The EXCITED Human Centred Design Thinking Methodology

design-thinking

INTRODUCTION

Design Thinking is a recent school of design practice that is designed to help organisations connect better with the people they serve, and in particular to create compelling customer experiences. The Design Thinking approach to creating combination physical/digital interaction experiences is oriented towards creating exceptional business performance and monetisation outcomes for the organisation, whilst delivering positive emotional experiences for the customer that generate loyalty and adoption of the organisations products and services.

This win-win philosophy is achieved by designing via EXCITED whatever product or experience platform from the “outside-in” perspective that takes into account the whole stakeholder diverse needs and wants. The old industrial era traditional “inside-out” design approach where the employees, managers and experts dictate what customers want and will get, is replaced by this consultative, value adding EXCITED process that brings alive the customer experience.

Organisations have traditionally used customer service as the notion by which they decide internally how they will treat their customers and design everything from those internal assumptions and knowledge. The Customer experience is what each customer actually receives or experiences and there is normally a gap between what the organisation serves up as service and what the customer needs and wants in that experience.

This customer experience gap is what smart organisations attempt to close so they excite and please their customers. This gap is the difference between what is served up versus what is wanted by the customer to be served up.

The Design Thinking model works hard at looking at the end of what the customer wants and needs in the customer experience and then sets out find out how best to enable and meet that with technology, products, services and stimulation of the senses.

The EXCITED Design Thinking philosophy is oriented towards each of the 6 main human senses and how to stimulate them in a positive way, or at least in a neutral way so as not to trigger negative emotions. The customer experience is designed to emotionally stroke the customer to elicit positive feelings and emotions which then become an association with that company’s brand, products, services and experiences.

Design Thinking is informed by neuroscience, psychology, data and metrics, and a rewiring of the organisational mind set or culture to adopt and align to what is created for the customer to experience. The approach will tend to innovate and transform traditional approaches to do the same thing in a new way that captures the imagination, attention and support of those whom it is targeted to service.

The EXCITED Human Centred Design Thinking Methodology was created by Conscious Business Australia principal Richard Boyd in 2010 after attending Central Saint Martins College in London for formal training in Design Thinking. The EXCITED methodology is designed to inform large scale digital experience and conventional projects and is aligned to traditional PMBOK project management principles.

Indeed every major disrupter business entity in Silicon Valley, such as Apple, Uber, and AIRBNB now routinely use some form of Design Thinking methodology in the inception and disruptive design of new products and services to take on traditional incumbents in their markets. Any such Design Thinking such as EXCITED is integrated into the wider over-arching PMBOK Project Management methodology, as well as the Software Development Methodology (SDM) such as UTIL/SCRUM or the like.

OVERALL APPROACH

The enacted EXCITED process of design takes what is largely unconscious in the behaviour of identified key customer demographics around the product or service experience being engaged with and makes the dynamics conscious.   The deficiencies and negative adaptations that the customer experience in their journey to, from, and within the engagement of that product, service or experience.

The process looks at 3 key drivers that leading design thinkers IDEO describe as each informing the outcome in terms of the design. They are:

  • What do people desire and respond to?
  • What is technically and organisationally feasible?
  • What can be financially viable?

The EXCITED Methodology has been utilised to inform the design outcome and to capture the user experience elements and dynamics that must be engineered into the outcome. It is common in projects to blindly propose leading edge technology that is disconnected from such upfront human centric planning but the results will show via a lack of engagement and relevance in the user experience that results.

Such an approach can result in commercial failure. The EXCITED methodology was created in order to understand the potential user population of whatever is being designed and then convert that understanding into consciously created tangible design and deliverables.

The EXCITED Design Thinking methodology is a 7 phase approach with each letter of EXCITED representing a keyword to describe the phase or stage of the process we are in.

The first stage of the EXCITED methodology is Examine stage. At this stage we use various knowledge gathering tools such as interviews, research and polls to examine the drives, tastes and distastes, and needs and wants of the actual targeted user populations of what is being designed.

For instance interviews might be done in-situ in contexts similar or using examples similar to what is being designed. The interviews might be done with both individuals and groups.

This process involved identifying who our customers of the design artefact are, and creating personas and profiles of each persona. The process also involves active listening and documentation of what these user groups each want or need.

As a result one obtains at the outset a set of profiles that will influence the design of the technology and sensory deliverables.

The results of the Examine phase include the creation of distinct categories of users who may be delineated by various key human or social demographics. These can be broken down in many ways but critically the EXCITED methodology examines mindfully what may influence the creation of a compelling user experience in each category or group.

Whilst there may be trade-offs there are certain human stakeholder groups or contexts that have certain wants and needs to be addressed in the design regardless of whether it is a technology or a digital or physical artefact being designed.

The second stage of the EXCITED Design Thinking methodology is the X-Factor. What the X-Factor is as a general rule is the value proposition and themes that must be teased out of the identified stakeholder groups we have identified in the Examine stage.

The value proposition or themes will be uncovered through interview processes as well as Customer Experience Maps which are timelines of customer journeys around and to what is being designed, mapped to positive, neutral or negative emotional states. What they uncover are those process driven factors which affect the customer experience in a positive or negative way, and which matter most to the customer.

These X-Factor points are those which we consciously design as positives in the processes and experiences via attention to the senses, products, services and technology. There are also those negative factors which we also consciously address through design to exclude or mitigate.

As a general rule the greater the degree of personalisation that can be achieved will assist in the achieving a fans first outcome for each category of stakeholder. We were mindful that the EXCITED Methodology would assist to identify the technology critically need to demonstrate the ability to create deep personalisation as an X-Factor.

The EXCITED methodology considers the digital world and its enabling technologies. It considers in the X-FACTOR stage what technologies assist in the creation of the user experience. The X-Factor may evaluate for instance experiences that are enabled by the possessing of intelligent apps, system analytics gathering, or the personalised profiles that need to be build and used to guide content and engagement choices.

The third stage of the EXCITED Design Thinking Methodology is Create. This stage is where we create the overall design opportunities and solutions into a design framework. These can be concepts, prototypes and constructs which bring to life the ideas for experiential examination.

This may involve the key stakeholder groups being consciously mapped and considered with each positive X-factor principle in mind. The technology consideration may involve the general digital and physical design element that affects their emotional/physical/mental experience in a positive or negative way.

The result will be a set of user processes and cases that could be translated to iterative and prototyping software development methodologies such as SCRUM/AGILE SDM. The 10 key areas of PMBOK encapsulate the process as a manageable and commercially geared project.

The fourth stage of the EXCITED Design Thinking methodology is Isolate/Integrate. In this stage we isolate each service and technical feature that will be required to express the identified process or product and what and how we will create in the user experience.

The fifth stage of the EXCITED Design Thinking methodology is Technology as technology invariably is a potentially innovative and disruptive side of the customer experience. In this phase we revisit the X-Factor phase and document the technology and architecture in terms of the User Interface (UI) and the User Experience (UIX).

For instance there may be an app interface, the various device classes for the app, the back-end technology platforms, hardware and software components, licences, development and customisation tasks, and interfaces to other technology or human interfaces.

This phase also covers where relevant content deliverables and classes, and how content will be originated, served, protected (copyright), and stored when technology and content are part of the user experience.

The sixth stage of the EXCITED Design Thinking methodology is Execute. This phase creates the testing and transition plans, test cases, user feedback processes, and scalability and reporting metrics and processes. This stage is where we create the Pilot Process to test and gain feedback from a user base which can inform the design process and create further iterative change before a final version is signed off.

The seventh stage of the EXCITED Design Thinking methodology is Deploy. This phase covers the engagement plan which targets how to manage the introduction of the new user experiences, the environments to support the creation of the user experiences, and supporting systems.

This phase will have a close alignment with the PMBOK based Project Management Methodology. It will inform the Implementation and operational Plan considerations as well as revenue and cost modelling, and Training plans. It will also consider the mindset, values and cultural framework that will need to exist within the organisation to support the adoption of the Total User Experience drivers, factors and technologies.

As well this Deploy phase includes the formation of a Learning Plan that can ensures that the operational life of the deliverables are exposed to change and innovation such that there is an awareness of the need to add, modify, replace or continue adaptation or evolution of the product or service experience. This aspect reduces the chance of being blindsided by another innovative disrupter who could enter the market and satisfy the changing needs of users and customers.

DESIGN THINKING ALIGNS TO CONSCIOUS BUSINESS PRINCIPLES

Design Thinking is more than a tool or methodology. It’s a cultural mindset within the organisation that permeates the way people work and interact, as well as the way they think about themselves, others and life.

Indeed it’s a Conscious Business culture that best contains Design Thinking as there is a synergy and alignment in ideas, ideals and thinking that makes the two support each other in practice. Normally in the work that I do with start-ups and organisations looking to transform and redefine who they are, we need to spend a significant piece of time understanding the cultural and energetic dimensions of the brand and the business.

Often there is a need to create the cultural container in the organisation which will allow Design Thinking mindsets to be adopted and flourish. I have worked in start-ups where the senior people thought they knew it all and had closed minds to innovation despite trying themselves to being a disruptive/innovative business model.

The problem with numerous entrepreneurs is ego and a fear based need for total control. They may have created a great idea but are paranoid over loss of control and theft of IP. They often end up in conflict with their best people and sabotage the ability to properly commercialise the idea or concept with an open and collaborative work place culture.

The EXCITED methodology, like any Design Thinking based methodology, can only work when embedded into a work culture that is safe, engenders trust, that allows for informed risk taking and a mind that is able to be curious and playful, rather than anxious and watching its back. There are many ways to describe the elements of a supportive culture for a Design Thinking led approach to approaching creative idea formation and the resultant inception and testing of such new products, services and experiences.

Below is one such summary I recently used for a client in making conscious the elements needed in the business to create a high performing workplace culture that avails itself to Design Thinking practices.

The MAGNIFICENT SEVEN P’s OF A CONSCIOUS BUSINESS WORKPLACE

  • PEOPLE – People are a network of brains who bring energy and ideas to life. High performance teams need to feel safe through being treated with dignity, honesty and respect so that they will feel able to be curious, creative, challenge, and take an informed risk.
  • PROFIT – A business needs to be profitable so the footing is not oriented to surviving, but is free to be in the energy of thriving. There needs to be reward for effort rather than the role, and equitable distribution of monies across the team so they individually too can come to work in thriving rather than a surviving mindset.
  • PLANET – How we operate in our community and what legacy we leave is a concern we all share. We are mindful of the resources and energy we consume, the waste and outcomes we generate, and how we seed this Conscious Business consciousness in all our stakeholders to influence them to get aligned, and to teach our children and families this new sustainable way of “WE” instead of “ME” business that is what is needed to survive in the New Economy and for the planet to have mindful custodians.
  • PRESENCE – How we individually show up each day has an effect on others through our presence. We individually listen and contribute, observe, support and challenge mindfully the assumptions and status quo when that is the right thing to do. My personal leadership is based on respect and not popularity, where I can make a tough call as it is what is needed to be done. I am safe in myself and safe to be around and so others can feel safe to collaborate and engage in mutual endeavour and friendship.
  • PERSPECTIVE – I am a unique person with a collection of skills, experiences, knowledge, information, values and beliefs that makes my perspective unique and valuable. The insight that creates breakthrough innovation can come from anyone rather than some stated role and I honour that potential in myself and others. I create my own reality and I am not a victim to what happens as I co-create everything that happens to us at work each day and the final result of what happens to us as a business over time. It’s us AND them in collaboration around here.
  • PROVOKE/PLAY – I can only be conscious by actively listening to others and challenging assumptions and the status quo when it seems there is a better way or that way is unsafe or able to be made better. I can play with my colleagues as it is safe to do so respectfully. I look forward to coming to work as the trust placed in me empowers me to be both silly and serious, and knowing when it is time to be either.
  • PRODUCT AND ITS EXPERIENCE – A great product is a great start but it’s not enough. The customer experience of our product, of me, of our brand where ever that is displayed or mentioned, is what defines us, it defines our brand and how successful we are. Our success is in the hands of our customers and I work to understand them, stand in their shoes, and exceed their expectations when I can. I want to share the great energy of working here with our customers, suppliers, shareholders and stakeholders as we are all one at the end of the day.

Richard Boyd, CEO Conscious Business Australia
Copyright 2015.

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