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.
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)
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?
“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.
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 customers
- 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?
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 Indian Angel Network, 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.
Design Thinking for Angel Investors
An interactive talk for members of Indian Angel Network was attended by startups 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.
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.
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….
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!