Discovering Game-Changing Possibilities With Design Thinking

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The way enterprises approach the challenge of providing exceptional customer experience has shifted with the technology-fueled breakthroughs in cloud computing, Big Data and analytics, mobile and artificial intelligence over the last five years.

The enterprises that succeed in the digital age will be “Business 4.0” enterprises that embrace risk, hyper-personalize experiences for customers and employees, and leverage ecosystems of partners and technologies. Ultimately, a Business 4.0 enterprise can develop new business models and entirely new services that use today’s technologies and enablers (agile, automation, intelligence and cloud computing) to create exponential value at scale.

The reality of this change is obvious. But how you turn that change into strategy – and ultimately into value – is less clear. Enterprises can adopt a powerful approach that helps with the discovery and development of big ideas: design thinking.

Ideate Your Future

Design thinking allows you to find the big idea in a way that’s focused but spontaneous, structured but flexible and focuses very squarely on the what. In the last few years, design thinking has emerged as a key tool for designers, engineers and business professionals in delivering powerful user experiences and generating new enterprise opportunities.

Take a retail bank that has been serving customers for 75 years, for example. For most of its history, the bank offered a growing range of products through an expanding branch network. As digital technology matured, it slowly but steadily built digital experiences through the web and apps. The bank has constantly reinvented how it serves customers, but now it needs to reinvent what it does for customers. Design thinking can help by providing a full spectrum of techniques for out-of-the-box creative thinking, prototyping, testing and validation.

A design-thinking approach starts with encouraging divergence and gathering people from different functions and areas of expertise to brainstorm and explore ideas. You would brief the group on the current what is, then start generating ideas about what could be based on the capabilities of digital technologies along with changing consumer behavior.

How would you reinvent banking to serve today’s customers and tomorrow’s? What kind of services do consumers want and need in a world where cash is essentially an afterthought? How do you engage customers to give you more of their financial assets to manage?

Engaging with these questions in a design thinking workshop can lead to radical ideas: A completely automated, transparent investment strategy that reflects an up-to-the-minute, hyper-personalized understanding of each customer’s income, free cash flow and financial/life goals? A customer experience so differentiating and satisfying to end-users that they aren’t even tempted to shop around?

Design thinking can differentiate a company and its service offerings, and it can lead to new levels of engagement and business opportunities.

How It Works

While all design-thinking tactics are tailored to the company and situation at hand, the methodologies used share common elements. They involve up-front research on topics, such as personae, customer journeys, the competitive landscape and enterprise goals, and they demand a high level of customer (or employee) empathy; every participant should be able to understand and relate to issues, frustrations, needs and wants. The question is not, “What can we do better?” but, “What new or emerging need can we address?”

Up-front research helps design a workshop that’s both meaningful and useful to participants and facilitators. You create scenarios and act them out in real time to allow everyone to see possibilities and potential, and you ideate rapidly, then prototype and iterate quickly, letting the best ideas rise to the top. The group learns from every stage of the process: What could work? How could this work? Where should we go next?

Technology informs the entire process because you should always be thinking about the possibilities afforded by the cloud, analytics and AI as well as digital experiences like augmented and virtual reality. But the design-thinking process itself is low-tech. Post-it notes are our primary tool for capturing and sharing ideas. People talking, interacting and playing with ideas and possibilities are our primary activities.

Ultimately, design thinking is about ideas, and ideas become even more powerful when people can contribute freely and with as little self-censorship as possible.

Design thinking often generates game-changing ideas that can be quickly implemented and scaled. Perhaps even more important, design thinking fosters a culture of innovation that can change an enterprise’s DNA, enabling a continuous stream of new ideas and new businesses.

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