Promote Business Innovation and Creativity with Design Thinking Workshops
“Innovation = Invention + Commercialization. That means that every well-designed product, service, and new business model still needs to be sold.” Ken Morse
Faced with nimbler start-ups and growing competition, every business in today’s market has an innovation crisis. Their future success in a digitally disruptive world depends on how well they handle change and hinges on their ability to innovate continuously and rapidly.
There is an extensive list of companies that struggle to call themselves innovators, as they are unable to differentiate their products or services with their “run-of-the-mill” and “me-too” solutions and only a handful of enterprises with ample disruptive innovations. These disruptors have the potential to radically change existing business processes that sometimes customers find it difficult to digest. The customer’s dilemma is, whether “To Put” or “Not To Put” innovation to work. So, even with an innovative product, innovators realize it does not sell by itself. Moreover, this problem only promises to aggravate.
There is another side to the story. Technology has also aided organizations to copy innovations and then improve, thus eroding competitive advantage that is purely product based and real differentiation is possible only if a company is a customer centric.
Thus in the experience economy, leaders realize that business strategy has become customer experience (CX) strategy. With India’s market dynamics and economic environment, they also understand that they cannot “copy-paste” the successful CX initiatives using digital technologies of their western counterparts.
In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2018, more than 50 percent of Indian organizations will get lower-than-expected results from their DevOps efforts because of an excessive focus on tools over people. Anshul Gupta, research director at Gartner, also says: “They are making investments in front-end, customer-facing activities that leverage digital technologies and failing to invest in the back end necessities, such as enabling easier and faster process workflows, easier shopping and service experience and after sales.”
The solution to this problem is an innovative technique called Design Thinking. It’s been the secret sauce of successful companies like SAP, IBM, P&G, 3M, Loreal, Lloyd Bank, McDonald’s and many more, since the 1980s. And, there is evidence that disruptive companies like Airbnb, Amazon, Uber, Google have reached where they are using the design-centric approach, by placing people at the heart of everything they do. These companies went beyond understanding what customers want to uncover why, where and how they want it. The appetite for design thinking to reframe customer and employee experience has never been greater.
In fact, Design Thinking workshops might be the answer to every company who want to make innovation a part of its corporate culture. As real success will come from building a thorough design system, and this requires a group effort.
Here’s how to do it.
Get To The Root-Cause Of Innovation Disenchantment
Get unstuck from – “If it is WORKING and PROFITABLE, why fix IT?” mindset.
In the digital era, technology offers new possibilities. Also with changing expectations of the mobile and connected customers and employees, their emotional connection to a company’s brand, products, and services is the only competitive advantage. So, to build a digital ready product, instead of focusing on Minimum Viable Product (MVP), leaders need to create a Minimum Lovable Product (MLP) and have to fix the existing offerings.
To do so, the second mindset leaders need to change is only one functional group (R&D or product team) is suited to innovate. Every department and individual have a unique perspective on the customer’s problems, the current limitations, and competencies needed for driving successful innovation.
When an organization tasks a team to create an MLP or discover new opportunities to grow, they worry that innovation will distract employees from their day-to-day responsibilities. They fear that by divulging where they have been, what they have tried, what’s worked and what has not, what challenges they faced, will hamper the team’s ability to design and execute innovative ideas. This risk of incremental innovation – or worse yet, stagnation – is real and must not be ignored.
The third mindset change is, the right team, armed with the appropriate tools and an intimate knowledge of the ground realities and current business’s operating model, can be a powerful generator of truly useful innovation.
Making the Workshop Concept Work
The fundamental principle behind a Design Thinking workshop is: a game-changing business innovation is a team effort, wanting input and participation from experts throughout the organization and if possible co-creating with customers as well. This group spends the time to collaborate and focus on a shared, and an unambiguous goal arrived after a realistic evaluation by balancing customer need with the organization’s preparedness to move into new spaces.
The team develops a compelling case by building a common ground – common assumptions, cultural practices, knowledge, and vocabulary. This team needs to think out-of-the-box, bringing an outside-in perspective, while still staying attentive to what is required and what is possible. Moreover, the participants need to be channeled by a team of experts, who act as catalysts. They help reexamine starting points, visualize complex ideas, nudge without being naïve, sift through the good and bad ideas, facilitate tough discussions, and convert them into something not just doable but demonstrate clear and measurable financial and strategic value, but game-changing as well. The key is not to lose patience and exhibit the tendency to shift to a linear problem-solving approach to find the best option – If a = c, and b = d, then a = d.
The concept of workshops is not new or original — you get a general picture from an off-site meeting, to gather the think-tanks and disconnect them from their daily routine, for the purpose of brainstorming a new business model or product or strategy.
By weaving this concept of a workshop into a human-centric problem-solving session, organizations can not only unleash the creativity of their employees but also co-create with customers by reframing their problems.
Solving Wicked Problems
Perhaps the best way to understand the worth of Design Thinking can be seen in its recent use at Reliance Jio, particularly in the context of SIM activation using technology and setting the tough benchmark for its competitors. The wicked problem was activating a new SIM card requires complying with TRAIs KYC guidelines, calls for an elaborate back-end team and with standard practice in the industry, it needs 1 – 2 days, involving a physical address verification. By integrating their systems with Aadhar and a self-service online verification and aided offline method, the activation time was brought down to few minutes to max of 3-4 hour. And in less than 4 months, they have a 50 million+ user base, all this without putting pressure on the back-end team to do physical verification and consuming huge resources.
Another example, Internet of Things (IoT) is a game-changer for a manufacturer, but deploying it can seem daunting. To get started, control engineers must upgrade their skills and at very least understand networking and security. On the other hand architects, marketers, designers, data scientists and IT engineers must understand how the project can benefit customers and impact the bottom-line, but the first step is to know the difference between business and manufacturing processes.
That there are very few experts who understand the nuts and bolts of complex business and manufacturing processes, and even fewer process owners who know how to start connecting the devices and assets they already own, precisely manage their inventory, perform predictive maintenance, improve product development and optimize their operations, by implementing IoT. The output is multiple groups trying to have a conversation about discovering new capabilities, and, through no particular fault of their own, failing miserably.
Using design thinking, they can create a common ground, to demonstrate this understanding and navigate this new trend in technology, by finding workarounds associated with device capabilities, security, supply chain concerns, and safety. When deploying IoT technologies, this team will have answers to these questions – “What information should be collected? What is the frequency? How should it be stored? How can the data be analyzed? What kind of decisions, users can be made based on the analysis?”
The Design Thinking workshops have helped many companies bring their critical stakeholders together, and in a short period come up with new analyses or new processes or new models that never existed before and where problems are not necessarily even well-defined or understood.
Creating a Credible and Safe Environment for Innovation
It is fairly simple, how a design workshop can help a company move past its inertia and siloed modes of thinking, not just for success but also high rates of user adoption. By bridging multiple functions and assembling stakeholders, users, and decision makers from the product, finance, IT, marketing, customer service and operations and providing them with a “credible and safe” environment to make on the consensual fly decision making.
The team gets to think creatively, exchange ideas and perspectives, discuss what they will do, what issues they may confront, what they hope to achieve while keeping customer experience a top-of-mind issue. An environment where team members can simply walk across the room, asks for clarifications, get their questions answered, build a prototype, and make adjustments based on feedback to avoid costly mistakes, arrive at a decision, and move forward.
Finalizing the design approach requires, among other things, metrics that focus on the customer. The key performance indicators should include, for example, “leaky bucket” ratios, customer satisfaction by segment in real-time, customer lifetime value, to highlight where customer issues may be spiking.
Nothing fails faster than a venture that lacks buy-in and user acceptance. With all the critical stakeholders in the same room, a well-designed workshop can provide the risk insurance that would have been tough to put in place in such a short period.
Who Will Lead the Way To Build An Effective Design System?
In today’s digital world, it’s misleading to believe that technology is the driving force of change but, in reality, people (employees, customers, stakeholders) are at the heart of digital. It requires an organization-wide culture where employees are willing to listen and unlearn, learn from multiple perspectives, reframe problems, dare to ignore hierarchies and keep experimenting and iterating till they find the best solution to the wicked problems faced by customers.
In the end; the top management’s mindset to lead the way toward Design Thinking matters. Gaining know-how of design thinking methods is only the first step. It needs to be put to practice every day in every way by employees and relevant stakeholders by changing how customers perceive products and services and how it can be delivered to them. Achieving this transformation means simultaneously building the right culture Without management commitment, patience, and sponsorship, Design Thinking will quickly become side-lined or doomed to fail.
It’s important to note that a Design Thinking workshop has its own risks: as it’s hard to predict the outcomes, and it’s not essentially a given that every workshop will create a game-changing innovation. The need to have all the critical stakeholders together – often up to 25 employees participate – through a 2 / 3-day workshop, places a substantial opportunity cost on the whole exercise.
However, the importance of this kind of creative, collaborative and innovative process is so significant that the key metric to measure success one day will hopefully be: Do employees get Design Thinking?
The best way to appreciate the benefits of design thinking is not by reading, but by putting it to practice. We love to hear your feedback and have a quick chat to discuss how we can help you.
Image source: Pixabay