Design Thinking Session in the service of Design
How to generate over 100 business ideas in complex company structures within 8 hours? Design Thinking Session comes to the rescue – a method we used in cooperation with one of our clients from the fintech industry. Explore the whole process step by step.
One of our clients from the fintech industry has come to us with the subject of carrying out Service Design services. As part of the project, we worked with the team to create a new service. The cooperation lasted from March to May 2019 and included a number of activities in the field of defining the user needs, finding the right target group and testing.
During the cooperation lasting several months, we used many tools aimed at the final delivery of the product to meet at the Design Thinking Session (sometimes known as Design Thinking JAM). This method involves a rapid transition from ideas to solutions within 6-8 business hours. Design Thinking comes in various forms. It is often adapted as a tool, for example, in Google Design Sprint. This methodology functions as both a set of rules that help create new products, and a very defined framework.
What is Design Thinking Session?
Design Thinking is a broadly defined design process characterized by relatively high structuring. The idea is to focus on the user and try to understand his problems and needs. This method is often used to create new ideas, which is why we decided to work on a completely new service.
Design Thinking is divided into 5 main stages:
- Empathy, during which we try to understand the researched process behavior. It is important not to draw conclusions at this stage.
- Defining needs. Based on the collected materials, we determine the problems and needs of Persona.
- Generating ideas. Only after determining the target group problems and needs, we generate (for the selected topic) as many solutions as possible. However, this phase limits any criticism. Quantity is what counts, not quality.
- Prototyping. Ok, we already have a lot of ideas. Time to choose the best ones. Thus, we narrow the created solutions to a maximum of several variants.
- Testing. At the last stage, we test created solutions – we check whether they make sense and whether they meet the needs of our Persona.
Why did we decide to use Design Thinking Session?
The choice of Design Thinking Session wasn’t random.
- The whole project lasted about 3 months. We were working according to various methodologies in the field of Service Design. We formed a team of four, which after two months of the project stalled.
- We have analyzed many personas, conducted dozens of interviews. We also knew, which way we couldn’t go. What we needed was a fresh look at the collected data and creating an interesting solution.
- We lacked the exchange of knowledge between our client’s units, who has thousands of employees from various regions of Poland. Therefore, we invited people from teams from several cities to the workshops.
Due to Design Thinking Session:
- we’ve unified the knowledge in the organization,
- we’ve shown the direction of product development
- we’ve learned different perspectives of employees from different departments,
- we’ve confirmed that our conclusions were correct.
How to get ready for Design Thinking Session?
Design Thinking Session requires the involvement of a dozen people. It’s also best if they were from different environments, had different experiences and were involved in working with client at different levels. This way, we received a wide spectrum of verification of our activities.
A very big risk during the preparation process before Design Thinking Session is working on your own assumptions and overinterpreting the acquired data. During this session, we’re not supposed to suggest conclusions, needs or next steps. We should provide objective, non-suggestive data. Workshop participants should draw their own conclusions and create actions at each stage.
We created two 6-person teams for the needs of this project. However, the number of participants was the most optimal to carry out the creative process.
Design Thinking is a creative method, and therefore, we took care of various materials, such as plasticine, paper newspapers, old clothes and balloons. We weren’t sure whether the participants would use the materials, but we were convinced that their mere presence of these things would encourage creative action. We also remembered that creative work is very tiring, even though it might look easy. Fruit, water, tea is something that facilitates work greatly. It’s good to work in a relatively large space with good access to light as well.
Before each workshop, we set a clear goal, this was also the case this time. In relation to the goal, we select tools and materials. It’s very risky to create materials and not check them before the workshops, which is why we asked for an hour session with a person outside the team, who didn’t participate in the workshop, to give us feedback on the prepared tools. Thanks to this, we’ve were sure that everything would be clear for participants.
Case study – Introduction
In our client’s project team, a large number of people heard about the Design Thinking method, but not everyone worked with it, so we presented its principles:
- openness to creative methods, especially artistic ones,
- workshop rules, such as: 1 thought is 1 sticky note.
As usually, we presented hour slots and workshop plan and their purpose.
Unfortunately, we couldn’t immediately start the process. Many exercises and creative activities may seem completely abstract to employees, so it’s worth preparing them for these.
We started with the Mind Map and connection system. The employees came from various departments, and we wanted to integrate them, which is why we proposed a task of seeking common interests and topics, for instance, everything that connects them. As a result, we have moved to a higher level of abstract thinking.
After choosing a theme that connected the participants, we offered them to create crest in visual form using artistic materials. Manual work stimulates the brain hemisphere responsible for people’s creativity, and that’s what we meant.
Stage 1: Empathy
Due to previous cooperation with the client, when we came to the workshop we had developed very precisely two persons who had a short bio describing the environment from which they originate. We didn’t provide participants with the problems or needs we defined, but with authentic quotes that were given during the interviews.
In the form of the scene prepared earlier, we described a typical day for two people, which we chose to develop. The so-called Customer Journey Map was the result of nearly twenty interviews, and throughout the history we took elements that were objectively repeated in several cases.
Why is objectivity in the data provided so important?
As we have determined, this session can confirm whether we have defined the problems correctly. It may turn out that the participants interpret the data provided completely differently. This is an important signal that we’re heading in the wrong (or right) direction.It would be perfect if the participants talked to the person whose problem we solve and we strongly encourage it.
Stage 2: Defining Needs
The next stage is the analysis of all existing materials and open discussion within the team. We asked participants to list all the needs and problems that a particular persona currently has.
According to the rule, one note equals one need or one problem, we put them on a flipchart. When the team decided that they could no longer create more elements, we moved on to the next part of this stage – to organize.
We started with a quick verification whether the listed needs and problems are not solutions. When it comes to Design Thinking, a lot of people try to immediately create solutions to the reported problem, while the Defining Needs stage isn’t the place to create solutions. Time for solutions will come up.
Participants had a lot of trouble choosing the main problem they wanted to deal with later in the process, which is why we used the “3 dots” method – each participant has 3 votes that can be freely distributed among the available alternatives. They could vote with 3 dots on one problem or choose 3 sticky notes and give one vote to each. Finally, we counted the votes and it turned out that one problem won with a huge advantage.
What’s next? At the end of this phase, transform the problem into a creative question. We use the grammatical formula according to the DesignThinking Institute:
How could we [HELP WHO SOLVE WHAT] so that he/she could [ACHIEVE WHAT]
Due to the NDA we’ve signed, we cannot disclose the problem developed at the workshop. However, we will give examples of sentences that might sound… How could we help Project: People to serve customers so that they can control the world quickly and effectively.
This question has an opening form, participants reading a defined problem stimulate their creativity to find the answer. Interestingly, both groups chose the same problem for persona. The sentences may have sounded a little different, but they were about the same thing.
Stage 3: Generating ideas
Usually, at the very beginning of the idea generation stage, we do an introduction to the brainstorming method. It was no different in this case. It’s needed since most people have heard brainstorming, but have never used it according to the rules, which read:
- one note equals one idea,
- we don’t criticize ideas,
- it’s quantity that counts, not quality.
In order for the participants to change the way of thinking from analytical to more creative, we suggested a 3-minute warm-up. Participants were to generate as many ideas as possible by answering the question:
“How could we use a paper clip to make it useful for us?”
Remember that during the warm-up, it’s worth setting a specific time limit and remind the participants frequently that they are competing with each other. Already at the very warm-up, the participants generated a total of nearly 100 creative ideas for using the paper clip. Did they make sense? Absolutely not, but only after such fun we could move on to the actual problem solving phase.
This time, the participants got a little over 30 minutes. This stage was full of long and extended discussions, which ended with dozens of real solutions. Which ones to choose? The advantage of Design Thinking Session is the quick verification of created ideas, so it’s worth choosing the ones you want to test first. Sometimes, some solutions, such as a “transfer of thoughts” have to be rejected. Such a shame 🙂
Due to the fact that we were solving a business problem, we decided to draw a graph. On the horizontal line we’ve marked “ease of implementation” and on the vertical line – the “massiveness of the solution”. Then, working in teams, we placed the proposed solutions within these two axes, so that in the upper right corner of the axis we had solutions relatively cheap and accessible to everyone, and in the lower left corner of the axis were those intended for a niche and relatively expensive.
However, this tool didn’t define the solutions that participants wanted to check. It was only supposed to direct us to the business context. After long discussions, each group chose 2 solutions that they wanted to implement.
Stage 4: Prototyping
Groups began prototyping with two completely different solutions to a similar problem. It was here that they had to define the main aspects of the solution in 20 minutes and specify how it would work. Using previously prepared materials, one group made a cardboard prototype for a physical product, while the other created a genre scene, in which they presented the main concept of the idea.
This part was about analyzing the solution in more detail and thinking about the situations, in which our persona could use it.
Stage 5: Testing
And there it is! The finish of the whole day’s work has come. After understanding the recipient, defining his problem, generating hundreds of solutions and creating a prototype – at the end it’s worth checking if it actually makes sense at all.
How to do it? We decided to present the prepared solutions to the target group. We invited people from other company departments to the afternoon session.
Their task was feedback – an open and honest opinion about the idea. It’s noteworthy that we gave our “testers” a minimum amount of information about the project. They were to find themselves in this situation and identify with the problem.
Obviously, the test in this form is just the first step that allowed us to quickly eliminate 2 projects, after which the participants clearly stated that they didn’t make sense. And to choose one solution that was pretty exciting.
Finally, we decided to make corrections to the solutions created and test again. We invited other guests and it turned out that they had similar feelings about the solutions developed.
Was it a finished product? Absolutely not, but considering the fact that we had developed a similar solution in our dedicated team a month ago, we were convinced that we were going in the right direction.
You already know why we decided on Design Thinking Session, now it’s time to evaluate real results.
- People from various departments felt definitely more involved.
- We’ve increased awareness of our project and its essence.
- We’ve received confirmation of the solution, which we also developed ourselves.
- We’ve received a complete list of corrections and valuable comments that we had to include in the final product.
- The employees themselves generated many interesting ideas, in particular those that were to be implemented immediately with a relatively low effort.
- We’ve gotten about 100 proposals for pivot in a situation where our solution would turn out to be wrong.
Summary of our work
Hours of work
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