We all like using folk stories to illustrate our thoughts: a popular one of Indian origin is the one about the Blind men and the Elephant. As the story goes, six blind men try to understand what an elephant might look like — by touching different parts of the animal — and come up with their own interpretations.
The Indian Railway System is one of the largest in the world, averaging 21 million passengers per day1. At every station, along with railway passengers, are innumerable children, many of whom appear to be homeless. And it is this appearance of homelessness that attracts organisations to come forward to rescue the children, and restore them to their families.
However, many organisations working with children, have observed that the children so rescued—as high as 50% of them—run away from their homes again. In this episode of Design Talks, Dunu Roy, founder & director of Hazards Centre, explains why this is the case.
Yes, admit it. Even you have cried at some point of time while watching a movie. Studies on this subject talk about this ability of humans to empathize, even with fictitious people in these fictitious stories. It’s what makes us human. We wouldn’t have emotions if nature didn’t want us to have them. [Fun fact, those who cry a lot, tend to be happier.]1
In our world, it is easy for us to connect with friends, family and sometimes even rank strangers (or, as in the case of movies, fictitious ones). Why is it that in the context of business, these connections go out the window and all that matters is the bottom line, a few cold numbers on a paper/screen, and the proud poker face that doesn’t reveal a shred of strategy? Is there a way to bring about a shift in this status quo?
Design Thinking has been gaining steam over the past few years. The popular visualisations of the framework seem obvious and intuitive – which begs the question, what is so different about it?
The answer to that lies in what’s different about in our world today. In the words of Eddie Obeng:
“The real 21st century around us isn’t so obvious to us, so instead we spend our time responding rationally to a world which we understand and recognize, but which no longer exists… Companies make their expensive executives spend ages carefully preparing forecasts and budgets which are obsolete or need changing before they can be published.”
We’ve all seen the three lenses of Design Thinking, you know the one I’m talking about. The Venn diagram of Desirability, Feasibility and Viability, and at the intersection, the holy grail of Innovation/User Experience/Design Thinking/(insert own phrase here).
When I first looked at this, I had two questions:
- How is this so different from the way businesses have been functioning thus far?
- How have they survived these past several years, if they haven’t been taking into consideration all these factors?
During our recent session on Design Thinking (and Design Doing) at Makersbox, our goal was to bust myths of Design Thinking that have been perpetuated in the market. And the underlying theme for the session was:
Design Thinking is not design
Gagandeep Singh Sapra, Founder of MakersBox and SproutBox summarises the session for us:
When you hear the word Design Thinking, your mind hears Design and you talk about design and you think that it only a designer’s job; while had that been a different word, you would have thought differently – the meanings that I attached to it would not have happened.
Very often, in this corner of the world, we have freewheeling conversations surrounding design. So why not share it with the world? Enter Design Talks. A podcast series on design. In this pilot episode, I interview Sunil Malhotra, CEO of Ideafarms about Design in Tech for the social space. The conversation kicks off with Design-in-Tech and Design Entrepreneurship for Social impact (DESi), followed by Sunil’s talk for fellows of Aspire Circle and his take on the challenges facing the social sector in India.
The social sector currently lacks awareness of technology exists and how they can use design thinking as a power tool for their own benefit.
If all organisations could come together to radically collaborate, it would likely get rid of all the challenges that the social sector is facing today — raising funds, getting solutions out in the market quicker, governmental support etc.
You don’t need the whole of design thinking, to be implemented in one go; and similarly you don’t need technology to be implemented in one go. Just by changing the orientation of the way you have been thinking and being open to divergent thinking as well as exploration of possibilities instead of starting with constraints, can show a tremendous amount of difference.
Listen to the whole podcast here:
Check out Ideafarms’ Design Thinking practice
Header image: Snapshot from Design Thinking Session at Aspire Circle’s Second Annual Retreat & Convocation (ARC 2018)
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’.
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:
- Putting their faith in a process and believing it will save them;
- Believing tools, not skills, makes anyone creative;
- Believing design thinking is the ONLY way to innovate.
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.
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?