Customer behaviors have significantly shifted; in a study published by Forrester, companies will see a 40% increase in digital customer service in the year 2021.
Though some companies will thrive in this new frontier, most will struggle to keep up. Implementing digital technologies are not enough. The critical element of a successful digital transformation is behavior change. The complexity experienced is not limited to technology and integration challenges; the most limiting ones deals more with people. Customer adoption, change management and breaking down silos.
Traditional approaches to project management such as waterfall will not work in this dynamic environment. Companies will need agile business partners to support this digital shift. In a webinar hosted by BAIN and Company, they shared that 2/3 of project predictions will be wrong. We must plan to adapt and involve users/ customers in the process and not as an afterthought.
Shifting customer behaviors, the need for agility, and customer adoption are challenges that have existed even before the pandemic. If we are to look back at the practices that have made it possible for some of the biggest companies in the world to adapt and create better value for their customers, one framework that stands out is Design Thinking.
Design Thinking, plainly described, is a human centered approach to creative problem solving. It uses a set of tools to better understand people’s needs, generate ideas, rapidly deploy prototypes, and test and learn to bring out the best products, services, and processes for the organization. Using this set of tools, better decisions are made on what customers really want and value vs. relying on assumptions, bets, or old data.
Six Sigma taught us the prioritization matrix as a guide to make decisions by looking at Impact and Effort. What I love about Design Thinking is that it introduces us to a new component that should be equally important. Desirability is the lens that looks at what makes sense for people. Do people want it? Do they want to be associated with it? These factors are all at play whether it’s a product, a service, or a process that is being created.
Design thinking has 6 steps. First: Frame a question - Define your design challenge. Who are you designing for? Second: Gather inspiration - Practice empathy and assume the point of view of the people you are designing for. Gather your observations, translate them to insights, and set your “how might we” question. Third: Generate Ideas – Start with divergent thinking, get past the obvious answers and push for fresh solutions to the problem, and then move to convergent thinking to pick the best ideas. Fourth: Make Ideas Tangible - Build prototypes. Make them real and make them cheap. Use storyboards or cardboard prototypes to bring your ideas to life. Fifth: Test and Learn – Go out and test your idea, gather feedback, and iterate. Last: Share the Story – Now that you have the best version of the solution in your hand, build your story, show and tell it to your clients and customers, and inspire change. These steps, instead of being linear, move back and forth. The key is to break through what is familiar and obvious. Look for surprises along the way. That is when you know you found something that is truly special.
These steps are critical in building successful products, solutions, and processes. Combined with agile project management, it allows companies to react faster to change and get value out into the market faster than the competition. Design thinking can be misleading as it is more about doing than thinking. We build to think and learn a bias towards action and a human centered core that reminds us that businesses don’t transform, people change first.
*Design thinking process source: IDEO.com