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Design Thinking Platform

Enabling digital innovation in a crisis, faster.


Ian H Smith

As we live through a challenging economic environment, investment in digital innovations, whether it's enterprises, government agencies, charities or startups, more than ever before, justifying spend requires a truly compelling argument. We have entered a world where 'must haves' are the only digital innovations that will get funding for design and delivery.

The Method

Our approach is built on a foundation of the five step method created by the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University ( Empathize; Define; Ideate; Prototype; and, Test - rapidly iterated.

The Platform

Through iterative, 1-hour online Workshops, each Design Thinking step is completed and refined, underpinned by rigorous ROI Modelling, as expanded upon below. In a challenging economic environment, ROI Models can help stakeholders to separate 'must have' from 'nice to have' features and prioritise the Roadmap for each digital innovation, according to these real world constraints.

Our Design Thinking Platform is built to enable all stakeholders in a digital innovation engagement to access the system via industry-standard Web browsers, running on desktop/laptop PC, tablet and smartphone user devices. The Modules with Design Thinking Platform are illustrated in the infographic below

The Principles

Our Design Thinking method is focused on rapidly creating solutions on a No-Code Platform that may be described as solutions built on a combination of forms and workflow, and executed via pages on desktop/laptop PC, tablet or smartphone user devices. In order to maximise a No-Code First approach, we work with three Design Principles, as set-out below.

#1. Meaningful Journey

When designing a next generation tech solution, the first thing to create is its journey: the path, steps or tasks that users will complete in providing a service, undertaking work or solving a big and important problem. This also means removing steps or tasks that are wasteful or unnecessary. This journey must be a Meaningful Journey: from the login page to logout, when the task is done.

#2. Fierce Reduction

When users get confused with legacy IT, it's usually because what they are confronted with on a page view offers too many choices of what to do next. Often, there is no obvious place to go or action to take next. What's needed is a Fierce Reduction mindset: a way to eliminate everything on each screen that distracts from any action at each stage of what should be a Meaningful Journey.

#3. Progressive Disclosure

When designing a Meaningful Journey and applying Fierce Reduction, it is better to have more clicks or swipes, than add too many options in any given view. This means that with Progressive Disclosure, you will have to engage in a trade-off between simplicity of a screen view, versus the number of steps in a Meaningful Journey.

When taking stakeholders and early adopters through User Experience (UX) and User Acceptance Testing (UAT) sessions, these three Design Principles are a great way to sense-check different reactions from different 'User Personas' - relative to how intuitive a cloud app is in relation to it having a Meaningful Journey and has enough Fierce Reduction been applied to simplify the UI - or has there been an optimal trade-off between number of clicks or swipes or pages navigated - all against specific processes or tasks?

The Discovery

Every organisation that employs two or more people is political. When we think about enterprises, public sector or non-profit organisations, the reality is, when you want to apply digital innovation, to change processes for the better, there's always barriers to contend with.

The automation or reimagining of tasks and processes requires a consensus to be built among people who, may not know each other, or may even mistrust each other, or even be adversaries. We must face and defeat these realities, if digital innovation is to succeed. What matters here is trust. And when using our Design Thinking Platform (with 1-hour online Workshops) we want each step of this process to generate sufficient receptivity and rapport that results in trust.

In the absence of sufficient trust, human bias can create closed-mindedness, acting as an inhibitor to curiosity and exploration. To adopt a ‘beginner’s mind’ is actually helpful to solving problems with digital innovation: to look at business challenges in new ways – with all stakeholders. As a Design Thinker, a stakeholder in digital innovation is embracing the inherent behaviours of a designer, where curiosity is key.  

Mutual Value Discovery is all about engaging in trustful communications between stakeholders across the buyside and sellside in any digital innovation exploration. As illustrated above, our brains comprise three areas that govern our emotions, our reasoning, our survival. Often, in corporate cultures, there is, collectively a lack of a 'Limbic System'.

Often you will hear managers saying that they make data-driven decisions. There is a strange saying: "it's not personal, it's business''. But all of business is personal: deep intuition for customers transcends explicit data. As you will see below, this starts with key observations when applying Empathy Mapping: stakeholders motivations based on what they 'Say, Do, Think and Feel'.  

The Start

The first, important step in our Design Thinking method is Empathize. This is where we combine our Design Thinking Platform with 1-hour online Workshops to engage in Empathy Mapping. In applying Empathy Mapping it is important to embrace three key behavioural attributes: 'Immerse'; 'Observe'; and, 'Engage'. The rewards from this is the discovery of both explicit and implicit needs: often resulting in unexpected solutions and outcomes for cloud app design.

Immerse means experiencing what the user experiences.
Observe means observing user behaviour in the context of their lives.
Engage means interact, interview – all in short intercept encounters.

To enable consensus-building around problem-solving, we should start with the first step in Design Thinking: 'Empathize'. And from this step, apply Empathy Mapping. Within the Design Thinking Platform Projects Object, each Project starts with a blank canvas for Empathy Mapping to be applied in the 1-hour online Workshops.

When applying the Design Thinking Platform to Empathy Mapping, Users embrace the three basic questions: 'What?'; 'How?'; and, 'Why?'. The ‘What?’ becomes observable facts; the ‘How?’ is all about emotional responses; and, the ‘Why?’ becomes the inferences drawn. All of this builds a picture, as the process moves iteratively through the five steps of Design Thinking: Empathize; Define; Ideate; Prototype; and, Test.

In the 1-hour online Workshops, Empathy Maps are captured as statements in the Say, Do, Think  and Feel Fields within the Design Thinking Projects Object. As the facilitator unpacks the findings from Empathy Mapping, a three-column list can generate output, as illustrated below.

The Modelling

In a challenging economic environment, such as today's world, more than ever before, it is vital that digital innovations can show a strong validation for a Return On Investment (ROI) - where such ROI is probably going to need to show tangible value creation or cost savings inside one calendar year or less. This is Mutual Value Discovery.

Users of the Design Thinking Platform here are using one or more ROI Modelling Templates from the Models and making sure that they create a 'Progressive Disclosure' of Value Created as a 'what-if', when comparing 'Current State (As-Is)' with 'Future State (To-Be)', all as a tangible consequence of applying digital innovation to a particular process or task. All of this starts at step one with Empathy Mapping but should be updated at every step of Design Thinking, as stakeholders move iteratively through the subsequent Define, Iterate, Prototype and Test steps.

For digital innovations in a challenging economic environment the Design Thinking Platform Model can calculate the 'Cost of Delay' in any investment, by measuring this in say, days - or even comparing this value against 'Cost of Doing Nothing' - over different timeframes. The Model can also include Templates for both an objective, quantitative 'Economic Basis of Decision' and a subjective, qualitative 'Emotional Basis of Decision'.

Scorecards for both quantitative and qualitative values in any ROI Model can also be applied to specific features, processes or tasks scoped in the overall Emapthize and Define steps and then providing objective support for grading each element in relation to 'must have' or 'nice to have' features in any particular engagement or solution Roadmap. 

The Summary

Our Design Thinking Platform is focused on enabling digital innovation in a crisis, faster. This applies equally to startups, NHS hospital Trusts, local government, charities and enterprises, of all sizes, across all industries. The advantages are:

  • Design Thinking Foundation. Solving 'wicked problems' through a structured, yet highly consensual approach among all stakeholders.
  • Low-Cost, Low-Risk and Online. Built for digital innovation in a lockdown and beyond. Agile, iterative 1-hour online Workshops captured in a simple, structured Design Thinking method. 
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