Design Thinking 2020

The past few years have seen the birth of innovation labs in many financial institutions, and along with it, the use of Human Centered Design (HCD) or Design Thinking across many projects. The ability to harness the power of the people in the organization in a systematic approach to problem solving is taking root in many of these companies.

Though every one of us is on a different corporate path, I see 2020 as a year of convergence towards better HCD outcomes for companies who are on this journey. The top three topics that companies will be looking at are:

  1. Measurements of success
  2. Better collaboration
  3. HCD in strategy and business development

Measurements of success

In the early stages of adoption, companies will be pleased to have numerous workshops and ideation sessions come up with novel ideas that would be able to solve some of the existing pain points or even create a new product or service for the market.

This would have made full use of having a physical premise like a lab, and getting staff onboard with a new way of working and also some return on investments (ROI) on new idea generation.

But as we continue on this way of working and it becomes a discipline, more will be asked of the approach.

As a start, some hard metrics can be tracked like number of workshops facilitated, or ideas generated or number of departments/ teams involved.

The next level of measurements will be predictors of positive outcomes for the customers and the organization. Indicators such as number of customer hours saved, number of staff hours saved, revenue generated from new ideas and so on are the GOTO standard.

Better collaboration

One of the positive aspects of HCD is the involvement of multiple stakeholders in a project – from the end-user, to the staff from various departments that need to give input, approve, or be aware of certain project aspects.

There used to be a management adage that we need to break down silos between different departments in large organizations. But really, its not the silos themselves that are the issues, its the path lengths or social distances between groups.

In management circles, “networked organizations” is a term that has come into vogue. And in this setup, with proper clustering of functional groups of people and shortening the social distance between them, these networks become efficient.

Because in large organizations, no matter how you organize or re-organize the people, there will be “silos” built based on the sheer number of people. But improving the connections between these teams and removing impediments is a way to improve work outcomes.

Using a HCD approach to projects is building a good platform for these formal and informal linkages to be formed across the whole organization and I expect to see more of this happening.

HCD in strategy and business development

As more and more HCD projects are taking off in our organizations under customer experience improvement, innovation charters and programs, it would also be natural for the management of the institution itself to start imbibing some of these principles when they review and approve these projects.

We may soon be free from the days where a new product idea has to start with a 200-page document. By the time that paper is written and polished, a competitor might already have put that same idea into execution.

One good example of how HCD is used to define a bank’s strategy and to communicate it with their staff can be seen here.

Anecdotally, we have heard of projects in global banks being launched after management presentations done via a concept poster or storyboard. This not only allows new ideas to be proliferated within the organization quicker, it also minimizes the heartache if an idea is deemed infeasible.

Imagine, if after spending 2 months researching and writing up a 200-page document, management decides this idea is not good enough and would like to shelve it. The business manager who wrote the document would be so emotionally attached to this idea, and would feel personally disappointed that it did not go through. Alternately, if a small team came up with a concept poster at the end of a one-day workshop, they would not feel so personally attached if the outcome was negative.

Also, to decrease the cycle time for generating new innovative ideas, we should start to see more ideas being evaluated at strategic management levels using rough-and-ready prototyping principles by using tools such as concept posters, storyboards, paper prototypes etc to get their buy-ins. This would truly be a new way of working and I believe we will start to see more of these instances in the financial industry in 2020.

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