Partners from Pilmico Animal Nutrition Corporation's Central Maintenance Department in Tarlac take in an ideation workshop using design thinking.
Partners from Pilmico Animal Nutrition Corporation's Central Maintenance Department in Tarlac take in an ideation workshop using design thinking.

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Design Thinking (PART 1): Understanding the basics

Elina Mendoza | June 26, 2019

The buzz around design thinking has only gotten louder, but what is it really? In this series, we talk to Richs Onipon, our AVP for Transformation and Delivery and in-house design thinking expert, to learn more about design thinking and its impact on the organization.

 

What is design thinking?

Design thinking is more than a problem-solving approach. It can help us tackle complex challenges using divergent thinking and collaboration. People often think you need to have a technical background in order to understand it, which is not the case. It’s a process of both questioning and ideating that forces us to shed learned assumptions we may have about a given situation. And ultimately, it’s a mindset that allows us to uncover true human needs and put our stakeholders at the center.

Design thinking has five basic stages. We use the Stanford model to go through each stage of the process.

 

What are the stages of design thinking?

The design thinking process has five parts:

Empathize: Develop a deep understanding of the challenge. Empathy helps us set aside any assumptions we might have about the world and step into the shoes of our stakeholders. Only with empathy can we generate truly valuable insights. You need to get this right using a combination of elicitation, discovery, and immersion techniques.

Define: You need to define what you are trying to figure out—either it is a problem or an opportunity to improve or develop something new. We use the output from empathizing with customers, better understanding their pain points in a human-centered way.

Ideate: This is the part where we leverage on the diverse backgrounds and experiences of the working team. Brainstorming is a powerful tool to create potential solutions without any boundaries. Embrace freethinking and let your imagination run wild to get as many ideas as you can at the beginning of the exercise—they don’t have to be polished right away.

Prototype: Build simple representations of one or more of your best ideas. In a practical sense, you don’t need to develop or make intricate physical models yet. A paper prototype or business simulation can provide visual representations before any resources are tapped.

Test: Test your ideas and get feedback from your stakeholders. While this is the final stage in the process, the feedback actually becomes an input to earlier stages of the process. The feedback you receive may lead you to tweak your prototype or even redefine the problem. “Fail fast and iterate” is key in pursuing any idea.

 

The design thinking process, Stanford D.School Design Thinking model

 

 


People often think you need to have a technical background in order to understand it, which is not the case. It’s a process of both questioning and ideating that forces us to shed learned assumptions we may have about a given situation. And ultimately, it’s a mindset that allows us to uncover true human needs and put our stakeholders at the center.


 

 

Can you give a practical example of design thinking that you have firsthand experience with? What impact did design thinking have?

For someone like me who lives and breathes this mindset, it makes me step back and reflect on other people’s perspective before making any decision.

I’ve learned in my interactions why some individuals are resistant to change. It is not because of the fear of making adjustments; rather, their inputs haven’t been heard or considered. You empathize to ensure that the voice of the customer is above any cutting-edge solution.

One of the most satisfying pieces of feedback I’ve gotten from a team member is when she told me about how design thinking did wonders in increasing customer satisfaction. She was curious about why her stakeholders were often late in completing a particular form. After interviewing some of them, she found that the form wasn’t visually friendly, and it was requiring far too much unnecessary information. She revamped it, turning it into a streamlined one-pager. That is design thinking applied at work!

There are a lot of stories, but imagine the impact of the design thinking mindset emanating from the grassroots level.

 

(Below) The AEV Risk and Aboitiz Foundation teams have both hosted design thinking workshops

 

What can Aboitiz teams expect when they request a design thinking workshop?

It’s a one-day workshop at which I’ll help the team discover focus areas that are critical to transformation and reinvention. I’ll also walk the team through the process of reimagining unique ideas with growth potential for their respective business unit. Participants will leave the training with impactful ideas that are immediately ready for testing. Our goal is to channel these ideas towards any innovation funnel currently existing in the BUs so that they don’t go to waste.

 

Richs Onipon, AEV AVP for Transformation and Delivery, spoke about taking on the digital transformation journey at the first Aboitiz Innovation Week.

One of the most satisfying pieces of feedback I’ve gotten from a team member is when she told me about how design thinking did wonders in increasing customer satisfaction. She was curious about why her stakeholders were often late in completing a particular form. After interviewing some of them, she found that the form wasn’t visually friendly, and it was requiring far too much unnecessary information. She revamped it, turning it into a streamlined one-pager. That is design thinking applied at work!


 

Which teams are good candidates for design thinking training?

Absolutely anyone can benefit from design thinking. In fact, the AEV TechGroup is partnering with AEV HR on the rollout of design thinking as one of the mandatory digital courses for the Group. In order for us to develop the digital mindset, team members at all levels must be aligned with and upskilled in this emerging way of thinking.

 

 

Look out for Part 2 ‘Design Thinking for Aboitiz’ to be posted next week!