“But where is the Design Thinking talent hiding?” It may be time to make way for a new order of business with #DesignThinking in the lead.

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Prototyping in session

Never before has anything fired the imagination of the world like Design Thinking. You can almost see Design Thinking vends pop-up in nooks and crannies where you can order ‘cup or cone in 3 flavours’.

But why this new attention to something that looks like common-sense-stuff-we’ve been-doing-forever? For one thing, while the sense is common, the practice is not. Especially when it comes to the world of business, steered by the twin objectives of feasibility and viability. Design Thinking suggests we get the customer into the equation even before we start creating the specifications of a new offering. The best way to do this is to ‘get out of the building’.

So Jorge and I had a chat, he in Mexico and I in India, to see if we could demystify the discipline, in our bid to protect businesses from themselves and from ignorant, opportunistic vendors.

From the post

Just like innovation and artificial intelligence, design thinking is a buzzword. There is a cottage industry of practitioners who, with good intention or not, are hoping to get their pockets full from enterprises who want a step by step process that reduces the uncertainty behind innovation.

To many, design thinking is the answer.

Design thinking is powerful but misunderstood. I’ve written about these misunderstandings in the past:

This is a topic which resonates with design thinking practitioners like Sunil Malhotra. We’ve had back and forth conversations over Twitter and Facebook, and we felt the need to demystify design thinking for the benefit of businesses and the discipline itself.

#DesignThinking goes way beyond thinking and somewhat beyond design as well. It’s intuition with Data, it’s Visual Collaboration with Building and Testing ideas, its Iterating with Human Attention. And you think everybody can do it??

So what’s your order?

Watch the vidcast here …

I’ve been having a hard time finding people with the traits that are needed for Design Thinking. I’m wondering if there’s talent around and if so, where it is hiding.

Let’s talk.

Design Thinking for the travel industry Beyond the jargon lies a fundamental human capacity

One of my most memorable moments during a trip to Sikkim, was on a road trip in the mountainous region around the river Teesta—beside the road, a shallow stream accompanied us, riding on a bed of hundreds of smooth pebbles; the green hills all around were lifting their misty veils.

Over the week-long holiday, we had got used to the natural beauty of Sikkim, but it appeared that there was no way for us to document it through the windows of a moving vehicle. Try as we might, the rough terrain was impossible to capture without looking like a smudge of paint.

It was during one such trip, that one of our drivers, Mahesh, slowed down at a river crossing, and surprised us.

“You can take the picture now! See, I want you to take as many pictures as you can. I want, that when you go home and you see these pictures, you will remember me!”

Mahesh asked us to soak in the view and take our time — something, that we later realized, no one had said throughout any of our road trips.

Throughout our holiday, we traveled with many drivers, some for transfers, and some for sightseeing. As a driver, Mahesh was just like every one else. Every driver we traveled with, was equally skilled in navigating the rough terrain and guiding us to tourist spots. The difference was that while everyone took us from point A to point B, Mahesh cared about our experience while we were traveling. While some drivers kept calling us to hurry up so that we could complete the itinerary, Mahesh told us to soak in the atmosphere and take our time.

As Design Thinking is gaining popularity, companies are running every which way to train their employees in the methodology and its tools — and that’s a great thing. But at its core, Design Thinking starts with an emotional connect with the end customer. Without this mindset in all aspects of conducting a business, all the tools and methodologies are just jargon. What’s critical is that this emotional connect — call it human centricity or empathy — must permeate throughout the organisation’s culture to the very last mile — especially to the last mile.

Having previously worked within the travel industry, one thing that I observed was that it thrives on partnerships for pretty much everything — transportation, accommodation, sightseeing, recreational activities etc. Customers book their tours with one agency, and interact with other agencies who fulfil the itineraries.

Servicing the end customer may not be your job, but if your partner doesn’t, you lose the customer.

Collaborating with other stakeholders and sensitising them to the importance of ensuring that the customer has, at the very least, a neutral experience, if not a delightful one, is perhaps most crucial for the B2B travel ecosystem.

We loved Mahesh for his empathetic attitude; but even so, due to the overall handling of that tour, after that holiday, we vowed never to take tour packages. With travel advise from fellow travellers and bloggers online, our subsequent travels have been quite fulfilling, all without the involvement of travel agencies.

So how do you (and your partners) treat your customers? Are your employees like Mahesh, or is your entire ecosystem eroding to DIY travellers?

Read the unabridged post here.

Why your business needs design thinking induced customer-centric website?

“If your business is not on the Internet, then your business will be out of business. – Bill Gates”

27+ million searches happen every hour on the Internet. One of those searches could be for you, and for your business. Your organisation’s website is where your customers, employees, business partners, competitors and even investors can find you.

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Once you’ve set up your web presence, it needs to be constantly revisited – to keep it in sync with the changing times as well as to cater to your customer’s ever changing needs.

Here are some thoughts to consider for your website:

  • Customer is the king/queen and should be well informed – Most consumers head straight to a brand’s website for information; they look for a one-stop shop for all the valuable information they need. Your website is the online brochure of your business, products and services, promotions, upcoming events. Making sure relevant information is available, can help influence people’s perception of you and your business. Applying the Design Thinking methodology, the online medium can be refreshed from time to time. Empathising with your customers, for instance, can help make sure you provide value to your loyal customersdownload
  • 24/7 accessibility to cater to a wider market – To be available during off-working hours, with customers having the convenience of browsing through your services at their convenience, is a great selling point. To increase your reach and be more customer centric, you can have a live chat window to answer queries from global clients spontaneously, throughout the day. Along with social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, these two-way communication channels help you gain insights into your market that other channels just cannot provide. Grievances vented out through these media are a goldmine of opportunities to enhance your brand value, and retain your customers.
  • Testimonials from existing customers – Reviews and testimonials on the site play a big role in boosting sales, as it influences a customer’s purchase decision. Actively seeking out your star customers can help you test and iterate new ideas.
  • Customer support – All too often the FAQs of brands answer fictitious questions that businesses imagine their customers to have. Using the communication channels mentioned above, the actual FAQs can be developed. This will not only help customers save their time, but more importantly, will prevent frustrating experiences. A win-win for your brand recall and your customer.

A well designed, customer centric website is the most cost-effective and impactful tool to attract and service customers. All that is needed is keeping in mind their perspectives.

So, when was the last time you revisited your website? Does it still create a strong business impact? How about incorporating Design Thinking to rethink your web presence?


Image sources:

Why your small business needs an online presence

Website benefits

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!

Mobile technology for Disease Surveillance

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In a previous post, we highlighted the importance of data, and the inherent flaw in collecting data through paper forms. We also suggested that technology can improve the integrity and timeliness of data.

Real world application – tackling Dengue

The past couple of months have seen a rise in the number of dengue cases in Delhi. Given the sheer size of a city like Delhi, disseminating civic agencies to every nook and corner, in equal measure, is neither feasible nor useful.

The most affected localities would take a higher priority and need a higher number of resources. Identifying such areas through traditional data gathering tools will result in data which is likely to be too late.

What is required in such a scenario is a tool through which accurate data can be captured and analysed in near real time.

Mapping diseases in real time
Mapping diseases in real time

Imagine if diseases were reported as soon as they were diagnosed, and each diagnosis could be displayed as a pin on a map. The more the number of cases, the higher the number of pins. A locality with a high concentration of pins will draw attention immediately, thus making it easy to identify where resources need to be deployed urgently.

Enter HealthWatch.

HealthWatch is a disease surveillance platform for capturing real-time data about the spread of diseases and visualization of the data captured.

With domain expertise provided by St. Stephen’s hospital, HealthWatch was designed to replace the existing system of data gathering used in the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme.

The HealthWatch platform (pilot in Delhi-NCR) consists of 2 parts:

a smart phone app
a map-based analytics dashboard

Doctors can use the App to report diseases as they diagnose them. Each disease and associated symptoms are mapped to the doctor’s location. Data obtained through the App is aggregated and presented in real-time on a map for healthcare professionals to identify vulnerable areas and take appropriate measures to manage the spread of diseases.

Read more about the HealthWatch platform here.

The what and why of web design

Desktops, laptops, tablets, televisions, mobile phones, phablets and now even watches. There are more internet enabled devices in the market today, than ever before. And a gag these days is:

So you want to be a web designer? This is what you will be dealing with:

The viewport landscape
Image Source: Gareth Williams

From 300 pixels to a whopping 2000 pixels — that’s the range over which web content can be viewed today. Making sure all users get an optimum experience on their devices is by far the biggest challenge designers and developers face. And if there is one buzzword that has been floating around to combat this challenge, it is ‘Responsive Web Design’.

A single site that magically adjusts to whatever device screen is used to hit it.

Responsive frameworks. Media Queries. JavaScript Hacks.

Ever since Ethan Marcotte first coined the term Responsive Web Design in his now very famous article, a plethora of tools have sprung up, to make the process of creating a responsive website less painful.

But do we really understand what is responsive design, and why we are talking about it? All too often web designers & developers have tended to look at a responsive website as a chore, or worse — an afterthought. Define a few break-points and apply a few readily available tools to make sure everything looks okay.

The fundamental purpose of a website has always been about communication and interaction. But somewhere along the way, reusable code has killed the craft of true designers. This is not to say that reusable code is bad. What matters is that content is accessible, and interfaces are usable. That is what web design has always been about.

In his article A Dao of Web Design*, John Allsopp wrote:

Make pages which are accessible, regardless of the browser, platform or screen that your reader chooses or must use to access your pages. This means pages which are legible regardless of screen resolution or size, or number of colors (and remember too that pages may be printed, or read aloud by reading software, or read using braille browsers). This means pages which adapt to the needs of a reader, whose eyesight is less than perfect, and who wishes to read pages with a very large font size.

To call ourselves designers, it is imperative to internalize the why, and what of web design, before diving into the how aspect of it. To address this within our organisation, we organised a workshop with a live case study on the meaning of ‘Responsive Web Design’.

It was an interesting session, with lots of insights being shared. And we like to share our discussion with you. So here’s the accompanying presentation for our workshop. We hope you find as much value in it, as we did.


* A Dao of Web Design is a must read for all web designers. If web design was a religion, this article would probably qualify as a scripture.