From Alan Steele, VP, Director of Studio Services, Palio
A review of: Change by Design: How design thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation, by Tim Brown with Barry Katz
Design thinking asks, “What are an individual’s motivations and what are the behaviors that follow?” around relationships between people and products and relationships between people and people. Human-centered design is built around human need. The designer’s job is to identify and convert need into demand. Humans are notoriously ingenious at creating a work around; they may not see the need, and/or they put up with inconvenience. Social scientists, skilled observers from academia, can help by observing improvised behavior and detailing their findings. A good design thinker is empathetic with the people he/she is observing; that means seeing the world through the eyes of others, experiencing their challenges, and their feelings.
Challenges to the organization
In a business organization, new ideas are disruptive, they challenge the status quo and recast yesterday’s innovators into today’s conservatives. Change takes resources away from existing programs and challenges managers with new choices and unknown risks. Business units have everyday real-world responsibilities and no time for trial and error. Innovation in a company can only come about if there is a culture of innovation. Chief Innovation Officers, design managers, and early adopters can lead organizations away from business as usual. Giving staff permission to learn, experiment, fail, and grow in dedicated facilities helps.
The starting point for design thinking in the business place is the brief: a mixture of freedom and constraints. The project team must be interdisciplinary, meaning each member has a key skill to contribute but also has one or more ancillary competencies; for example, an artist with an MBA or a business person with a degree in psychology. Benefits of interdisciplinary teamwork is collective ownership of ideas –– the sum is greater than its parts, turf is less defended, and a small group helps decision-making. The innovation phase is followed by ideation and implementation phases.
The importance of story telling
Storytelling is sharing a positive experience and communicating it in a way that encourages others to try it. The heart of a good story is a central narrative about the way an idea satisfies a need in some powerful way. The agency promoting Oxyride, a powerful, longer-lasting alkaline battery from Panasonic, asked, “can man fly on the power of household batteries alone?” Scientists developed a special plane whose development was covered on a Web site. For the plane’s flight, journalists were invited, which generated publicity and created a news event. “People love the idea of following bands of adventurers as they compete to achieve the impossible.”
Adherence in the drug industry is a problem. Mr. Brown suggests that, by using story-telling, the marketer can change behavior over time. Designing with time means thinking of people as living, growing, thinking organisms who can help write their own stories. His “time-based narrative” involves 3 phases of medical treatment: 1.) The patient understands the condition, 2.) The patient accepts the need for treatment, and then 3.) The patient takes action. The marketer creates an “adherence journey” to address these phases — better ways to inform the patient of the disease, better methods of dispensing and administering medication, better adherence by connecting with support groups on the Web, nurse call centers, and pharmacist advice.
The design of experiences
Functional benefits alone are not enough to satisfy consumers’ increased expectations. Experiential activities are deeper and more meaningful to the consumer than passively consumed entertainment. Think of the difference in emotional, mental, and physical involvement with Wii golf as opposed to watching a canned TV program. The author says that over the last two hundred years, Americans have gone from rural agrarian life, where we produced our own experiences (square dance, playing an instrument, games using imagination) to urban industrial life consumers (television programs, pre-recorded music on disks, manufactured toys) and now a to post-industrial world village of producers (who make our movies, create our news, share and mix our music).
Design has the power to enrich our lives by engaging our emotions through image, form, texture, color, sound, and smell. American post-war food shopping has been the supermarket with its frozen food, packaged food with preservatives, and long distance transport of product. The Californian Alice Waters with her emphasis on locally grown, organic product, Whole Foods, and local farmer’s markets, are examples of alternative food purchasing experiences; venues that encourage the shopper to linger and participate. Our senses are much more involved in these environments.
A cultural experience requires tailoring it to the individual so it feels personal and customized. Using the Ritz hotel chain as an example, the author explains how “scenography,” a flexible toolkit provided by the Ideo marketing firm, enabled general managers of each location to choreograph a property-specific ambience. Hotel managers became design thinkers.
The author argues that there are important connections between the activities we participated in as children and the characteristics of innovation and creativity… what he calls “serious play.” We lose our ability to explore with our senses (smelling a honeysuckle bush), to build things (Tinker Toys), and to role play (Cowboys and Indians). Instead of following our natural inclination to play we became very “left brained,” analytical and convergent in thinking.
The new social contract
Shared involvement in design happens when the public are active participants in the process of creation and the organization has less boundaries with its methods and the public. An example of an open, flexible, large-scale system where everyone has the opportunity to participate in the conversation is Wikipedia. Programmer Ward Cunningham developed wiki software which allows anyone to modify content without a centralized authority. Unpaid contributors submit articles directly. Wikipedia is a testament to the power of participation; participants are aligned in their objective: to create an encyclopedia. The direct opposite of Wikipedia is one man, Samuel Johnson, laboring alone for nine years to create the Dictionary of the English Language.
Design thinkers anticipate the needs of customers and build on the ideas of colleagues. Using another hospitality model, the author describes The Four Seasons hotel chain’s desire to deliver flawless service consistently. After six months of employment, every employee is allowed a stay at one of their properties. The result is two-fold: the employee experiences the hotel as a guest and is inspired to replicate it, and the employee is rewarded for service.
How can design thinking spur innovation in your organization?
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