience map to guide them. It also required them to rethink core functions across the retail enterprise, adopt a new business model and build an integrated plan to achieve seamless omnichannel experience for their customers.
So we asked ourselves, Are we just redefining their digital presence? With the available digital technologies, what are the new visions of future we can suggest to create awareness, engage and retain customers? Whom are we designing for customer experience or employee experience?
Solving A Complex Problem That Defies Us
With limited data and insights to define and solve the problem, we realized that we could not predict the solution at the beginning of the process nor use the typical approach to resolving a regular linear problem.
The conventional linear approach being:
- identify the problem
- brainstorm solutions
- identify criteria for evaluating solutions
- evaluate alternative solutions
- select the best alternative
- apply the selected alternative to the client problem
In design thinking, the brief like this – is a problem with no standard algorithm to solve is called a wicked problem. The more we attempt to address it, the more it reveals itself.
Based on the experience of working with other clients we also realize that this project cannot be treated as a marketing-technology project, without paying attention to the people and process impacts of the new capabilities. As the complexity arises because of the interconnections, between people, processes, technology, systems and the intricate feedback mechanisms. It requires that multiple stakeholders can share their different viewpoints of the problem and arrive at a common vocabulary and leverage the collective and holistic intelligence, rather than fragmented or individual knowledge, to solve it.
A regular, linear problem can be explained this way:
problem ——-> solution
A wicked non-linear problem can be explained this way:
Complex problem ——-> solution ——-> more complex problems ——-> more solutions——-> iterate and continue till you find the best solution.
Dealing with the wicked problem brief
To kickstart and decode the brief, we decided to ask some fundamental questions:
- How is their current performance?
- What are our client’s ambitions and priorities?
- Who are the customers they want to attract, what are their needs and expectations?
- What are the moments of truth along the different touchpoints?
- What is the cost to acquire new customers?
- Are they losing existing customers more rapidly (churn)?
- What is the switching cost of the customer?
- Are they getting less favorable reviews online or in social media vis-à-vis competition?
- What is the existing customer lifetime value?
To answer these question,
- we spent time with our client and their customers we searched the web to read comments and feedback from customers,
- did mystery shopping at multiple outlets and website,
- scanned through tons of emails and documents, analyzed them
- observed the interactions and noted the employee behavior and customer response across multiple touchpoints
- chatted with staff helping customers
- interviewed existing and potential customers to understand their behaviors to design the services that would fit around their lifestyles.
As we were not following a linear process and needed to address the different variables at play, we also conducted multiple design thinking workshops with relevant stakeholders in the client organization to get an understanding, of how they will
- arrive at a single view of customer, product, inventory, order, pricing and promotions; and service experience across the different channels
- improve efficiency, time and speed of delivery
- improve collaboration, cross-functional working and customer experience
- think outside the box to improve productivity, innovation, and competitive advantage
- manage change, complexity, and risk
- engage, retain and grow their talent.
The shared insights we gathered and uncovered from all the data analysis experimentation, observations, diversity and interpretive collaboration and the collective intelligence of diverse stakeholders from different workshops were phenomenal.
- We met customers who did not like the services to those who valued it
- We collected the stories of customers and employees highlighting their needs, expectations and viewpoints
- We got new, unexpected insights, having the potential to offer new value-added services
In only seven weeks, we had the basis to design the approach and vision of our client, designed to solve real needs of their customers and employees. We also had an enthused client team bought into the process to “design” the future, and keen to changing the way they approached problem-solving to delight their customers.
Article was first posted in CXOtoday
Innovatus Marketers Touchpoint LLP is a customer experience, marketing, service design, design thinking and business innovation consulting firm, based in India. We offer go-to-market and digital strategy consulting and help our clients rethink and redesign customer and employee value in the digital era. We offer design thinking workshops and consulting, tailored to enable, accelarete or transform your business. We are laser-focused on the problem at hand and your opportunity space, and optimize process to make design thinking and service design principles accessible to your employees who’ve never done it before or stuck-up, and provide “just adequate” theory to help you get moving and achieve outcomes.
You may reach out to Vidya Priya Rao @ +918080015500 or email @ email@example.com
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