Design thinking is a methodology that works anywhere. You don’t have to be designing an app or website to apply it to problem solving both in business and in your every day life.
Chris and Carla talk about how you can apply this powerful set of tools anywhere, any time.
The Design Untangled Podcast
Episode: DU038 – Design Thinking for Business Transformation
Host: Chris Mears and Carla Lindarte
Duration: 25:44 minutes
April 15, 2019
(00:17) Chris: Hello and welcome to Design Untangled with me Chris Mears and the world famous Carla Lindarte. How are you doing?
(00:24) Carla: Very good, and oh my god, more famous. How are you?
(00:30) Chris: Yes. Good. Still recovering from my holiday that I just got back from in Reuse, in Spain. You are always on holiday.
(00:39) Chris: I am always on holiday, but I did not know that was how you said Reuse. So, I was at the airport and they were like, oh where you going today? I was like, Royce. They are like, what? Where the hell is that? And then they listed off fifteen destinations, that sounded vaguely similar. Then, there is like, do you mean Reuse? Yes, probably. I am such an English idiot.
(01:06) Carla: Well, welcome to my world. That is what happens to me every day trying to pronounce words I have never seen before.
(01:13) Chris: But yeah, it was very nice, anyway. But yes, you know what it is like when you get back from holiday, you need another holiday to recover from it.
(01:21) Carla: Oh no. That is good that you had one soon, because it is Easter coming up, so you have one.
(01:25) Chris: That is true. I am sure chocolate will revive my spirits.
(01:30) Carla: Yes, I still do not understand Easter and the eggs and the rabbits, and stuff. I do not get that.
(01:37) Chris: I think it is best if you just go along with it, at this point.
(01:41) Carla: Yes. I do not want to understand that either. But, anyway, I liked the chocolate.
(01:44) Chris: What are we talking about?
(01:47) Carla: So, we talking about, I hope it is not a boring topic. I used to create designs with a lot of people who talked about design thinking as being a thing. Because what I thought design thinking was, it was just a way of talking about what designers do. Which is create empathy, create products, ideate, blah, blah, blah, tests, whatever. But, now that I am not necessarily working in a design environment, because I am not necessarily working on a product, or perhaps, maybe a service, but not a product specifically, a digital product. It becomes more obvious that the need of talking that design thinking as a methodology, as a way of thinking, that not everyone really understands. So coming from a design background, and working in design for many years, and then join in a team of data science, and scientists, and sellers, and technical people. Made me realize that actually, the tools of design thinking are a very good way to talk about design to non-designers. And also to get them to understand that all of these techniques that we normally use for the work that we do as UX designers or visual designers or whatever are very, very applicable for non-design environments. So that is why I think, I have been finding it very interesting. Because design thinking is not necessarily only something that designers do. So, if I were to ask you how was your definition of design thinking? What would you say?
(03:45) Chris: It is basically a series of tools, techniques and methodology, as you say, that aims to keep the user at the heart of what you are thinking about, the problem you are trying to solve. And it is just a way of framing the problem you are trying to solve, in the context of how the user wants that problem to be solved for them, I would say. And there is loads of stuff off the back of it. Principals, I suppose, like user research, obviously understanding the user, then actually testing things with them and learning from that as well.
(04:18) Carla: Yes, definitely. That is definitely what I mean. I mean design thinking is basically a way of coming up with solutions, reframing problems and coming up with solutions around the end user actual needs and wants. And that is applicable for anything. Before, obviously, you apply that to a new product and you add a new service. It is like a no brainer for people, like designers, to do that. For example, I am just talking from my own experience, when I joined Google, and the marketing team, it was a little bit of a struggle at the beginning, for me to try to understand, how I can apply my design skills to a world that is not necessarily building an app, or even a website. So it took me a little of time to understand that what we do as designers is not necessarily the output. What we do is, actually take people through the process of thinking, from a design-led perspective. And what I mean by that is, for example, I have seen a lot of people in the team coming up with lots of resources, presentations, workshops, matrix or dashboards, whatever. And a lot of the time when you are not a designed-led environment, you just go into autopilot and start producing lots of stuff without really thinking about who are going to read, or look at, or use, resources that you are creating. And are they going to adopt it. Is that necessarily what people need, or it is just you just doing it because you think that is what people need? So I guess what I have been trying to do in the last year or so, is to try to embed this new way of working within the team. And just getting them to realize that anything they do, any output they create, first, it has a designer creative process behind it. Because, even if it is a dashboard you have to go through the process of thinking about how it looks, how it is going to work, et cetera. But also, the importance of getting the end users or the people who you want this thing to be useful for, to actually give you the requirements that you need. So I use things like, creative surveys, for example, to start to identify where the biggest gaps are, in terms of resources or things that people need to do their jobs better. I am also doing design thinking workshops, getting them to create empathy maps. I am doing some interviews, and play them back into the team and say, this is what people are actually asking for. And just think about your day to day job, and the things that you create, and see if you actually meet in their needs. So I guess the purpose of this podcast is to tell people to basically highlight the importance of creating this approach in any environment that you are at, and not necessarily applying it only to design projects.
(07:42) Chris: Yes, I think almost the word design and design thinking is a bit of an issue, for that kind of adoption because we, in our little designer bubble, we know that it does not just mean what people might traditionally think of design, which is a visual artifact at the end of it. I think if you are not coming from that background, it can be just like, as you say, something that fancy designers in their jeans and tee shirts do, and it does not really ring relevant to them that, in any interaction you are having with another person, it can be in a lot of cases that they are your user, essentially. So if you are having a meeting with a group of people, they are your users for that meeting. So you have to understand what their needs are, what their goals are, what outputs they need from that? It is just a way of remembering who your audience is, and catering for them. And that cannot be just digital products. If you are creating a deck, what is the take away people need from that? It is all stuff that you have probably heard in different contexts, but you have not tied it back to this design thinking kind of methodology.
(08:51) Carla: Yes, definitely it is creating empathy. And it is just generating that empathy with user. And you are so right about the jargon of calling it, design thinking. Because I have to say that when I started talking about this, where you are working, and use the words design thinking, a lot of people look at you, like, that is not for me, because I am not a designer, I am not creative, I do not do this. Actually, it has been really useful for me to try to avoid using the terminology, because what I have said, it is like, okay, let us just collaborate. Let us just build the next thing. Let us just do it together. Let us really try to understand what is the problem that we are trying to solve? I am lucky enough that Google is an organization that they all have this vision of work for the user and everything will follow. So they kind of understand the concept of an end user. The thing is that people do not see themselves as being an end user, for a particular resource. Obviously, the user fits into the UX, and product, and digital product design context, but you are so right about trying to avoid using that jargon, and just making it just the way of working. So let us just change the way we work. Let us just try something different. Let us just focus on the real problems. And as you said, create more empathy with your audience. Make sure you have tangible examples, which is something really, really useful about design thinking. It is what you call the prototyping phase. Because obviously, you have the empathy phase and the ideation phase and the prototyping and the testing, but, the prototyping phase makes everything a bit more tangible. In a lot of big business context, there is so much, I am sorry about this word, there is so much bullshit that people talk. You talk about so many things, but only when you bring into life with an example, is when people start to really understand what you are trying to do. So prototyping does not necessarily mean coming out with a product, like a clickable prototype. You could just create a one slide, you are still going to come up with a deck at the end. You come up with one slide that shows roughly, what you trying to communicate. Or maybe it is just about writing a statement that summarizes the proposition of the value of whatever you are creating. So it is making that tangibility super important for people to really understand what you tried to achieve. Whatever project you do, in any context.
(11:30) Chris: Yes, and I think internal users are some of the most neglected users out there, I think, just in the world. They never focused on. So you will be surprised how quickly you can win them over by actually asking them what they want for once. And yet, I hate the phrase, ‘taking them on the journey’, but you can do that quite easily. And once they start seeing how they can input into something that will ultimately make their life, and their job row a lot easier for them, it is not a hard sell, a lot of the time.
(12:06) Carla: Also, you could argue that designers currently working in a design environment, when they have to interact with non-designer stakeholders. So, if you think about clients from the marketing team, or clients from the finance team, or internal people within the organization, if you are a permanent employee. Applying the same methodology that you apply for user testing, or a user interviews, or user workshops, whatever, I think is super important. As you say, I know it sounds really consulting that taking people through the journey is super important to then, have them on your side as well, to get them to understand what you are trying to do. I think sometimes, and I have to say, I did this many times in the past, if you just focus too much on the output, on the day-to-day, on the sprint cadence, on the use testing, et cetera. But then people within the organization, especially when you call an external consultant or external designer, are the ones who are going to be using this thing and managing this thing in the future. So I think the more you apply the same kind of thinking on your internal users, I think that is going to be super useful. Not just for you, to get their buy in quicker, but also to get them to adopt whatever you creating.
(13:39) Chris: And I think one of the thing I have noticed, in my career, is I have moved away from creating wire frames and that sort of stuff to, be a bit more strategic, I suppose. A lot of the thing I observed is, people sometimes just need the permission to try stuff they have been thinking about the ages. To have the permission to test their idea with people, see how it lands, and if it does not work, it does not mean that they get fired, and have to go down to the job center. It does take, sometimes, someone like a UX designer or whatever to actually bring those people along and help them understand, we can test those ideas in a pretty easy way, see what happens, get some valuable feedback on it, and just do it. And I think a lot of it is just that permission that you can actually try things and helping people, I suppose incorporate that into their way of working, as opposed to thinking they have to get everything absolutely perfect all the time. And that can be quite impactful.
(14:39) Carla: That is so true. And also, corporation sessions. Sometimes they are annoying, and sometimes you do not want non-designers to come up with ideas for your next feature. I think going internally, sometimes, and doing co-creation sessions with people within the organization you are working for, it does not mean that you are going to use those prototypes, or paper prototypes for your designs. But it just makes people create more ownership, with whatever you are experimenting with. And as you said, it just gives them a bit of freedom of testing, and they are just trying ideas themselves, and as perhaps they had been thinking about for ages. So that is another way of of applying that. So if you think about the concept of service design, you think about obviously, the front stage, which is your product, your service, whatever you are designing with. And we know many UX designers and visual designers, will stay in that layer, in the front stage. When you think about the backstage of the organization behind that, you really need think about how they would perceive that particular solution. Especially if you come as an external designer, as I said. They are the ones that would be managing it in the future. Do they have the skillsets? Have they been part of that journey? Do they have ownership of that? So I think, what I am trying to say is that design thinking is all the work we do as designers, is not just only applicable and useful for the front stage of your work is also very, very useful for the organization behind that particular product you are designing.
(16:32) Chris: And the other aspect to this, I think is important, is that it is not done in a siloed fashion. So there needs to be some sort of education from the top down, so that you are not just applying design thinking really well in a particular area of the business, and then, that is it. It never spreads. It is important to get visibility of that, from other departments, or whatever the make up of the organization is. And show results as well. And that can help move the organization more towards a design-led or design thinking-led process, on a wider sense.
(17:13) Carla: Yes. So, some like tools and techniques that you can apply for that, as you said, trying to talk more about what design thinking is, or what you are doing as a designer, in a particular project? There is something that Google does really well, which is called, ‘Meet the User’, which is basically, they get people, product teams, obviously developers, business, sales people, to come and talk to you re your users. And allow them to ask them questions and go deeper into certain problems that they think they have. So obviously, they are trained as lightly by UX researchers, but the idea of this is, in 90 minutes they have kind of a speed dating, a set up where different parts, different business, but people within the business, they come and meet the users, and just talk to them about what the particular feature or whatever. That is one way of getting everyone involved, and also to show them the value of it. They can understand, they can start seeing the value of talking to end users all the time. And they participate in it rather than just reading that report at the end of it.
(18:35) Chris: Yes, exposure to research is always one of the most powerful things you can do to get buy-in to any UX process.
(18:44) Carla: And it just helps people create empathy. So because your responsibility is not just to identify pain points as a researcher, or UX researcher, and designer, they find pain points and fix the solution or improve it. Your responsibility is also to make sure that whoever is building this solution, and whomever is going to sell this solution, in the future, or, you create empathy for them as well. Because obviously they are in their day to day jobs. They are more worried about all the things that are not necessarily the end user. But the more connections you create between them and your end user, it is our responsibility that our design team create that empathy. So then, in the future, they make more informed decisions and they will be more likely to consider the user.
(19:44) Chris: I mean, you would think a product would probably be easier to sell, if you have internally knew that it actually was designed to help that user, as opposed just to make some cash, but was actually a bit rubbish.
(19:58) Carla: Yes. I think that is it. The point is that, design thinking or whatever you want to call it, if you do not want to call it design thinking, it does not matter. It is just the approach that you take for design, which is basically, create empathy, define what you say now are the user needs. So pain points, insights, they are then coming up with ideas of solutions. Prototype these ideas, assess them, improve them or change the direction completely, is something that you can apply to anything. And even even to your life.
(20:37) Chris: Yes, I have seen UX for Change, I think they recently did a talk on applying UX techniques for parenting, as well. So, it really is quite a flexible set of tools that can be applied to any problem area. And kids are definitely a problem area.
(21:00) Carla: Well, I think that is it. What I had to say. I think it is just for me, it has been a journey because it is really ready to defeat different. When you work surrounded by designers and everyone understands what you talking about, and everyone understands the jargon. And they believe, and value what you value, as well. It was more like how you could then try to, bring these ways of working on non-design environments, whether you are still a designer in the team, where you have to interact with non-designers or whether you make the decision to do something different for a little bit, like a date. And just like try to use these techniques to get to an answer. I recently created a new workshop for clients who want to improve the way they do advertising. And create them in a more data driven way. And to the works of the way we were creating before were quite technical, and they actually sounded really complicated. And recently, I created a workshop that used a lot of the techniques of design thinking for it. And took a client through the journey of going through, understanding their insights, understanding the audience personas, which as prepared with the team before the workshop. And then getting them to prioritize the type of data that they would use, to create more data-driven, creative advertising and then got them to do some type of prototyping, and then some prioritization. So it is, how could you stir up all of this, to something that it is not necessarily, you know, design is not done solely work in that environment. And it was super good, because at the end of the session, the client said that I have had these workshops and deposit and this is the first time I actually understand what we are trying to do. So I guess, what I am trying to say is that do not be afraid of using what you know, as a designer, in any context, because it is useful. I just need to obviously frame it the right way. But it is super useful because it is simple and straight forward.
(23:18) Chris: I think it is just a very useful life toolkit. It used to be that in order to do a job you had to have super in depth industry knowledge or whatever, but, by using design thinking, you can solve essentially, any problem, in any space, effectively, without having to have worked in it for 20 years or whatever. So just as a way of dealing with life and your career, I think it is very valuable things to try and apply to different situations, just for your own growth.
(23:51) Carla: Even, for example, if you go for a different job, or you want to explore something different, I will go into business center or anything you wanted to do. You can still do it the same. Do some end user reset, do some prototyping of your ideas, and do some maybe co-creation with your friends or whoever you think would know about the topic. You can still apply all of that. It is just that you do not normally, just think about it in that way. Well, I honestly did not think about it in that way, until I got into this non-design environment.
(24:27) Chris: Cool. Is that all you have got?
(24:30) Carla: That is all I have got! I hope I did not bore you that much.
(24:32) Chris: What, me personally, or the listeners?
(24:35) Carla: The listeners as well. I hope I did not bore them at bit.
(24:36) Chris: Subscriber rates have just plummeted.
(24:42) Carla: All right. Well, very soon I am actually going, I was going to tell you, I am going to be a judge for the next D&AD New Blood of Works. So I might just do a special from there, and interview people from there. So, if you want to know anything about D&AD works, just send me a message on LinkedIn or whatever, and then I am happy to go, and ask the questions for you.
(25:08) Chris: And when is that?
(25:10) Carla: That is on the 29th of April, let me check. Yes, the 29th of April.
(25:20) Chris: Okay, cool.
(25:21) Carla: Cool.
(25:21) Chris: Plug completed.
(25:23) Carla: Okay.
(25:23) Chris: All right, see your next time.
Narrator: Search and subscribe to Design Untangled using your favorite podcast app and leave us a review. Follow us on the web at designuntangled.co.uk or on Twitter @designuntangled. Become a better designer with online mentoring at uxmentor.me.