Introducing Design Thinking To The Enterprise

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Last week I had the chance to watch a short, and precise Keynote of the d.Vision-Day at the by Claudia Kotchka on her great work a Procter and Gamble, where she was responsible for implementing the change towards a design thinking centered culture. To be in line with her very condensed and simple but insightful talk, I’ll make this one short.

I think all the same applies to the introduction of the right culture for working on products, as I anyhow think great products can only be done by understanding the design process (e.g. design thinking or design studio) and some form of agile.

So, how did she do it? (And you can google lots of this!)

Go with suction. 

To get buy in to her new approach, she started implementing it in those Procter & Gamble brands that were suffering the most, as they were so desperate to take any medicine that could help.

Bring in designers as Trojan horses

Claudia Kotchka knew that designers had the entire required tools and methods fort he innovation work in their backpacks and brought them into the organization. Again – she introduced them where the need was the biggest. This supported a next good principle to support adoption:

Show, don’t tell

To earn credibility fast, it is important not to talk about solutions for ages, but rather get into action quickly. Get your hands dirty and show how it’s done with the people involved rather than conduct meetings and try to explain what’d be the right thing to do. Simply do it! The designers in place where multiplicators for this way of working.

Demonstrate the power and meaning of design

In the typical organization, the meaning of design goes along the lines of ‚make things look nice’ and not the actual meaning of analyze the customers needs and iteratively narrow down the solution space in lots of non linear diverging and converging steps. To deepen this understanding, she took the colleagues to

Visit design studios

To get a hang of the design culture. There were lots of surprises tot he design newbies, like ‚designers might have blue hair’ and ‚none oft hem were working on pretty things’. Seeing designers work on ‚ugly’ lo fi prototypes broke the ice towards an 

Understanding of the role of prototypes

Many companies struggle with the concept of creating and let alone show customers ‚ugly’ lo fi prototypes. While it is clear to some that early and ready prototyping and demoing of them increases the learning curve and is a great way of testing hypothesis, many are just afraid of presenting those to their clients. The reaction might be ‚Oh my god, look at these prototypes, these guys really need help’. And here Claudia said „and this exactly what we needed most: help“ They were prototyping to receive help and input from their clients on what their actual needs are. The clients’ feedback literally helped P&G to turn around their business.

Embrace a culture of failure

Comes along with a prototype centered design process. Most prototypes don’t demonstrate the whole product but aspects of it. They are designed to be a test of a specific hypothesis in the solution space and every result is fine. If the prototype is getting positive feedback: Good, we’re on the right way. If not: The feedback still helps to narrow down the solution space and we seem to have found a path w e don’t need to follow further. The only bad result in prototype testing is possibly ‚no feedback’ as the only purpose of a prototype is to get feedback. Thus it is crucial to think about what you are testing with the prototype and what interaction you want to create in the test.

Set up skunk works type projects

P&G set up the famous Clay Street project model (guess where!) in which each time x-functional team across P&G of 10 people was working for 10 weeks on a hard problem to solve. Those problems were mostly around saving and reviving a P&G brand. The rumor is they had a 100% success rate with that approach. Well, if it were only 30-50 %, I’d still think it’s great!

Go beyond the analytical mind set

The largest obstacle in this change is to make clear that the analytical mindset does not work for the creation of new opportunities. By analyzing quantitative date you will not get a hint of customers needs. (See one of our next posts on details). Also in focus groups, the aseptical environment in which nearly every company dares to face its customers, won’t get you the important insights. It is ‚Get out oft he building’, ‚live with your customers’ etc. which is providing the real insight. Also, the culture of extrapolating the future from past data is not helpful in exploring the ne wand unknown.

Finally, the success formula of introducing Design Thinking at P&G was roughly:

  • Motivate people by providing purpose, not money
  • Empathy
  • Get disciplines together
  • Embrace a culture of mistakes
    • No more mistakes
    • Prototypes
  • Patience
  • You need to take the leap of faith

I think similar things can be said for any transformation from a purpose free, internally focused busy product environment to one having again the customer in mind and thinking deep and working hard on providing real value.

What are your thoughts and experiences on similar changes?

P.S.: A great round of applause to Claudia Kotchka on how simple and self-evident she made it look and how humble she came across!

Foto: Some rights reserved by Dan Zen

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