Spaces, Disruption and Design Thinking

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How important is the space in which you conduct a design thinking workshop? Cant it happen in any room, in any building, with any set up?

When we explain to clients and people that we need to check out the venue before conducting a Design Thinking Intro workshop for them, it is usually met by a baffled response. So I will attempt to explain the relation between spaces, people and design thinking.

Do you remember the last time you went to a beach?

When you arrived there, what did you feel like doing?

Let me guess, you wanted to go on a long walk to explore the place to eventually find a quaint, indoor café where you could catch up on some reading…
…probably not!

Your first thought was actually to take a quick dip in the cool waters of the ocean, and then come back and lay on the beach chair, soaking in the sun and drinking a chilled beer.

However, if I changed this setting to a small town in Himachal Pradesh, India, you would probably want to do all the things I mentioned above – “go on a long walk to explore the place to eventually find a quaint, indoor café where you could catch up on some reading”

The point I am trying to make, in a round bout way, is that a space and its vibe influence your actions and your vibe.

As a refreshing change, we recently facilitated our nth client workshop, in a space that was really conducive to our purpose. And as we had imagined it was one of the most successful workshops we have witnessed.

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This is because a space and its vibe influence your actions and your vibe.

When you replace isolated desks with hexagon shaped tables and replace walls with surfaces on which you can write and paste, post and project, you disrupt the minds of your participants. You force them to discard their ways of working and explore new alternatives.

Design Thinking is usually described as a problem solving methodology. But the true value of it lies in its mindsets. It is these mindsets of design thinking that make it such a widely applicable process and it is these mindsets that help change the culture of organisations.

Hence I believe, that if Design Thinking were to be practiced in spaces that supported the mindsets it preaches, then the success of Design Thinking is sealed.

In the end, I would like to leave you with ideas you can use to disrupt the spaces in which you work, workshop, meet, brainstorm, etc.:

  • Change the way tables and chairs are arranged– let things be staggered and look chaotic, it’s better that the predictability of symmetry
  • Add some colour – Though formal corporate clothing and aesthetic says otherwise, people like colour
  • Play some music whenever you get a chance – it helps to get people out of their own heads
  • Find ways you can get people to move around 3-4 times through the day – no one likes stagnation.

If you have more ideas, add them in the comments, and we shall build this list!

Design Thinking – a raodmap to success for start-ups

The start-ups are new entrants who want to inculcate the best practices in their B2C businesses and Design thinking is one of the best means to it.

Companies and individuals running a start-up business, which have been funded by IAN, were a part of the Interactive session on Design Thinking, last week. When it comes to start-ups, micro, and small enterprises, the size of the company and their limited resources target them towards one innovation model rather than the others in order to find their competitive place in the market. Design thinking helps them to find the best possible solution, while attaining the economies of scale.

Oh! What an enlightening session it was, led by the Idea farms proprietor Mr Sunil Malhotra and his team of design experts. The event was attended by budding and established entrepreneurs and business leaders from different business fraternity like media, IT, finance, fashion and lifestyle. It was a very warm and interactive session, trying to understand the problem from the user’s perspective, discussing their current situation and brainstorming on the relevant solution. Experts at Idea farms, gave the users a broad approach to problem solving, using live video streaming of several business cases and conducting few role plays. The design experts at Idea farms also learnt a lot from this interactive session as they are in a constant mode of reinvention. This session was an eye opener for many entrepreneurs and provided them the roadmap to reach to the next stage, for implementing their ideas. The next step to mastering the practice of Design Thinking is to enrol for a specialised 2- day workshop in Design Thinking.

So folks, let’s get started and master the art of design thinking, to bring unprecedented revolution in our line of business and be on a continuous growth trajectory.

Design Thinking – scaling towards a trending career option

Education, these days are specialized and customer centric, which helps our future generation to understand and decide where is it that their interest lies and what is best for them. People go with the trend and recently the buzzword is “Design Thinking”. We constantly encounter authors, speakers and experts who claim that bringing design thinking into the classroom, can transform education. Now, what is “Design Thinking”? Perhaps it is too vague, too ambivalent and too general for us to understand.

DT reaches education sector
After a detailed analysis and speaking to several industry experts, it was found that in Design Thinking, students solve real problems, think for themselves, discover knowledge and continually revise and change their models and prototypes, just like they might, if working on a project at work. With design thinking, students can learn how to interpret information they’ve learnt, and continue to iterate and experiment different solutions and ideas, thereby broadening their thinking horizon. In the process, students gain the confidence that everyone can be part of designing a better future.
What is in there for the students? As a student, there is a lot of scepticism in their minds, as to the eligibility, structure, duration and cost of the course; whether it will be beneficial and what the business viability factors are for the same. Will students get employed after completing this course? Attending a Design Thinking talk session at any institute clears all doubts. A discussion with the Idea farms team, gives a better insight to assessing the importance of the course and whether it can be applied to our respective line of education or business. The course is designed, keeping in mind the usability and the need of the user.
Online study modules with live video streaming on different business cases, opens up better avenues for the students, as they get to prototype and experiment. This helps the students to inculcate the learning in their main course, which will help them achieve success by finding the best possible solution.
So friends! Let’s all think smart and brain storm on our varied ideas to achieve the maximum returns on investment. Look out this space for more information on these courses soon….

Design Thinking: The New DNA of the Financial Sector Focus on Customer, Creativity and Diversity

This post has been curated using various articles. We have tried to put into perspective as to how the Banking sector can disrupt its traditional outlook towards its products & services and innovate using Design Thinking. 


The financial services sector is facing multiple challenges, from increased regulatory demands to sluggish economic growth and low interest rates. Fintech startups such as PayPal threaten to undermine traditional revenue sources and ways of doing business.

Also, the rapid pace of development witnessed in 21st century civilization has turned many a world upside down. Disruptive products, services and technologies continue to manifest at an almost unfollowable rate, while societies and markets exhibit increasing magnitudes of complexity.

In such a complex world, where consumer, market and industry dynamics are constantly shifting, how can the banking sector keep pace? How can it ensure the services, products and experience it provides evolve with the needs and expectations of the 21st century individual?

Design thinking may provide the solution, by seeking to answer the question: “How can banks boost their growth by successfully applying design thinking in a de-banking era?”

Design thinking puts the end-user, the customer, at the center, and creates a workplace atmosphere that encourages creative ideas and values diverse teams. It requires that leadership shifts the way it devises strategy, beginning by understanding client needs and behaviors and then working back from there.

Just talking about being “customer centric” and “user experience” doesn’t cut it. Every organisation talks about their focus on the customer – few execute. And the reason is that they need a process – this is where Design Thinking comes in. It is a well designed, tried and tested process. We, at Ideafarms, work with many of our clients to build design and customer empathy at the heart of the organisation, not at the edge.

And there have been notable success stories of banks using design thinking, from Singapore’s OCBC Bank, to Auckland Savings Bank, Bank of America, Barclays PLC and National Australian Bank.

The Design Thinking process can help financial services companies understand customer needs and behaviors, allowing firms to build out prototypes, test and learn from them, and finally launch the products and services that will help them succeed.

Improving the user experience will better banks’ customer relationships and add to the value proposition of the bank’s business model.

“We believe that while the banking sector is going through a period of disruption driven by digitization, new regulations, changing customer behaviors, low growth perspectives, a sticky cost base, and increased competition, this is not the end of the sector. Our view, instead, is that this marks the genesis of the banking sector’s new DNA: a combination of changes in business models, agile execution, and design thinking.” 


Further reading:

Design Thinking goes to Tihar Jail… creating theatre workshops for female inmates

While we all somewhat enjoy learning, being tested on what we’ve learnt is not always fun. But the cool thing is when we start doing, the theory starts being tested, not us!

And this process is so satisfying. Through it I’m gaining the maximum insights. With the guidance of Ideafarms, and in collaboration with Lady Shri Ram College (LSR), I am in the process of designing a month-long theatre workshop for female inmates at the Tihar Jail, using DESIGN THINKING!

After rigorous on-the-job training at Ideafarms and focused self-study of Design Thinking, I have come to believe in its immense scope and power. Now, I eagerly go out into a different field of play and test the reach of its scope.

It is a journey filled with uncertainty and anticipation, and I am loving every minute of it – from training LSR volunteers to going into the field and testing our prototypes.

We had our first session one week back and have used all the responses and feedback we got to sketch out the next 12 sessions. We plan to treat every session as a prototype and iterate on the process as we go along. While this approach can be challenging and may not result in a concrete output at the end of the month – like a play or skit, we are confident that, through our journey with the participants, we will leave them with an understanding of theatre and an ability to use it as they deem fit – whether for expressing, story-telling or performing.

With eagerness to see the workshops unfold, I go in today for our second session. Let’s see how the ball rolls!

 

Design Thinking with Women Entrepreneurs "Why should boys have all the fun?"

Less than 10% of startups have women as a co-founder. It is stated that about 73% women entrepreneurs failed to get funding from Venture Capitalists.” – WEEfoundation.org

The statistics about Women Entrepreneurs shock me. Not because I have lost touch with reality, but because I am slightly optimistic about change and the speed at which it occurs.

Women Entrepreneurship and Empowerment (WEE) Foundation, IIT Delhi wants to help change these statistics. They have developed a curriculum for the 30 selected participants that is designed to target the specific needs and challenges faced by women in India. I am proud that we contributed our bit to the movement. Last Sunday, we conducted a Design Thinking Primer with them.

In order to practice Design Thinking it becomes necessary to adopt certain mind-sets – being empathetic, being open to failure, being sensitive to feedback and more. This is what makes the methodology so valuable to me and gives me the confidence that if adopted, it can accelerate change.

I also believe that our ultimate goal for Design Thinking must be to use it to create accurate and sustained Social Impact. Being able to share it with the WEE entrepreneurs has taken us one step closer to this goal and I’m excited to see what’s next.

It was refreshing to deliver a Design Thinking primer, alongside Mr. Sunil Malhotra to the group of inquisitive and energetic women with ideas they want to share with the world. Though it was a post lunch session – and we’ve all attended one of those – the interactive nature of the primer kept energy levels high!

In the two hour session we presented and discussed design and it’s distinction from art, craft and Design Thinking, as well as the ‘What’, ‘Why’ and ‘How’ of the much discussed methodology. My favourite part, was sharing exemplifying stories – it always drives the point home!

The session in action...
The session in action…

It was definitely a Sunday well spent for us and I hope that the participants of the session gained equal or more value than we gained conducting it!

Between Paddock and Pit The Shoe Stopper

As first-time visitors to the Buddh International Circuit, we stood in awe of the sheer dimensions of the complex. Long before we even reached the entrance gate we were greeted by the sound of tires burning rubber on a warm October morning. Adding to the special atmosphere was the fact that we were guests – that grand treatment for being the mobile app partners of the Vento Cup.

Gasha escorted us to the team’s paddock – ha, that was a new word for us!

“There are the cars and on that side is the pit lane. You can see the action along the straight leading to the start-finish line. And there’s a giant screen up there for seeing the rest of the action. Now I’m going to leave you guys to explore on your own. Don’t you get into any trouble!” Gasha warned me with a mischievous smile.

“Oh! Don’t worry, I won’t run on the pit lane!”

At the paddock, the race cars posed like rock stars, sporting sponsor tattoos, shiny glasses and modified accessories. As we admired the cars, a large horn began blaring warning sounds. A few bikers were riding into the pit lane. As soon as the bikes entered their team’s paddock, the noise stopped.

The 'rockstars'
The ‘rockstars’

We stepped on the pit lane to cross over to the fence – a single wired wall beyond which was the race track. Standing at the fence and looking straight ahead, a speeding racer becomes a mere blur, with the vibrating air being the only evidence of his* existence.

“Excuse me, Ma’am” cried a lean heavily tanned man, jogging towards me. His head was tightly gripped by a red cap and headphones, his white shirt read ‘Marshal’.

“I’m sorry, but no slippers allowed. It’s against the rules.”

I stepped back and apologised. He jogged away, blowing his whistle while I stood at the edge of the paddock, and watched at a distance. A little while later he walked up to me and said, “I am extremely sorry, Ma’am, but those are the rules. I just cannot let you cross. Maybe we can arrange for some boots for you.”

I was surprised and humbled, if not a little embarrassed by his generous offer to help me (strangely the phrase pleasant user experience came to my mind).

I managed to arrange a pair of shoes on my own to make it to the fence – yes, I waited for the warning sounds to stop before crossing – so that I could watch the racers speed away barely a few feet from me.

That shot of adrenaline down my throat, I came back to the paddock. The Marshall caught me returning the boots to its barefoot owner and we all shared a hearty laugh.

The Vento Cup was scheduled to start at 11:30 am and we were asked to move to the lounge upstairs so that the cars could be taken out. The drivers, covered from head to toe in fireproof overalls, gloves, shoes and headgear were fastening their seat-belts as we moved away. A short while later, we were leaning against the railing as the modified Volkswagen Ventos began grunting out of the paddock below us.

Getting Ready
Getting Ready

They went around the track for a formation lap and lined up at the starting grid. The five lights in front of the grid illuminated and went out to signal that the race was on. The cars shot out of sight within seconds – but the sound didn’t go very far away from us. A minute later the sound grew louder and the race leader entered our line of sight. With cars moving fast – apparently the average speed around the track was 133 kmph – it was hard to keep track of who was who. What was clear was that there was a sizable lead, growing bigger with every lap, between the first and the second car.

The horns of the pit lane began blaring again. A car came in – it’s rear wing hanging precariously by one bolt. The pit crew quickly removed the wing and he drove off.

It was in the fifth lap that we identified the Ideafarms car – our car – unfortunately quite far back in the standings, but fighting hard with two other cars.

As the chequered flag was waved, the podium finishers crossed one at a time; the midfield finished much closer. Our car came seventh (hey, at least it wasn’t last!)

With the Vento Cup championship having drawn to a close, we stayed back to watch the Asia Road Racing Championship, with some fierce looking bikers leaning scarily close to the track on the kerbs. More than one biker skidded off. While their bikes were quickly removed by the ever vigilant marshalls, the bikers hitched a ride on rather slow moving scooters back to the pit lane!

During one of the races, one biker suffered a massive accident and lay motionless on the track for an extended period of time. Spectators on both sides of the track ran in the direction of the biker, while red flags were frantically being waved. An Ambulance raced to the biker. It was then that I noticed a large gate along the fence to let the Ambulance take a shortcut through the pits to the medical building behind the paddocks. The Marshal, with whom I had interacted earlier, turned into a traffic policeman whistling out clear instructions for the quick movement of the Ambulance.

Amidst all the adrenaline and exciting sounds around the track, this incident was a rude reminder of the perils of motorsport and it’s not all fun and games on the track.

Early in the evening we decided to leave, and leaned over the railing for one last look at the speeding daredevils performing wheelies and standing up on their bikes while crossing the line at full speed.

Two sounds of a whistle directed our attention to the pit lane below. The Marshall waved at us. We waved back and burst out laughing as he pointed towards his boots and nodded his head in what seemed like a question!

On our way out, we peeked into the paddock where the the cars were getting a thorough checkup and greasing and thanked Gasha for a very memorable day.

We left the circuit in good spirits, wondering when we would return – perhaps not anytime soon. But when we do, and quite likely for next season’s Vento Cup finalé, I’ll make sure I have shoes of my own.

Time to park
Time to park

* While the field this year was all male, last year’s Vento Cup featured two female drivers competing against the men.

A Table’s Fable Happenings @ Ideafarms

10:30 am: The intern has arrived. Her belongings are already sprawled all over me. I look forward to another day of being exploited – Yay!

11:30 am: Presently, 3 of them sit around me and ‘work’. While they furiously type on their overheated laptops and simultaneously sip on their chilled nimbu paanis, I suffer from heat stroke and hypothermia at the same time.

12:30 pm: Music emanates from a laptop directly into my ears. Not that song* again. Oh great, they feel the need to tap along to it. I’m a table, not a tabla. And you definitely aren’t musicians…
One of them has gotten up and moved onto manhandling the drum set a few feet away from me. When will they realize that they’re absolutely tone-deaf?

1:30 pm: The dreaded lunch time. Question: What’s more fun than a bunch of people dropping daal and kaddu ki sabzi all over you? Answer: Literally everything. At least after they’re done feasting I get cleaned. Yes, I’m aware that they only clean me for their own matlabi and exploitative reasons, but those 10 seconds are absolute bliss.

2:30 pm: They’re sticking Post-Its on me now. ‘Business Model Canvas – First Draft’, they say. First draft? Just how many are there going to be? This means I’m going to get waxed multiple times, doesn’t it. Great. Can’t wait.

3:30 pm: Music blaring. They’ve moved onto bhajans now. So pious. So devout. Would Lord Ram and Lord Krishna approve of your complete and utter disregard for an innocent table’s well-being?

4:30 pm: I’m wondering what kind of photo shoot would require them to LIE DOWN on me. Creativity ki hadd hoti hai. But these guys clearly seem to think otherwise.

5:30 pm: Brainstorming. Spitballing. Ideating. Sound like harmless enough words, right? Wrong. Enter chai and coffee – ‘creative nectar’ to get their ‘creative juices’ flowing. For me, it just means multiple third degree burns.

6:30 pm: It’s funny how fast and efficiently things get done in the office when it’s time to pack up and leave. Everyone is running around frantically, while I stand still, watching the madness with bittersweet thoughts of the quiet hours ahead of me.


*Closer – The Chainsmokers

DoodleADay – The Origin Story

Sitting in front of a screen ogling simple visuals made by designers from across the seas, I could feel a certain frustration creeping in on me. Having been away for a while from anything remotely resembling a sheet of paper, something had to be done about it.

‘Quick, give me a word – what’s the first thing that comes to your mind’, I asked my colleague.

‘Spectacles’, replied a very amused Eeshta.

I grabbed the nearest scrap of paper and a marker, my fingers unsure of themselves. A few seconds later, I stuck the sorry looking doodle on the wall beside me – a reminder of how far I had fallen behind.

The next day, an unsuspecting intern got the same request from me.

‘Egg!’, said Vaani.

Up went a cracked egg on the wall.

Inspired by an activity given by Justin Ferrell to the participants of the Design Thinking workshop (fast-forward to 9 minutes into the video for the challenge), the challenge to myself spread to Eeshta and Vaani. A doodle a day, it was, then. 10 seconds to draw a random word given by someone else.

Two days later, we asked Sahil – the resident artist – who had been supplying us with words, to join in. ‘No! No! You’re taking too long – no making a masterpeice out of it! Take the pen away from him!’

With the wall of post-its growing bigger, we got the techies, even finance and HR into drawing a doodle. ‘Ha! I’ve done it in three!’ Nikhil said proudly, as he held up a neat three petaled flower.

Where it will go – I cannot say for sure, but its fun and definitely that’s not going to be bad at all!

The Doodle Wall
The Doodle Wall

The Intern Diaries

First day at Ideafarms

Walking in, I am greeted by a drum roll: bright-eyed and bushy-tailed fellow intern Eeshta’s welcome to the new kid. I like it already.

First off, I am walked through the ground rules by the lovely HR director, Anuja, revealing some telling facts about the atmosphere of the company I had just joined. Number 4, no yelling or speaking in a rude voice; Number 2, no calling anyone “sir” or “ma’am”; first names would suffice. Number 7 was the most interesting, however, specifically delineating that everyone was approachable, and that one could go up to any other employee at the company to ask questions and request information. Already, 25 minutes in, Ideafarms is blowing my expectations of rigid, overly structured, hierarchical experience out of the water.

Next, I am immediately thrust into helping with a pitch for a new app, quickly going over the idea and seeing firsthand how Ideafarms brainstorms. Despite the good humour and familiarity pervading the atmosphere, employees know when to get serious and are impressively quick and efficient when there is a task at hand. I watched the team put together a competent, well-organized presentation, even offering some input which they used while talking about the app. I observed the bosses’ feedback with great interest straight after the pitch – they astutely highlighted the main issues in an even, businesslike manner and helped guide the team towards making a better product.

Lunchtime, though, was the highlight of the day. It is a time for everyone to get together around the lunch table, where no work is allowed, allowing for absorbing discussions about politics, current events, and our favourite TV shows to spring up. On the first day alone I gleaned more about the current state of the city than I had from newspapers in the past week, with everyone contributing information and experiences. Thankfully there were no Game of Thrones spoilers! It was great to see how well everyone got along, and I am already excited for the homemade cake, Nirati, one of the other interns, has promised to bring tomorrow.

Going home at the end of the day, accompanied by a leaving drum roll from the one and only Eeshta, there is only one thought in my head: I think I’m going to like it here.

Shaina doodling away!
Shaina doodling away!

written by Shaina Verma.