A conversation with Adriana Ruiz, Founder Agami Studio

We had an interesting conversation with Adriana Ruiz, the Founder and Director of Agami Studio. She shared on how companies can combine Design and Innovation in creating great services that impact businesses, people and planet.

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You’ve been running Agami Studios for almost half a decade now, what made you see the need to combine Design + Innovation?

To answer this question I’m going a bit back in time for context. My entire life has revolved around art thinking and design. I started with Innovation when I was in the UK in 2010. For the next 6 years, I researched and worked in consulting projects using Design + Innovation, most of them in the UK and very few in Costa Rica.

Returning to my home country and even in the early stages of Agami, I found a huge gap in the market regarding the practice of innovation. It was as if I spoke a totally different language when speaking about innovation as a process where people create value. In 2016, I decided to become an Entrepreneur in this area. So it’s been very interesting experiencing first hand the design of a value proposition for unmet needs that weren’t even recognized back then but I knew they existed based on my experience abroad. 

Design and Innovation are just starting to bloom. Now, there is a tangible need in this part of the world to bring a holistic approach to value creation, and that’s where Design + Innovation comes in to do its magic.

“…there is a tangible need in this part of the world to bring a holistic approach to value creation.”

What areas do companies seeking to create value need to look into?

I think it depends on the region. In Latin America, most companies still follow a traditional approach to the competition, so most of them are swimming in red oceans. The first place these companies should look at is the unmet needs of their users. The majority still works with unvalidated insights, which is so risky. I’m positive that as soon as they start to invest in user research and align those insights into their company’s strategy, value will be created faster and with better use of their internal resources.

“The first place these companies should look at is the unmet needs of their users.”

Would you say companies have really done well in creating value for their customers and internal stakeholders? How so?

I’m quite critical when it comes to creating value for their customers and internal stakeholders. I find that as a society, we are at a place where the emerging future has to be considered when it comes to creating value for people. This has to be embedded in the innovation process and strategy. There are some companies that are shifting their purpose to a planetary level, but unfortunately, it’s not the majority.

“…as a society, we are at a place where the emerging future has to be considered when it comes to creating value for people.”

When you work with D+I, you are definitely applying a forward-thinking approach and pushing your imagination into the future as much as you can, creating future scenarios, understanding future needs the users will have in those scenarios. The value you design and plan to create, responds to this process. 

I don’t see that practice happening as often enough to say companies have really done well in creating value. In fact, most companies still have to invest in upskilling and reskilling of your innovation team, for this forward-thinking approach to be visible in the value they create. When this becomes mainstream, then yes I can definitely say that they, as a whole, have done really well on creating value for all of their stakeholders.

You’ve served as a Service Design Professor and I know one of the projects you supervised was around sustainable service models. How would you say people in finance or healthcare can design their services to be sustainable?

Finance and Healthcare are two of the most important industries in our society. Keeping this in mind, designing sustainable services for them is a profound process. For any service to be sustainable you have to think on different levels. It has to be sustainable for the users, for the internal stakeholders, for the business model, and for the planet.

“For any service to be sustainable you have to think on different levels. It has to be sustainable for the users, for the internal stakeholders, for the business model, and for the planet.”

Start by understanding how each user learns, uses and remembers the services provided. Move on to explore how the internal stakeholders are creating value for their users in each of the stages. Map out the processes and the communication channels along the way. After that, be clear in how you will measure the value that will be created, recognising measurements that are qualitative and transformational. Last, and most importantly, visualise the impact the service model is having on our planet and aim for it to have a positive footprint. With all of these checked, they will have all the information they need to design their services to be truly sustainable.

Are there any frameworks you could share to help companies better design sustainable services?

Very happy to share some references. I use Keith Gothin’s Pentathlon Framework as a guiding compass for managing innovation. Tenny Pinheiro’s book “The Service Startup” has a whole toolbox for service design that’s super useful. Dean Spitzer’s book “Transforming Performance Measurement”  provides a comprehensive guide to incorporating qualitative measurements to the business model. For the areas of understanding emerging futures, I love the Theory U methodology. It’s taught in MIT and you can learn about it online. It really works as an eyeopener to the world and strengthens trust and insight. Last but not least, any toolbox from D+I methodologies (Design Thinking, Human-Centred Design, Double Diamond) will complement the ones mentioned above.

Looking at how companies and other organisations are adapting design + innovation for value creation in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America where you are. Are there learnings you think could be adapted from one region and can be replicated for great results in the others?

It’s interesting, I see the exact needs I worked with 10 years ago starting to show up in companies around here. So yes, definitely learning can be adapted. Timing is key. In Latin America, specifically Central America, Innovation is a very new concept for companies to grasp. The speed in which you work innovation in Europe and in here is totally different. So learnings can be transferred, but the velocity in which value is created is not the same.

What #innovationmoment have you experienced in your career so far? (We define an #innovationmoment as something you’ve been a part of or have witnessed that has been incredibly life-changing and impactful to others) Can you share?

I have had the privilege of witnessing many moments where Design and Innovation impact others. The most fulfilling ones are where social innovation is involved. When you put people first and share learning spaces for others to develop their competencies. Their “aha” moments, when Design and Innovation start making sense, when they discover their creativity and how powerful these tools are for their communities. Those moments are priceless and fully lived with the heart.

A Conversation with Stephanie Batliner, User Experience Designer, BBC

We had an interesting conversation Stephanie Batliner a User Experience expert at BBC. She shared thoughts about the value of design, gave some insights why she enjoys working at the BBC and talked about her side hustle in design.

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Please tell us why you became a designer?

It’s hard to remember why exactly I became a designer but it’s easy to explain why I stayed on my career path. Over the years I understood that design was more than aesthetics. Design is no longer an afterthought, design is a conversation starter. I want to help to start difficult conversations and to create a positive impact.

“Design is no longer an after-thought, design is a conversation starter.”

How does a User Experience Designer find herself in BBC?

Working at the BBC is a unique opportunity to design for everyone. We are a strong team of about 200 designers, writers, research, information architects and accessibility specialists. We all work on different digital experiences but we are collaborative as a whole, exchanging knowledge, sharing learnings and striving for the same goals. At our heart we’re united by a human-centered approach.

The BBC exists to serve the public with the mission to inform, educate and entertain. It’s a place for me to learn and grow. From shaping screens to choosing the right words, it’s all about being useful, usable and user-friendly. My daily work challenges me with many topics from understanding accessibility needs, responding to the ever-changing needs of our audience to tackling unconscious bias. It’s a responsibility to create digital experiences which are used and enjoyed by millions. Lots of people in the UK interact with our content every week and it feels great to be part of something that reaches so many. I love working with the people at the BBC.

Are there ways you think News agencies can leverage on design to improve on the way information is delivered to people?

News agencies can use design methods to understand their user’s needs. Transparency is one of the topics which I’m very keen on. Matching essential information with the right people and timing to empower local communities. We all have a different truth. Fake news is strong and every one of us consumes from different sources. It makes it very hard to have empathy for each other. Especially on social media, every user is in their own bubble, their own world, their own reality. The same event can be portrayed completely opposite depending on the user’s view, location, and beliefs. Also, giving more people a voice so we don’t listen exclusively to the majority. We need to see people in jobs and in leadership positions that represent all of us. News has to be accessible for everyone. Good design solutions always empower people.

Information is something people have to get on a daily basis to produce great results in their various fields, are there new ways you think Information could be disseminated but is yet to be considered (outside the traditional means)?

Information and communication will always be an essential part of how human beings interact with each other. Today we see online and offline communication. Most of the time we use a combination of both. I’m sure that the tools and ways of information flow will change in the future. Because we are always trying to make things better to optimise our time. I’m hoping for the next generation that we will find a way to spread useful information to empower people, to save lives, and to take care of our planet. We need a system in place which protects us from information overflow and misleading information. How that is going to work will be up to us, we have all the creativity we need.

How would you say companies can create a positive impact for their local society and their employees using design?

Design methods give companies useful tools to ask questions, create empathy and get an understanding of the problems. Sometimes there are underlying problems which are not visible from the surface. Design can help dig deeper and get a more authentic picture. Companies can use design as a way to build bridges, a way to connect people and to work together. In order to create a positive impact it’s essential to include the people you want to help. If you want to improve things for your local society then start a dialogue. Find out where the real problems are and work together to find creative solutions. Involving people in the process helps not only to create acceptance around change but it also is a way to ensure that you don’t miss the target and come up with a design solution which isn’t solving the right problem. A local society can have many different problems but it’s up for them to decide which is the most urgent one.

“Companies can use design as a way to build bridges, a way to connect people and to work together.”

In your free time you’re working on a side hustle around health and social design, what new ways do you think design could be applied to improve on how healthcare services are being delivered?

In an ideal world the future is about preventive care. We are all patients sometimes. We all deserve to be healthy. Nonetheless, the reality is that healthcare access is limited. Design will play a crucial role in creating non-judgemental healthcare services for everyone. Healthcare services should be safe, accessible and affordable, no matter the circumstances.

“Design will play a crucial role in creating non-judgemental healthcare services for everyone.”

We need to work towards a solution where the patient is aware of who has access to what kind of information from the patient’s folder. Transparency can create trust and give the user more control of what happens with sensitive data.

In healthcare trust is the hardest thing to earn and the easiest thing to lose. We live in a multicultural world and different bodies have different needs. Healthcare should be designed in a way that we understand that women have different needs than men. There is a lot more research about the male body compared to the female body. And that shouldn’t be the norm anymore. Our gender identities include a lot more than the one or the other. Trans people have different needs. Non-binary people have different needs. When we design for a wider target audience we need to understand that those needs are not only medical. It’s as important to focus on mental health and use inclusive and non stigmatising language. We can do a lot better with that.

When we design for a wider target audience we need to understand that those needs are not only medical.

We use design often to make an experience more personalised. In healthcare, I feel that aspects which make it more personal, like being accepted as who we are or giving us a choice, are being overlooked sometimes. Healthcare isn’t as inclusive as it could be an unconscious bias against ethnic minorities is still quite common. I’m hoping that we can use design to strengthen healthcare in a way that it gives people more understanding and more choice. That will lead to more trust and transparency. We need to educate, share information and empower people so that they can be preventative.

What companies are innovating around their user experience you feel other companies can learn from?

I am passionate about healthcare and social design. There are two companies that follow work ethics and approaches which are very close to my heart.

IDEO.org is a nonprofit design studio. They design products and services alongside organisations committed to creating a more just and inclusive world. Their innovations all have one thing in common which is the creative approach of human-centred design. It’s a process that starts with the people you’re designing for and ends with new solutions that are tailor made to suit their needs. Human-centered design is all about building a deep empathy with the people you’re designing for; generating tons of ideas; building a bunch of prototypes; sharing what you’ve made with the people you’re designing for; and eventually putting your innovative new solution out in the world.

“Human-centered design is all about building a deep empathy with the people you’re designing for…”Asktia.com is on a mission to enable every female to achieve their own definition of optimal health through science-backed information, access to high-quality care, and community. I noticed Tia because they asked their future patients on Instagram to help them design their patient form. Discrimination in healthcare can start as early as filling in a patient form, where for example your gender identity isn’t listed as an option to choose from. Including your clients in the process, getting feedback and being able to make those twists is exactly the level of detail which creates the big change.

What books, articles or materials can you share to business leaders, to help them better improve the experience of their users?

The way teams are set up and the way people think and collaborate has a massive impact on how the experience for their user’s will look like. Work culture is as important as the design process. Some of my favourite books around creativity, collaboration and innovation are: Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull, Give and Take by Adam Grant, Creative Confidence by David Kelley and Tom Kelley, Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek and Mindset by Carol Dweck.

“The way teams are set up and the way people think and collaborate has a massive impact on how the experience for their user’s will look like”

What #innovationmoment have you experienced in your career so far? (We define an #innovationmoment as something you’ve been a part of or have witnessed that has been incredibly life-changing and impactful to others) Can you share?

Besides my day job, I am especially interested in using my design skills in sexual health. Conversation topics around sexual health bring another layer of complexity with it. I conducted interviews with a diverse group of people living with herpes for my Master’s dissertation: “A humancentred concept to tackle the stigma of the Herpes Simplex Virus“. The aim of this initiative is to transform the negative image of STDs/STIs into an accepted conversation topic in our society.

My knowledge is based on interviews, online research, and my personal experience as a white, privileged, and straight woman. I am aware that my views are limited and to include everyone, it’s essential to interact, listen and emphasis.

“Interdisciplinary thinking and collaboration is the secret ingredient necessary for innovation.”

This initiative has been incredibly life-changing for myself, my health has improved massively since I decided to speak up about it. It is a way of lending my voice to people living with herpes until they are ready to find their own. Ever since I am on a mission to create a world where taboo topics are no longer awkward and silent. Design can help to make complex topics more relatable and playful instead of keeping them in the dark.

#innovationmoment
I conducted interviews with a diverse group of people living with herpes for my Master’s dissertation: “A human-centred concept to tackle the stigma of the Herpes Simplex Virus”. The aim of this initiative is to transform the negative image of STDs/STIs into an accepted conversation topic in our society.

This initiative has been incredibly life-changing for myself, my health has improved massively since I decided to speak up about it. It is a way of lending my voice to people living with herpes until they are ready to find their own. Ever since I am on a mission to create a world where taboo topics are no longer awkward and silent. Design can help to make complex topics more relatable and playful instead of keeping them in the dark.

A Simple Difference Between Traditional R&D and Design-driven Innovation Methods

This Innovation Highlight speaks to the relationship between traditional R&D methods and the new design approach geared towards innovation.

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This Innovation Highlight speaks to the relationship between traditional R&D methods and the new design approach geared towards innovation. Inspired by our podcast guest, Business Designer David Schmidt, we share a little on the ‘exploit and explore’ framework, where companies have to exploit their current business models while exploring new avenues and opportunities that lead to innovation.

Feel free to send us a message if you will like to know more about the Design-driven Innovation Method.

Technology as an Enabler of Innovation

Innovation Circle Highlights – Susan Onigbinde On this Innovation circle highlight, Susan explains the differences between innovation and technology, debunking the popular belief that technology and innovation are the same thing. Taking from an interesting story from pre-historic times told by Pepsi’s Chief Design Officer, Mauro Porcini, during one of our Design and Innovation Podcasts […]

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Innovation Circle Highlights – Susan Onigbinde

On this Innovation circle highlight, Susan explains the differences between innovation and technology, debunking the popular belief that technology and innovation are the same thing.

Taking from an interesting story from pre-historic times told by Pepsi’s Chief Design Officer, Mauro Porcini, during one of our Design and Innovation Podcasts (DIP), Susan shows how technology is more an enabler of innovation as opposed to innovation of itself.
This 5mins listen is worth the time. Enjoy!

Kindly note: at 1:37mins, the speaker meant to say ‘those objects, were the technology’, not ‘those objects were the innovation’.

Innovation Success Story: Learnings from Our Article on Coca-Cola

We share key learnings from Coca Cola which we wrote an in-depth article on. We share learnings from The Coca-Cola Company.

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In a recent article highlighting Coca Cola as a trailblazer in innovation, we shared key learnings from the brand as it has honed several practices internally to a nurture a culture of innovation. You can find the full article here.

However for those who want to quickly digest the highlights, we have pulled out, in the video, key points around successful innovative practices from Coca-Cola. Watch if you are considering how to incorporate practices geared toward innovation within your company.

Welcome to Season 2: Breaking Down How the Process of Product Management Leads To Product Innovation (with Babajide Soyebo)

On this episode, we have Babajide Shoyebo, the Product Manager at Workforce group. He shares with us his experience helping a global company build and mange their digital products which brought in great returns to his organisation. He also talks on how a greatly managed product can birth great results with exciting returns to show.

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On this episode, we have Babajide Shoyebo, the Product Manager at Workforce group. He shares with us his experience helping a global company build and manage their digital products which brought in great returns to his organisation. If you are developing a new product or are thinking of a great way to innovative manage your products, then this episode is definitely one you should listen to.

Design and Innovation Podcast Season 1 Finale

It has been a really interesting season and we sure had a lot of things to learn from it. Listen, as Susan takes us through the season, pointing out noteworthy areas from the entire season. Plug in your earphones to find out what they are.

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Susan Onigbinde sums up the entire season into insightful bites that you can quickly learn from. She shares her thoughts and learnings from the various conversations we have throughout the season, highlighting key areas that stood out for her and how you as well can implement those learnings into your company.

We have really enjoyed all the conversations we’ve had with experts from all around the world, sharing the relevance of design to business growth and innovation. We are eager to begin the new season and we are sure you are as well.

We have come to the end of the first season of Design and Innovation Podcast but there’s more to come. Stay tuned to Design and Innovation Podcast.

A Conversation with Lola Cardoso, Chief Digital and Innovation Officer at Union Bank PLC

“I believe innovation is about creating, capturing and delivering value to stakeholders – these could be around solutions to your customers’ articulated or unarticulated needs. Innovation needs to be authentic to succeed.”

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Tell us a little about your journey to this current position Chief Digital and Innovation Officer at Union Bank. What led you into this path of innovation?

I joined Union Bank in August 2013 as Group Head, Corporate Strategy to drive the Bank’s strategy, anchor its overall transformation and support execution bank-wide.

My aim was to make a difference and transform an almost 100-year-old bank then into a modern organization with the right people, processes and platform. I have contributed to the successful transformation of the bank and proud as the bank continues its positive growth momentum.

In 2015/2016, I began driving the bank’s innovation and sustainability efforts, which are integral to our Bank’s future growth and positioning. Our transformation efforts focused on people, process and technology, have built a solid foundation for us to compete effectively and win.

 Today, I am driving digital and innovation in a 100+ organization and I now lead our retail distribution efforts with the aim of continuously delivering superior value to stakeholders as we position Union Bank as a leader in retail and transaction banking. We are in a new phase of our transformation as we deepen our focus on digital and innovation, which are essential to win in the future.

What are your thoughts on innovation as it is currently in Nigeria?

The speed at which innovative technology is travelling across the world especially Africa is incredible; it is reshaping how we consume financial products and media content. The continent’s strive for innovation and development, especially in Financial Technology – lending and payment systems is impressive – thanks to the increasing rate of mobile penetration across Africa.

“The continent’s strive for innovation and development, especially in Financial Technology – lending and payment systems is impressive – thanks to the increasing rate of mobile penetration across Africa.”

Nigeria is home to so many creative and innovative individuals and businesses – I am very proud to see how Nigeria is consistently being put on the map by so many innovations that have been birthed in the country. In fact, Nigeria’s tech industry has become the leading investment destination in Africa for investors globally; with the country’s startups raising ~$180m in disclosed funding rounds in 2018 according to Techpoint Africa. In the first half of 2019 alone, tech start-ups in Nigeria have raised ~$110m in investments from local and foreign investors. The potential is indeed huge!

Given Nigeria’s current dependence on revenue from oil, it is very clear that there’s a need to boost innovation and adopt new frontier technologies to support growth across all sectors.  Innovation is important for Nigeria’s social and economic growth. It is one thing to say you need innovation and another to create an ecosystem that will push beyond boundaries and challenge the status quo. Innovative technologies like AI, open banking, blockchain, robotics etc. need to be adopted to deliver the economic breakthrough Nigeria needs. With the Government’s recent creation of a refreshed ministry – Communications and Digital Economy, we hope that there will be deliberate and concerted efforts to create enabling structures and policies for innovation and digital initiatives to thrive in the country.

Leading the charge on Union Bank’s digital strategy and investments, I am increasingly driven to pay it forward for Nigerians and the larger society including women and youth to grow the digital economy. The challenges in Nigeria around financial access as well as financial literacy are clear opportunities that we are trying to tackle at Union Bank. I believe that by partnering with a larger ecosystem, we can push boundaries and succeed.

What are your key responsibilities as the current position of Chief Digital and Innovation Officer at Union Bank?

As the Chief Digital and Innovation Officer at Union Bank, my focus is to drive and execute the digital roadmap for the Bank while retaining oversight of the Bank’s strategy and innovation objectives.

 A key objective is to clearly define and execute a holistic digital strategy that enables and aligns with our ambitions. Critical tasks involve mapping out relevant digital requirements, as defined by our target segments and our priorities, identifying the right partners to onboard, and implementing an agile development and prototyping process for accelerated execution and insight gathering.

Ensuring the Bank is proactively abreast of developments in the digital and innovation space and making recommendations to the Bank on ideas and/or initiatives to invest in, is another important responsibility that I have.

I’m focused on integrating digital into all aspects of our business, from solutions, channels, processes and data to the operating model, incentives, and culture we embed in the organization.

How would you define innovation based on your experience at Union Bank?

I believe innovation is about creating, capturing and delivering value to stakeholders – these could be around solutions to your customers’ articulated or unarticulated needs. Innovation needs to be authentic to succeed. It needs to be part of your organization’s ethos to be successful. At Union Bank, innovation was adopted as a core value in 2017 reinforcing that creativity and forward-thinking is critical for our individual and collective success. Our commitment to innovation comes from the top. Employees are empowered to think creatively and strategically and we are committed to considering all ideas shared and investing in those relevant to our growth and strategic priorities.

Innovation can thrive only when we embrace and nurture an environment of ideas, creativity, and openness. This is the culture companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon have embedded – encouraging their employees to test, fail fast / forward, and learn.

“I believe innovation is about creating, capturing and delivering value to stakeholders – these could be around solutions to your customers’ articulated or unarticulated needs. Innovation needs to be authentic to succeed. It needs to be part of your organization’s ethos to be successful”

In Union Bank, there are several internal initiatives in place to promote innovative thinking and actions – Annual Case Challenge, Ideas Bank and Union X. These are platforms that provide an opportunity for employees to flex their creativity and be recognized by leadership and colleagues. A number of the recommended solutions are currently in the incubation stage, with some already set to launch. Beyond these focused initiatives, we want to ensure that the innovative culture cuts across all functions across the bank and influences the way we hire, train, recognize and empower our employees. To this end, we have embedded some courses in the Organization Enhancement Academy curriculum that focus on creative thinking and strategic execution competencies to supplement the experiential and on-the-job exposure. This year, we included a design thinking course – Product, Service and Experience Design – to support our mission to continuously create the simplest, smartest solutions and guarantee the best experience every time!

While we continue to build our innovative culture, we recognize the power of collaborating with external parties. We remain open to partnering with start-ups and tech companies and this is evident from the number of live discussions and proof-of-concept testing with several local and global fintechs as we drive to become Nigeria’s most reliable and trusted banking partner.

“While we continue to build our innovative culture, we recognize the power of collaborating with external parties.”

Which companies (around the world) do you admire most for their approach to innovation? Can you share what caught your attention about their practices?

In general, I admire companies that leverage AI, data-driven technologies, platforms and ecosystems to consistently augment their ways of working and create new offerings that push boundaries and reinvent the future. We know the likes of Google and Amazon blaze the trail here with their numerous offerings in the marketplace. However, I would like to emphasize “what” I admire. I admire companies that have made millions of consumers rely on their offerings to access every single product / service they need within one platform in the palm of their hands, thereby becoming an integral aspect of people’s lives – business, personal needs, lifestyle, etc.  As a result of this approach to innovation, it becomes very possible to expand to new business lines quickly by leveraging digital technologies and their existing customer base who have become loyal due to the convenience of their offerings.

“… companies that have made millions of consumers rely on their offerings to access every single product / service they need within one platform in the palm of their hands, thereby becoming an integral aspect of people’s lives – business, personal needs, lifestyle, etc.  As a result of this approach to innovation, it becomes very possible to expand to new business lines quickly by leveraging digital technologies and their existing customer base who have become loyal due to the convenience of their offerings.”

I particularly like to draw inspiration from businesses such as this – their ability to meet consumers ever-changing demands for speed, flexibility, personalization and the role these play in creating great experiences and loyalty are critical as I think about my role in driving Union Bank’s vision to be Nigeria’s most reliable and trusted banking partner.

What advice would you give to professionals looking to improve their career in innovation management, strategy or innovation leadership?

My biggest piece of advice to innovators is to make creativity a habit. It is very easy to teach someone how to do a job, but very hard to teach someone how to think differently. Take a different view of life and challenge assumptions. Question everything.

“My biggest piece of advice to innovators is to make creativity a habit… Question everything.”

What #innovationmoment are you most proud of in your role as Chief Digital and Innovation Officer at Union Bank?

I don’t have one proud moment… we have accomplished a lot at Union Bank. I have many proud moments and am excited about the future. 

 I am very proud of the commitment and the passion with which my organization is driving innovation and is relentlessly pursuing our Digital Union agenda. The creation of the digital and innovation team working across the bank to create value and drive return for the bank and Nigeria has been rewarding. Providing them the tools and soon the workspace to create/co- create with our ecosystem makes me more excited about the future.

 In addition, the implementation of innovation hackathon/challenges for UBN and for Nigeria (Centenary Innovation Challenge, Campus Innovation Challenge, edTech Challenge to name a few) has ignited our employees as well as Nigerian youth and entrepreneurs. These have been proud moments given the opportunities to nurture and enable home grown ideas and provide unique learning opportunities to all involved given partnerships with other innovation partners.

Also, our thorough innovation development process has been awesome to drive and the reward of birthing sustainable digital solutions with real impact on Nigeria consumers. We look forward to building our pipeline of solutions in partnership with the Nigerian technology and business ecosystem. 

If you could build a company from the ground up, what innovation tactics or design methodologies would you use to build?

Companies coming up with new products would like to get the desired product to customers’ hands faster before their competitors even have time to think about modifying it.

 The Lean Startup method teaches you how to drive a startup, how to steer, when to turn, and when to persevere and grow a business with maximum acceleration. This is a principled approach to new product development.

 Today, too many startups begin with an idea for a product that they think people want or need. They then spend months perfecting that product without ever showing to customers. Taking a leaf from design thinking, it is very important to validate the idea/product with the market, observe your customers to determine their unarticulated needs, and further refine the product/idea with feedback from testing and prototyping.

 These methods help to ensure that there is a need and an existing market for the product/idea to be launched, therefore greatly improving the chances of success in the marketplace as well as improving the sustainability of the business.

“Today, too many startups begin with an idea for a product that they think people want or need. They then spend months perfecting that product without ever showing to customers. Taking a leaf from design thinking, it is very important to validate the idea/product with the market, observe your customers to determine their unarticulated needs, and further refine the product/idea with feedback from testing and prototyping.”

#innovationmoment

“The creation of the digital and innovation team working across the bank to create value and drive return for the bank and Nigeria has been rewarding. Providing them with the tools and soon the workspace to create/co-create with our ecosystem makes me more excited about the future.”

Season 1 | Episode 12: How Design Boosts Productivity in Companies (with Douglas Ferguson)

We had an interesting conversation with Douglas Ferguson, President Voltage Control, an Innovation agency based in Austin Texas. He shares from his experience, unique ways companies can be come more productive in their meetings and other strategic sessions.

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We had a chat with Douglas Ferguson, the President of Voltage Control and innovation workshop agency based in Austin Texas. He shares how companies can practically become innovative in every aspects rather than just say they are or desire to be innovative. He also pointed out other teams and companies that are being proactively innovative. Thinking of new ways and concepts they can improve on their products.

He also shares ways on how businesses can avoid innovative slumps that usually happens after an innovative solution is conceptualised. 

He took the conversation further by sharing with us how design can help teams boost their productivity, touching on the aspects of team meetings and internal processes.

A Conversation with Valentina Salvi, Senior Service Designer, Accenture Interactive

A well-designed service system should enable a combination among actors, resources, and processes able to deliver strong value to the end-users, which is easier said than done.

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Can you share with us your background in design?

It all started when I first got my Bachelor’s Degree in Industrial Design from the Politecnico School of Milano. During my third year at the university, I was lucky to join an exchange program called MEDes (Master of European Design) where I took the chance to spend two years studying abroad in both Glasgow and Paris. While being abroad I first discovered the essence of the term “Service Design” and quickly realized that my interest and professional ambitions were pointing exactly in the Service Design direction. 

After such realization came to fruition, I decided while I was freelancing, to complete a Master solely dedicated to Service Design, and I took the chance to fully embrace this new professional path. After an enriching experience at Paco Design Collaborative where I spent 4 months in Namibia to work on the field for the EU funded PARTY Project, I was keen to keep being challenged and looked onward to doing so in Amsterdam as the city and its vibrant environment had always a loving spot in my heart. It was then that I decided to take a working opportunity and joined Accenture Interactive Amsterdam (Mobgen at the time) where I became the first member of what is now an outstanding 12+ Service Design team.

You’ve worked with various companies, big and small, can you share with us how can stimulate innovation inside those companies? (I’m asking based on your experience as a Service Designer)

Based on my practice as a Service Designer and Design Consultant, I learned that innovation is a mindset that should be embraced by companies from within. Infusing and fostering Customer-Centricity is the access to great, meaningful innovation that matters, and most importantly, that gives companies the readiness to turn new products and services into a success.

“…innovation is a mindset that should be embraced by companies from within.”

Design Thinking, with its inner human-centered approach, is usually the very first reliable methodology to ease companies in creating internal awareness among their values and use the power of design to strive while keeping their end-users in mind. To solve the right problem, you always need to ask the right questions first, therefore research and investigation of your end-customers, the ones that are using your product or service, are the engine of it all. Evidence-based iteration is the overarching principle behind Design Thinking, and something companies of any size tremendously benefit from to stay relevant and being meaningful in an era of liquid expectations, where new needs and challenges are constantly unfolding.

“To solve the right problem, you always need to ask the right questions first.”

Another aspect that truly stimulates innovation is co-creation, one of the key fundamentals of Service Design itself. Co-creating means applying techniques enabling a diverse, multifaceted team, where in most cases participants come from different departments and fields, to shape a vision, ideas, progress, together. This facilitates joint understanding and problem solving, uncovering the reasons why things are done the way they are done, the underlying pain points and the opportunities to ride. Co-creation enables creativity to shine through and generate innovative solutions beyond the known and the obvious. I urge companies of any size to embed these methodologies and ways of working as part of their internal processes and growth

“Co-creation enables creativity to shine through and generate innovative solutions beyond the known and the obvious.”

Can you tell us what Service Design’s values to businesses are?

The core principles of Service Design are: 

1. Human-centered / It unlocks desirable experiences based on real needs, research and data; 

2. Co-creative / It enables shared ownership and stakeholders involvement making success everyone’s responsibility; 

3. Holistic / It considers desirability, as well as viability and feasibility for true success; 

4. Iterative / It promotes focused effort where that’s rewarding; 

5. Sequential / It unleashes one vision of the truth by visual, cross-touchpoints artefacts.

These principles are what enable Service Design to maximize business value and accelerate innovation for companies, in the following manner:

· Saving costs: By validating assumptions with end-users, Service Design reduces the risk of big, costly mistakes.

· Engagement & loyalty: Loveable experiences increase NPS scores, user adoption, and retention rates. 

· Making user impact: Service Design focuses on solving real user problems and seizes amazing experiences out of it.

· Increasing speed to market: By using rapid iteration to quickly validate new opportunities and reduce development time.

· Focused problem-solving: Through practical design thinking tools, Service design uncovers and tackles the root cause of the perceived problem to project new solutions that matter. 

How can companies who are more product-centric infuse Service Design to improve the values they offered to clients?

To be relevant and meaningful to consumers nowadays, it’s of fundamental importance for a business to focus on the whole customer journey. Brand values should be tangibly reflected and perceived from customers at every touchpoint of the experience. Digital products often represent just one kind of touchpoint within a journey of interactions, and opportunities are not often maximized.

“To be relevant and meaningful to consumers nowadays, it’s of fundamental importance for a business to focus on the whole customer journey.”

By conducting research, visualizing your findings, extruding them into As-Is Journeys, Personas, Blueprints, and co-creating solutions, customers’ negative emotions along these journeys can turn into fulfilling moments of delight and reward. Service Design enhances the uncovering for companies of low hanging fruits and long-term benefits that increase the business impact, customer satisfaction, and show differentiating factor among competitors.

In what ways would you say financial institutions can apply Service Design to improve and transform the way they offer their services to customers?

I’ve been working on a range of projects within the financial sector, from banking to pension, and in my experience, the Design Sprint methodology was a great pragmatic way to reimagine such services for customers. In a condensed time window of 4 to 5 days, we were able to scope on the problem, generate multiple ideas, pick one or two to prototype, and ultimately test them with 5 users. I found the process incredibly effective and its fast-moving quality makes it a perfect starting point for institutions that are struggling to find their commitment and space to embrace changes and innovation.

Also, too often institutions rely on NPS score and quantitative data only to assess the level of customer satisfaction towards their own business. Data and statistics are surely important but they are – in my view, unable alone to understand deep consumers’ needs, pain points, and spot opportunities. Qualitative research should be the starting point to initiate any project with a human-centred approach, to gather insights based on real conversations and observational in-context techniques. Such insights should be strengthened and complemented by quantitative analysis. Research is fundamental to understand the now and be able to shape future ways to handle any service, including the financial ones.

“Qualitative research should be the starting point to initiate any project with a human-centered approach, to gather insights based on real conversations and observational in-context techniques.”

Are there practices round Service Design you think companies could apply on their own to improve on their internal processes?

Service Design is a mindset, a skillset, and a wide range of specialties under one name, that can be trained and learned. It is a matter of fact that businesses – from Banks to Insurances and Telco’s – have incorporated Service Design more and more by creating internal teams that are dedicated to the replication and enablement of such processes.

There’s a lot that can be done for companies if they become empowered by the right – in-house or outsourced – Service Design skills and expertise. To give an example, Personas, Customer Journeys, Blueprints are visual artifacts that can enormously help companies in moving forward, face challenges, and respond to them with meaningful solutions. They provide a shared, complete, and unified common ground in decision making towards innovation.

“There’s a lot that can be done for companies if they become empowered by the right – in-house or outsourced – Service Design skills and expertise.”

Moreover, Design Sprints, workshops, internal training on customer-centricity, and specific methods are key assets Service Design capabilities should be leveraged for. Service Designers should amplify their role of users’ advocates for the whole company to become more customer-centric and innovation-driven.

What would you define as a well-designed service system?

Over the past few decades, Services have represented a Post-Industrial alternative shifting consumers’ attention and value from the concept of “ownership” to the one of “accessible functionality”. People no longer want as many things as they did during industrial times. They just want to be able to use them conveniently, when they need them.

In addition to the “ownership vs access” element, a well-designed service system should enable a combination among actors, resources, and processes able to deliver strong value to the end-users, which is easier said than done. Furthermore, successful services like Airbnb, Amazon Kindle, Uber to mention some, have maximized assets that were already there, already available: what made them a success was re-imagining a new configuration for them.

In addition to that, given the ongoing relationship between brand and customer in service instead of a one-off purchase of the product itself, a well-designed service must ensure good customer service and support along the journey, to consolidate the relationship over time and prove value at any stage.

Having said that, we have to remember that we live in a world facing critical climate change issues and deep inequalities. I believe that any product or service should be identified as truly successful if making a step ahead towards circularity, sustainability, and social impact, so they’d be my criteria I’d put on top of the mentioned list.

“People no longer want as many things as they did during industrial times. They just want to be able to use them conveniently, when they need them.”

 Could you give us an example of a company that has designed a great service system? (If you can, please list two or three things that stand out for you?

There are many case studies out there and companies that managed to do a great job within the service-system field, and Fairphone is one that strongly stands out to me. Fairphone is more than just a phone. It’s a revolutionary approach to the way smartphones are made, recycled, and used. Fairphone is made from recycled, old phone spare parts: thanks to their “recycling program” service people can ship their old phones for free and get a discount on their Fairphone purchase. The first thing that stands out to me is the circularity element, which means the smart, ingenious, long-lasting design made for parts to be easily replaced, the care for fair materials, and good working conditions for all the levels involved. 

The product lifecycle consideration throughout turns the current phone status and disposable idea attached to a durable product-service designed to last for longer. Besides, Fairphone opened to the possibility of expanding its offering to businesses, scaling up the impact this fair technology venture can make into a stronger product-service system strategy. Business customers can move from buying phones (ownership) to renting devices allowing them to call, text, use apps, and enjoy entertainment (service). Fairphone, in my opinion, is a case showcasing the power of reimagining the things closer to us with strong ethics and values towards a healthier planet, greater equality, and more responsible purchase.

What #innovationmoment have you experienced in your career so far? (We define an #innovationmoment as something you’ve been a part of or have witnessed that has been incredibly life-changing and impactful to others) Can you share it?

Last summer I had the chance to work in a pro-bono project for Plan International in Uganda around Green Skills and Green Jobs development, targeting young women aged 14-24 in rural areas of the country. I spent 2 weeks researching on the field. The purpose of this Human-Centred Design research was to get an understanding of unemployment causes, and the current lifestyle, emotions, dreams, barriers, and fears of our end-users. 

The generative research approach I adopted has been a combination of training, co-creation, and qualitative research methods such as interviews, card sorting, and in-context observations, by taking on the perspective of both end-users and local stakeholders. This project has been one of the most incredible and mind-opening experiences for me as a professional and human being, where I learned a lot myself and had the chance to share my knowledge with others for a great cause. I believe any designer should experience what it feels like to design for social impact and operate in a culturally different context, at least once in a lifetime.

I wrote more about my experience in Uganda on this Medium article, feel free to check it out for a more detailed summary of reflections and methods used.

“Last summer I had the chance to work in a pro-bono project for Plan International in Uganda around Green Skills and Green Jobs development, targeting young women aged 14-24 in rural areas of the country. I spent 2 weeks researching on the field… This project has been one of the most incredible and mind-opening experiences for me as a professional and human being, where I learned a lot myself and had the chance to share my knowledge with others for a great cause.”

Becoming Curious: How Innovation Begins

Curiosity is an important characteristic of innovators because it motivates one to question facts and assumptions. When questions are asked, we are made to think differently about a service or product. Contrary to some opinions, innovation isn’t something new, it could be new, but the unique value innovation brings is that it simplifies or improves on an already existing challenge that could either be articulated or unarticulated.

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Have you ever wondered what makes for great innovators? Innovators are characterised by their curiosity. You’ll find them prying into challenges, searching within themselves opportunities that can be leveraged as a solution for specific challenges. This way of thinking is what leads them to great innovations. This mindset isn’t new to innovators, it is something that we are all born with, the only difference is that some gradually lose these tendencies as they grow up. Not to worry it can be gotten back.

Curiosity is an important characteristic of innovators because it motivates one to question facts and assumptions. When questions are asked, we are made to think differently about a service or product. Contrary to some opinions, innovation isn’t something new, it could be new, but the unique value innovation brings is that it simplifies or improves on an already existing challenge that could either be articulated or unarticulated. While reading a book by Adam Grant, The Originals I came across this quote “Being original doesn’t require being first. It just means being different and better.”

“Being original doesn’t require being first. It just means being different and better.”

Adam Grant

This quote just brings to light how as innovators the aim shouldn’t be how fast we can get to market but how the product/service we are innovating on can cause a difference and improve the condition around a specific challenge.

Microsoft, Google, Apple, Tesla, Interswitch, Flutterwave are popular today not because of their unique names but because of the innovations they were able to birth from their organizations. These innovations came as a result of a certain level of curiosity that their leaders had from inception. The leaders of these organizations were moved with a question on how to improve on a need and they were able to question various assumptions and facts until they landed on solutions that addressed the needs.

Now I know other innovators haven’t been as successful as the ones earlier pointed out, however, there are reasons for that as well. One of the key factors that makes some innovators successful is pointed out from the Innovation Dilemma which was written by the late Clayton Christensen. In the book the author clearly explains two major strategies of innovations that major businesses adopt:

  1. Sustainable Innovation
  2. Disruptive Innovation

For sustainable innovation, we see that major organizations focus on improving on already existing innovations or we could say focusing on major areas that have challenges that should be addressed.

Disruptive Innovation, on the other hand, forms a part of a strategy used by start-ups to develop solutions for a niche market which sometimes are overlooked by bigger organizations.

A note to point out, however, is that innovation is a risky activity in itself but it’s a risk that can be managed to an extent and offers a reward that really has an impact. These risks are what big businesses are cautious of and hence tend to draw away from such innovations because for them the stakes seem to be higher than when compared to the Start-ups who have little to lose and hence are able to bear the risk better.

Amazingly, that’s the twist to becoming innovative. As an innovator who is curious, wanting to find answers to questions, you must be willing to take risks and I mean well-calculated risks. Most businesses today were established as a result of a risk that was taking in trying to solve a need.

As a business leader, you should always open up to curiosity. Rather than assuming on a process that is presented or a product that is built, look for a new way to address the challenge. Looking for a new way that meets needs is what will set you apart as an innovative leader. Innovation isn’t just about building a new digital product, its building products/services that address challenges faced by people.

Looking at your team today, what product, service or process do you think can be improved on? What areas or niche are there opportunities that you and your team are overlooking? Starting now, question those challenges and work with your team to innovate around it.

Innovation starts from a curious mind. Start questioning.

Design Research and Its Impact on Product Performance

In Simon Sinek’s popular TEDx talk, he said, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” He further goes on to explain the immense value businesses and customers can gain if their ‘why’ can clearly be identified and communicated. “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” […]

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In Simon Sinek’s popular TEDx talk, he said, “people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” He further goes on to explain the immense value businesses and customers can gain if their ‘why’ can clearly be identified and communicated.

“people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.”

– Simon Sinek

Finding the ‘why’ basically means finding the purpose, cause or belief that drives an organization or people.

Going along this line it will be important to find out why people buy products or use services daily? Could it be because that the products are attractive to them, because they can afford it or because they need it?

 How then can a company know why customers purchase products? By carrying out Design Research. I know that’s what crossed your mind and some would have been more specific to say Market Research. Well, that’s not so true. You see, Market Research centers more around how people buy your products. Market Research shows how many people bought your products, how many people showed interest, how your competitors are performing and so on. All these are beneficial to any business looking to build a product. However, Design Research combines the principles of design (empathy, experimentation and expansive thinking) with Market  Research (gathering data of companies and people) to find the reason why people buy a product or use an offering. It looks to answer “why” as it relates to product demand and development.

Design Research looks for emotional drivers that instigates customers’ need for a product or business. It seeks to find the root cause of particular pain-point of customers, it shows why people buy your product, why they have interest in an offering, why your competitors are positioning in a certain way to offer services to your target audience. This arms your team with insights that can help you offer solutions that meet customers’ needs or emotional bias. I included emotional bias because people not only buy products because they need it but sometimes because of how it aligns to their values and bolster their emotions. For instance, why do people buy an iPhone? They don’t buy an iPhone because they need a phone, another reason why they buy is that they feel information stored on their iPhone is secured and has a low chance of being hacked, some also feel they’ve joined a group of people that are unique, having style and elite status.

“Design Research looks for emotional drivers that instigates customers’ need for a product or business. It seeks to find the root cause of particular pain-point of  customers, it shows why people will buy your product, why they have interest in an offering, why your competitors are positioning in a certain way to offer services to your target audience.”

Design Research has proven to be a great advantage for many companies who have used it as part of their product development strategy. Companies like Apple, Google, Airbnb, Duolingo, PepsiCo and several others have been able to distinguish themselves simply by getting to know what their customers need and how best to deliver it. It has also helped these businesses find new opportunities that might not have been clearly revealed by customers but were discovered using techniques embedded in Design Research.

There are ways in which businesses can use Design Research to improve a product offering or impact the way products perform in the market.

1. Meeting a need: For any product in the market to succeed, it must meet a need. It must have identified a challenge that it wants to address. With Design Research, businesses are able to discover that need. As earlier mentioned, Design seeks to find the ‘why’ which they find by listening and jotting down important insights shared by the customers they interact with during the process. This helps these researchers unearth findings that lead them to opportunities and help uncover pain-points that customers might have. It is at this point that the synergy between the product development team and Design Researchers can reach solutions that address needs. Once a need is met, it translates to sales.

2. Product relevance: Once a product is launched, there is a need for it to continually remain relevant in the market. As we see today, many companies come into the market with great products but lose market share over time due to their inability to meet the constantly changing needs of their customers. Design Research shouldn’t be an activity that ends on the day of a product launch, rather it should continue at regular intervals to bring new insights that could help improve on the product. Customers’ needs are always changing making Design Research a constant necessity. This is something UberEats has been able to add to their process. What UberEats does is that they go out and talk with potential customers to better understand their needs, this has greatly impacted their brand.

3. Brand communication and marketing: Another great way Design Research can ensure that a product performs well in the market is by helping the marketing and sales team with keywords they can advertise and attract buyers with. Sales teams are usually not present during the product conception stages and therefore may lack accurate keywords that customers connect with. They may miss the fundamental reasons why customers want to buy in the first place and Design Research provides valuable intel into what customers are thinking, so marketing better communicates to them. Design researchers, after gathering enough data about customers’ needs, pain-points and goals, can collaborate with the marketing team to translate those insights into slogans, adverts and packaging design in order to get the attention of their target audience.

Design Research also adds great value to the overall Design Strategy you will adopt throughout the product life cycle. Design Strategy is an important aspect of product development and you can read up on my post about it here.

Image Credit: Nottingham Spirk

In conclusion, businesses who design to bring amazing new offerings to market, need to adopt Design Research. Design Research is a great way for teams to deeply understand their customers and their needs to enable them to develop products that can address those needs. Whether it be a service, product or process, it is best to find out the emotional drivers of the people you are building for by interacting with them and observing what they do. By doing this, you get to understand their needs so you can better serve them. This saves time, remedies product failure, and helps build products that delight your customers.

Summary of what design research is

Design Research combines the principles of design (empathy, experimentation and expansive thinking) with Market Research (gathering data of companies and people) to find the reason why people buy a product or use an offering. It looks to answer “why” as it relates to product demand and development.

How To Measure Innovation In Your Company

Being creative goes beyond simply stating that your company is creative; it means building a culture and work environment that allows creativity to thrive.

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There’s a popular proverb that says there’s nothing new under the sun. In business today, this thought rings very true.

These days, it seems like for every product or service, there are at least 2 others offering the exact same solution. It seems like for every Uber, there’s a Taxify/Bolt and Lyft.

This challenging terrain in business these days has made it so, staying competitive today is synonymous with innovation. To get customers’ attention and gain their loyalty, you have to deliver something they’ve never seen before in a way that satisfies and delights them, even surpasses their expectations.

So what do Airbnb, Netflix, Uber, and Tesla have in common? They have upturned century-old industries with new ways of delivering service and product solutions to people. These companies are proof that to succeed in today’s cutthroat world, you must innovate. To innovate your company, your team has to be creative.

Being creative goes beyond simply stating that your company is creative; it means building a culture and work environment that allows creativity to thrive.

So how do you run an innovative team, and how do you drive innovation within your team?

Here are 5 questions to consider when you’re running an innovative ship:

Are you driving a purpose-driven vision that the whole team is behind?

First and very important to running an innovative team, is to have and build a shared vision of the future. Sharing a collective vision of the future, backed by a strong purpose helps guide your team to deliver above expectations.

How aware is your team of your company’s future vision? And if they are aware, do they actively work towards this future vision? This is important to having a motivated and driven team as you drive towards growth.

This may also interest you: How Design Turned Airbnb From A Dying Startup To A Billion Dollar Business

Are you empowering your team?

Are members of your team empowered to make decisions, or do they have to constantly follow a given set of rules? Empowering your staff to make decisions allows them to think of new and unconventional solutions. Even better is when your customer-facing staff are allowed to make decisions and approach problems with solutions. Because they’re ‘with’ customers, their solutions will place into consideration their observations and direct feedback customers have given them, this is priceless.

How customized is your work environment to your team’s needs?

Is your workspace set up to answer to your employees’ needs and working patterns? How flexible is your work environment? Is your team able to ‘design’ their work areas and create systems that support their working? Do you have a flexible workspace that can be moved around to suit your team or is the workspace rigid and unmovable with team members working around set-in-stone work stations?

Flexible workspaces have been proven to boost teams’ creativity and productivity. Allowing your team to design their work areas also opens doors to new and effective ways of working, as effective processes can be adapted across the entire team.

Do you welcome iteration and experimentation?

How open is your team to trying new and unconventional ideas? How open are they to feedback from customers and critique from other members within the organization? Is the concept of experimentation shunned? Are failures considered big no-nos that can’t happen again or are they seen as learning opportunities?

A team that allows for feedback from within (team members) and without, (customers) and constantly iterates based on feedback gotten has been proven to progress faster than others. Building systems around ‘failures’, so learnings can be derived from them and a way forward can be decided upon, is a great way to build a culture that thrives in innovation.

Also read: 3 Innovative Ways Nigerian Fast Foods Can Increase Customer Loyalty

Is your company’s leadership innovation-prone or not?

Are team members encouraged to try new and out-of-the-box ideas? How open and invested is leadership in design processes such as user-experience, user-testing, and iteration.

In McKinsey’s Value of Design 2018 Report, leaders that treated design just importantly as revenue and costs performed far ahead of their peers, delivering substantially more in Total Return to Shareholders and Revenue

Use these yardsticks to measure innovation within your company or with your team. If you find that you’re lacking, begin to move in this direction.

Free Ebook – What Design can do for Nigerian Corporations

Design’s entry into the business world is no longer news, however its positive impact to business is constant news.

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Design’s entry into the business world is no longer news, however its positive impact to business is constant news. 
The process of design has been proven to help companies improve their internal capabilities, increase their market reach and help them to bring better products to market. In this age of ‘innovate or die’, read to see what the Nigerian Banking, FMCG, Telco and Health Industries stand to gain.

Download Ebook here

Empathy Map

The empathy map is a tool that helps you visualise and share what you understand about your customers.

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Effort-Impact Matrix

The Effort-Impact matrix is a decision-making tool that helps companies and teams save time and make the most out of resources.

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How Tech Companies Can Design Better Products for Market

Design Research is a user-focused method to gaining information of your customers, through human-centred design processes, to inform your product build. It seeks to discover your customers’ behaviour patterns, drivers and needs.

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So, the story goes, a company releases a product, it makes a huge splash everywhere, social media, radio, Out-of-Home, communities offline as well as blogs and media sites online. People talk about how they’re interested and can’t wait to try it, there’s so much excitement in the air.

We’re all almost sure this is going to be the product that disrupts all products, I mean, after all the company that released it, is one of the top ones. Then one month goes into 6 months, and 6 months into 1 year, and you hardly almost hear about the product anymore. Rumours start spreading that the company isn’t going to renew their App Store fee when the current one expires. Then the product slowly is unheard of again, until of course someone in one meeting somewhere wants to use it as an example of what failure in the market looks like.

 I remember a similar situation happening not too long ago. I remember distinctly driving down a popular street in Victoria Island, Lagos one December period, the entire street was laden with banners promoting the new product that just launched, everyone I met talked about either how much they loved the product and their advertising and their branding and on and on.

But then less than a year later, public interest had died. The product was now being used as a ‘case study’ of what not to do, with product and digital teams everywhere nit-picking on certain features in the product, pointing out reasons why they failed.

So, what was the problem there? How do you confidently release a product into the market, knowing that customers actually need the solution? How do you launch a product knowing that worst-case scenario is you pivoting, because you’ve taken the necessary precautions to mitigate risk and truly, I mean truly understand what the market is needing?

Market Research will clearly tell you how big the size of the market is, and the locations that will adopt and spend money on your product. Market research is very helpful for any product team seeking to take the time and resources to develop and launch a product into the market. With focus groups, product test sessions and more, market research delivers enough information for teams to know what direction to take.

However, what market research doesn’t do is allow you truly understand and empathise with the people who are going to use your product. An in-depth understanding of your users is a key step in releasing a successful product to market. We’ve seen it with Airbnb, how they went door to door in New York talking to their customers in aims of understanding what was stifling their growth. Or with Duolingo, the world’s number 1 language learning app, who tests their product rigorously to be able to understand what users want and immediately adapt. The list goes on, if you see a company that excels in product design and customer engagement and experience, then you’ve seen a company that relentlessly seeks to understand customers using the methodology of Design Research.

How fit is your product for your customers? Does it hit a nerve with them? Is there something, however small, that’s stopping people from adopting your solution in the masses, and you don’t know about it? For Airbnb, at the start, it was just that the pictures of the rentals that were being posted on the site were bad, and so people were turned off or didn’t trust the platform. Just changing this seemingly ‘little’ thing made them double their profits in a one week.

A screenshot of Airbnb’s website

These are very important questions for product, design and ventures teams, knowing that if they could see what their customers see and experience what they experienced, creating solutions for them would take a whole new dimension. Someone said, ‘empathy is the bedrock of innovation’, that couldn’t be truer, I’ll add that empathy is also one of the drivers of competitiveness and product dominance in the market.

I vividly recall a design workshop we ran recently; the products team’s biggest problem was customers’ use (onboarding) of their app. With Design Research, no doubt they would get to the bottom of the issue quickly.

So, what is Design Research?

Design Research is a user-focused method of gaining information about your customers, through human-centred design processes, to inform your product build. It seeks to discover your customers’ behaviour patterns, drivers and needs. It studies users in their contexts, observing them and walking in their shoes, to get an understanding of them that informs the end solution. The one undisputed value of Design Research is to enable you uncover and discover information from customers to serve them better through delightful user experiences and products that satisfy their needs.

Design Research seeks to answer, “why would customers use this product?”, “How would they experience it?”, “What are potential obstacles they could face using it?” Answering these questions empowers product teams to build better solutions with great user experiences to boot.

How Design Research help’s tech teams deliver stellar experiences for their users

It’s no secret that one of the reasons why products fail is because they were never built for users. The entire tech world, today, is radically embracing the idea of User Research and User-centred Design, not just to provide solutions that meet users’ needs but that truly engage them and answer to a pain they experience. Design research emerges as a true means by which companies can deliver on customer expectations, innovate and positively impact the bottom line.

 Knowing this value, companies from NGOs to Banks have sought to unearth users’ latent needs, seek opportunities for growth, or solve a problem that exists to bring about a better solution to market. 

Testing Lo-fi prototypes with a potential user

Every company looking to stand out through stellar customer experiences and disruptive solutions must have an understanding of the customers so in-depth that it informs the product build and ensures product success, brand growth and positive impact to your bottom line.

Other benefits of Design Research:

  • It’s a proven method to greatly reduce the cost of releasing product failures into market
  • It’s the way to discover user needs
  • It helps you not only discover users’ latent needs; it helps you understand and deliver great experiences for them
  • Informs you with real facts about your users and their contexts, using Design Research, you even discover information such as their personality types, how they look and their reactions etc.

In this age of empowered customers, leveraging this methodology is one ammunition tech teams everywhere wouldn’t want to miss out on.

Innovation Sourcebook

The Innovation Sourcebook is a tool that is used to organise products, services and systems that have been successful in the market.

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Trend Matrix

The Trend Matrix is a tool used to track how trends and external forces can affect Technology, Business, People, Culture and Policy.

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A Conversation with Tosin Faniro-Dada, Head of Start-ups at Lagos Innovates

“The first thing businesses should do is have an innovation strategy that describes the direction and desirable future state of the company.”

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Can you tell us what Lagos Innovates is about?

Lagos Innovates is a set of programs managed by the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund that aims to create an enabling environment for tech startups to thrive in Lagos State. Through Lagos Innovates, startups have access to high-quality workspaces, talent, capital and mentorship.

We have a workspace voucher program that provides vouchers to startups to use at any of our 29 partner co-working spaces. These vouchers help defray the cost of accessing high-quality infrastructure. The vouchers cover 30%  -75% on average of membership cost for 3  to 12 months depending on the stage of the startup.

Our Talent Development program in partnership with Honeywell Group funds up to 80%  of the cost of participating in a technology skill training, through a student loan program. We have an idea hub a platform for entrepreneurs to share their skills, business ideas, and interact with peers and pre-selected mentors. The platform will help applicants build profiles and encourage a community that fosters interaction and collaboration.

Finally, Lagos Innovates has supported over 150 startups across all our programs since inception in 2018.

What does your role entail as Head of Start-ups? 

My role as Head of startups at the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund entails developing and implementing programs that provide an enabling environment for tech startups to thrive in Lagos State, sourcing for local and international partnerships to promote and increase funding for Lagos Innovates programs. In addition, my team connects startups to investors, corporates, Government ministries, department and agencies to make it easier for them to be successful.

How would you describe innovation?

Innovation is when you create or develop a new product, process or service with the aim of improving efficiency, effectiveness or competitive advantage. In the book, Prosperity Paradox, the authors introduce us to a type of innovation that transforms complicated and expensive products and services that only the rich had access to into simple and affordable products and services that become accessible so that many more people can own and use them. This type of innovation reminds me of the Blue Ocean strategy where we pursue differentiation and low cost to open a new market space and create new demand.

What are the key areas businesses need to look at in order to become innovative internally?

I think the first thing businesses should do is have an innovation strategy that describes the direction and desirable future state of the company. The innovation strategy should address organizational growth, competitive positioning strategies, collaboration strategies, etc.

Businesses should also look at their business model to explore new forms of selling, pricing, management/control methods, etc.  The 3 Ps of Management should also be looked at – People, Process and Product. Technology is an area that should also never be ignored, businesses should look at the development of new technologies and explore new ways of commercializing via technological innovation.

Finally, the fundamental piece is Leadership and Execution of the innovation strategy, this is so important.  You can have the best innovation strategy for a business but if you do not have the right team executing it, you are more likely to fail.

“You can have the best innovation strategy for a business but if you do not have the right team executing it, you are more likely to fail.”

In your role as the Head of Start-ups (Lagos Innovates), what major opportunities are there that start-ups can leverage on in terms of getting investments?

Lagos innovates does not directly invest in tech startups however, we connect startups to investors and accelerators that can help with direct investment. Having a pipeline of startups that we have access to and just being part of our network allows us to very quickly match startups to investors that are interested in.  We also connect startups to corporate and government ministries, departments and agencies to help with access to market for their products and services.

How would you say the private sector can collaborate with the public sector in producing solutions that benefit both sectors?

I think there’s already some degree of collaboration between the public and private sectors. What I think was missing was a structured approach for these collaborations. Lagos States Office of Transformation, Creativity and Innovation recently launched a solutions hub where people with civic solutions looking to partner with the Government can upload their solutions and the office will guide them on next steps. The website is www.lagossolutionshub.com

What #innovationmoment have you experienced in your career so far? (We define an #innovationmoment as something you’ve been a part of or have witnessed that has been incredibly life-changing and impactful to others) Can you share?

I think the establishment of the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund and being a pioneer team member is the best #innovationmoment in my career so far. The Fund was created to tackle the unemployment challenge in Lagos, and the way we design and iterate our programs to help us achieve our overall objective is remarkable. From supporting MSMEs with low digit, non-collateralized loans to help them expand their business and ultimately hire new people, to innovative partnerships with donor agencies such UNDP, GIZ, USADF, to train unemployed young people and place them in jobs, and finally the launch of Lagos Innovates to support the growing tech ecosystem which can help us create the exponential number of jobs that we are looking for. All these programs have innovative strategies that are being executed beautifully and across all our programs our beneficiaries have created over 98,000 direct jobs to the Lagos market.

“I think the establishment of the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund and being a pioneer team member is the best #innovationmoment in my career so far”

Season 1 | Episode 10: How Large Companies can use Design Methodologies to Succeed (with Marcel Rossouw)

Marcel Roussouw is the Group Director of Fjord South Africa. He shares the value Design can have when used to develop a strategy on how a product or service is introduced in the market to gain consumers adoption.

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Marcel Roussouw is the Group Director of Fjord South Africa. He shares the value Design can have when used to develop a strategy on how a product or service is introduced in the market to gain consumers adoption.

He also shares ways business leaders can get involved in the design process, finding new ways they can deliver on their promise of value to their customers. Marcel paints the picture of design as a tool large organizations can use to understand complexities that may stand as a challenge to their survival as a business.

Lastly Marcel was able to touch on the role of design in shaping the future of business in Africa.

Season 1 | Episode 7: How PepsiCo Created A Culture Where Design And Innovation Thrives (With Mauro Porcini)

On this episode, Susan and Thomas talk with Mauro Porcini the Chief Design Officer at PepsiCo one of the biggest Food and Beverage company in the world.

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Pepsico is a leading food and beverage company in the world, making billions in revenue. They have existed for decades now. How have they remained relevant to customers? How have they developed new products and platforms that have helped keep customers over the years? That’s what led to our conversation with Mauro Porcini.

Mauro Porcini is the Senior Vice-President and the Chief Design Officer at PepsiCo global. He shared with us how C-suite executives can lead innovation and design within their companies. Sharing from his experiences from 3M to his present position as the Chief Design Officer at PepsiCo.

His conversation with the Design and Innovation Podcast team brought clear insights to us going forward and those insights prove to be great nuggets that business leaders and product teams can apply to what they do, if they want to have a chance at competing on the same level as Pepsico.

Season 1 | Episode 5: Design’s Impact on Business so Far and What to Expect in the Future (with Susan Onigbinde and Thomas Osume)

Design and Innovation Podcast Hosts talk about the change in the business world as design is welcomed increasingly across companies.

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Susan and Thomas, did a run through of products and processes that have been created using the design approach to create amazing experiences for customers while still addressing their needs. 

They discussed various companies that have been able to infuse the design process into their company culture which has had mouth watering returns when compared with their peers. 

As we see from the Mckinsey Design Index (MDI) these companies who infuse design in their process have grown in terms of revenue and their total returns to shareholders. This points to the value that design brings to businesses who can properly incorporate it into how they operate and serve their customers.

In summary they talked on past episodes in which teams and businesses can learn and grow their business from.

Season 1 | Episode 4: What Global Companies Should Know About Design (with Chris Do)

Chris Do, Emmy award-winning designer and Founder of globally known Futur platform, shares insights on design, talking about how creatives need to learn more of the business side of design and how global businesses can leverage design to succeed.

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We talked about some misconceptions of design in a chat with Chris Do, a well-known face in the Design world. 

We talked about how design is beyond just logos and aesthetics. He shared how companies can approach product development based on the design approach. 

Chris shared on the creative economy, explaining that designers who are able to understand the business side of creating things have an edge over designers who don’t.

He also highlighted key ways companies can birth effective solutions, giving a clearly thought out means by which global businesses can develop products that their customers will love.

Chris encourages businesses to trust their designers in creating their brands and experiences, trusting in their direction, even as they produce unique results that become of great value to the business.

Season 1 | Episode 3: How To Leverage Sustainable Design To Grow Business (with Scott Boylston)

On this episode, Scott Boylston a Sustainability Design Expert, speaks on the opportunity’s businesses can leverage using sustainable innovation.

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Scott Boylston is the Graduate Coordinator of Design for Sustainability at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). A key advocate of Sustainable Design, Scott Boylston shares with us on how companies can adapt sustainable design in their product development processes.

The concept of sustainability consists of three main aspects which are economic, environmental and social which could also be seen as profit, planet, and people.

Sustainability is one area that people and companies need to consider while they seek ways to meet their present needs. This is so important because if it isn’t considered, it will have a great impact on future generations. Rising temperatures, lower water levels, these have been some of the results of not being responsible enough to consider sustainable means of meeting human needs.

With businesses now considering sustainable means of production more than ever before, Scott shares insights that various companies and brands can adopt in ensuring global preservation while still meeting the expectations of their stakeholders.

Scott took the time to go into details about sustainability, sharing with us a framework in which we could use when designing for sustainability. Here’s a link to the framework.

Discovering the Value for Your New Offering: A Look at the Offering Viability Tool

In developing a new product or service, there is always a need to get an understanding of the value to be gotten for the business. This value derivation might not necessarily be precise but will be based on established economic facts.

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In developing a new product or service, there is always a need to get an understanding of the value to be gotten for the business. This value derivation might not necessarily be precise but will be based on established economic facts. During one of our internal processes, we developed a tool to help us plot out estimates of the returns expected for a product we were building for one of our clients. The tool is called the Offering Viability tool.

The Offering Viability Tool helps teams map out and have critical discussions on the potential market size, revenue and cost of launching a new product to market. The tool takes into consideration facts like the market size, targeted customer base, competitive landscape and cost structure in building a revenue analysis that could be used by your team to test for things like viability and customer buy-in. 

As it is with developing solutions using the design process, the tool gives room for teams to constantly iterate. We designed the tool so teams can compare up to three offerings to best decide on which offering gives your organisation the most value for your organisation. See this as a pivotal tool in building your business case for your new offering just before you launch. It is also a good way to share the value of a potential product with stakeholder and sponsor within your organization.

This tool is great for product teams, strategy and innovation teams wanting to launch a new product/service to use this tool in measuring the offering’s viability.

Here is a breakdown of how you could use this tool.

Step1: Download the Offering Viability Tool here.

Step 2: Write out the offering(s) you want to measure to see if its capable of bringing in revenue for your business. You can use this tool for a maximum of three offerings (3) and a minimum of one (1).

Step 3: Fill each block with the necessary information needed. 

Step 4: Make decisions on the next steps based on the results.

At the end of the session, you’d have come up with clear insights to guide on next steps moving forward to product/service launch.

Tools You Need for More Productive Meetings

Meetings are very important for any business to exist, however, they could also be a major time killer, especially if there are no results to show for all that meeting time.

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What was the longest meeting you’ve ever sat in? How productive would you say it was? No doubt, meetings are very important for any business to exist, however, they could also be a major time killer, especially if there are no results to show for all that meeting time.

As your team seeks to work more efficiently and deliver increasingly better results, there is a need to find ways to reduce time wasters and speed up productivity.

Recently our team carried out a workshop with the digital team of a Bank. We worked with them to show how they could leverage design methodologies to drive efficiency and push for more innovative solutions in their department.

 As we like our workshops to be more practical, we had them divide into 2 small groups of about 8 each, and then select in the area of products solution and processes, issues they wanted to tackle.  

 We introduced them to an effective process that helps teams tackle obstacles and move forward with feasible next steps from a meeting. 

We call the method, Mountains and Valleys or the Decision-making Tool.

The Mountains and Valleys Tool is a tool that can be used to address many of the challenges around a product or process (or anything else really) effectively, resulting in solutions that can be implemented quickly.

We’ve broken the process into simple steps so you and your team can use it to ensure your next meeting is productive.

First, decide on what you want your outcome to be… 

Seeing the team’s overall goals, we had the team focus on two areas, on their product and internal processes. Due to the large number of team members that were present, we divided the team into two groups, one group focused on product, the other on process. When that was done, we had the team decide on a specific challenge in the area they chose. For the process team, for instance, the focus area was easily onboarding new customers onto the digital platform.

Side note: Within each team, we identified the ‘deciders’ for each group. ‘Deciders’ are people designated to ultimately select what option or direction the team will move forward with. Now in a creative setting, having a superior or ‘Oga’ deciding which way a team should go is heavily frowned upon, reason being that for the best idea to win, the team has to be objective in their selection. However, in sessions like these, where the team has got to keep moving, a Decider is needed should the team reach a tie when voting on ideas or next steps. This is to ensure the team doesn’t get bogged down with arguments and are able to move on a way forward quickly.

Next find what helps the team, ‘move up the mountain’ (meaning what helps the team progress)

When the objective is agreed upon and noted, in this case it’s: easily onboarding new customers onto the digital platform, members of the team wrote down on post-its, the things that were currently working well with the status quo. Here, team members write down things they are doing that is pushing them, ‘up the mountain, or helping them achieve their ultimate goal – which, in this case, was to easily have new customers onboard and start using their app.

This step is important because it helps the team identify hidden motivators that encourages team productivity. This also helps other team members see what other members see as motivation.

With that done and all positive things written posted on the Mountainside of the tool, we moved to the next stage, the Valleys, or challenges stopping them from achieving.

Then note down the challenges

Having found things that what was pushing the team forward and up the ‘mountain’, we asked the team to write down things that were holding them back, things that were keeping them in the valley. The team wrote as many things as they could think of that were holding them back from reaching their ultimate goal. 

Next, the team voted to select the most pressing challenge they felt needed to be addressed.

And then we started Ideating…

After the team voted, the most voted challenge was then converted into a How Might We (HMW) statement.

For those who are new to the process of Design Thinking, a HMW statement helps to frame a problem into a question that helps teams to come up with a wide range of ideas.

How Might We statements are broad enough to have us imagine a wide variety of solutions, however they’re not too focused that they limit our ideas.

Essentially, they’re good for coming up with a large quantity of out-of-the-box ideas.

To put it more practically, let’s say a team is faced with the challenge of not getting enough new customers, possibly due to their service structure:

A narrow (and incorrect) HMW, would be –> “ How might we gain new customers using our digital platforms”

A broad (and incorrect) HMW, would be –> ” How might we gain new customers”

An appropriate HMW statement could be–> “How might we structure our services to attract new customers”.

Then, in answer to the How Might We (HMW) question, the team wrote down as many ideas as they could think of, within the given time, we gave them about 5 minutes.  

Now, vote on the winning ideas 

After all the ideas were gathered, we had the team vote on the winning solutions. The top 5 solutions were selected and placed against the effort-impact scale to help the team identify the solution that would have the most impact but would require a small amount of effort from the team when implemented.

After selecting the solution with the highest impact and lowest amount of effort i.e. the solution that will require the lowest amount of resources (time, money, people) yet deliver the best possible result. We then moved to the implementation stage.

At this stage, teams map out all the necessary details needed for execution using the implementation map.

This points the team to the next steps, identifying the why, what, who, and when of the solution to be implemented.

Typically, teams come out of the ideation phase, with a lot of great ideas but very few of them are ever accomplished or see the light of day.

This has left most teams with a graveyard of solutions with huge potential for growth, market disruption, profitability and more.

This is a major area that the Implementation tool and the entire decision-making exercise is built to tackle.

Download the Mountains and Valleys tool here.

 You can find some of our other tools and resources here. Also, if you’re needing assistance with improving your team’s work processes or developing more innovative solutions, contact us to find out more about our workshops.

Don’t forget to like, share and leave your comments. Thanks.

The Innovation Sourcebook: Finding Inspiration from Successful Products in the Market

There are many ways you can get inspired in launching your new venture or improving on an already existing one. The innovation sourcebook serves as a means to gather various inspirations in one place to help you as you innovate.

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Innovation, as defined by Wikipedia is the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing market needs.

Innovation, in some cases, can be something totally new that was never in existence and in other cases, it is inspired by technology, process or concept that has once existed. However, we see today that business leaders are getting innovative around their businesses more and more.

There are certain reasons why and one I’ll like to point out would be the inspirations they get from novel ideas which may not necessarily be something that directly applies to them or comes from their various industries. For example, we see how a digital revolution led to online booking and leasing service as Airbnb which opened the door for an online car hiring service like Uber and a parking space hiring platform like your parking space UK.

The innovative cycle of new business opportunities is in a loop fuelled by existing ideas. With that said this post is aimed at sharing some of the eye-catching innovation that can inspire you in building your next business venture which will be worth $1 billion, I hope.

The simple way of sharing great ideas that have impacted businesses would be to use the Innovation sourcebook, which is a tool to help you organise various innovative solutions and the unique values they offer to customers and shareholders. Below is one of our curated sourcebooks.

Looking at the curated book above, find out ways that one or more of the above listed solutions can impact the next thing you develop.

A quick thought

How might your team leverage AI in helping people use your offering better?

Use models like the innovation sourcebook to find solutions you can align to meet a unique challenge you may face within your environment.

For business leaders within the banking industry looking to leverage new models or technology, you could use this sourcebook to compile some of the most interesting business models that have caught your attention. Looking through them at a go will help you discover patterns and opportunities you can leverage on to drive business growth.

Be on the lookout for new products and processes being developed around you. Download the innovation sourcebook to help you curate new solutions as they come.

A Conversation with Robin Jadkowski Consultant at Kobold

“Most people have the impression purpose is a thing that’s located in your heart or that it is connected to the deeper meaning of life. While that is true to some degree, purpose design in business means something different: It is the compass for your organization that drives your business into the right direction.”

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What is Purpose Design?

A good way to think of purpose design in business is through the analogy of a car: The organization’s purpose is the windshield through which you and your employees look ahead. Most people have the impression purpose is a thing that’s located in your heart or that it is connected to the deeper meaning of life. While that is true to some degree, purpose design in business means something different: It is the compass for your organization that drives your business into the right direction. It enables yourself and your employees to experience meaningful work.

The purpose of your business is the reason WHY your organization exists: What positive impact are you making on society? Studies show that having integrated a purpose in your organization has a strong long-term performance pay-off, because it is the one most powerful intrinsic motivator for you and your employees. It is the reason you get up in the morning and you know that you’re working on something meaningful.

“purpose design in business means something different: It is the compass for your organization that drives your business into the right direction.”

How can businesses leverage on the model?

A superficial purpose statement on the office wall or in the design of marketing campaigns doesn’t leverage the potential of authentic purpose in business. This is just “purpose washing”.  An authentic integration of purpose has implications not only on marketing or recruiting. Purpose guides your product development, defines your organizational structure and directs the day-to-day leadership and employee behaviour.

Leveraging purpose in your business is done in a co-creative bottom-up process starting with your employees and key stakeholders. You begin by interviewing them on what they experience as the current purpose of your organization. After that, you synthesize the data and co-creatively craft a purpose statement. In the next steps it is vital to lead by example: embrace your purpose and implement it into the strategy and organizational structure. Make these direct implications of your purpose clear to your organization.

It is vital to facilitate purpose-driven organizational change. A good way this can be done is by giving your employees responsibility for exploration of new ideas that are aligned with your purpose. Combined with an internal structure which helps these ideas to blossom within the organization it gives employees the feeling of being valued and leads to a more engaged workforce.

What areas as a Design and Innovation coach do you look out for to impact teams?

 I am an advocate of strength-based approaches to enable teams to work to their full potential. The (German) work culture is often focused on improving weaknesses and only shipping a product when it’s close to perfectionism. The result of such a culture is often making small incremental improvements of existing products while being scared to take a big step forward. When we focus on the strengths of innovation teams, the teams gain self-efficacy and -confidence in their own actions. They are empowered to take risks.

 A small step is implementing the following questions into kick-off meetings of your next project: “What are you proud of?” “What strengths do our customers or stakeholders see in us?” followed up with “How can we use these to our advantage?”.

Design Thinking is seemingly popular, what unique factor(s) differentiates designers? 

 Designers are the interface between creativity and problem-solving. I believe that everybody on the planet is creative, meaning that they can create a novel solution to an existing problem. In contrary to the popular misconception of creativity that a single person sits down on the train and scribbles the next big idea into her notebook.

Design thinking leverages the skills, experiences and knowledge of diverse people to come up with a solution to a challenge. Therefore, there are many differentiating factors for designers and design thinkers to be successful problem solvers: Being willing to understand the problem space from multiple perspectives, building empathy with the users, trying and testing out new ideas while not being afraid to fail and being able to work on a shared vision together with a team.

“Designers are the interface between creativity and problem solving”

What resources around Design and Innovation do you think business leaders can learn from?

I’m not a fan of learning something from reading articles or books. The best resource for learning that we are equipped with are our hands, our words and the interaction with other people. Meaningful personal experiences have the ability to impact our thinking and change our behaviour.

 Therefore, my advice especially for leaders and decision-makers is to walk the talk and get out of your own comfort-zone: Expose yourself to people that are unlike yourself, may it be innovation experts or designers that you find inspiring. Book a training where you learn about innovation in a group setting and most importantly learn by doing: Begin by discovering unmet needs or problems that your users face and test solutions on a small scale. By doing that you have already learned the fundamentals for innovation: rediscovering your own curiosity and doing instead of talking.

“The best resource for learning that we are equipped with are our hands, our words and the interaction with other people.”

What #innovationmoment have you experienced in your career so far? (We define an #innovationmoment as something you’ve been a part of or have witnessed that has been incredibly life-changing and impactful to others) Can you share it?

The most impactful #innovationmoment I experienced was while working with a client in a quite traditional organizational structure and mindset. We facilitated an innovation process for the development of an internal product for their employees. In the research phase, interviewing employees and key stakeholders, it became clear that they were in a state of refusal: Why should we change what we are doing? We know how to do it and it always worked out fine. The powerful insight we had in this phase was that the employees were scared of making the change into a more digital workflow due to the fear of making their own workforce obsolete.

For me that’s an important ethical question to consider when innovating. The powerful shift in the mindsets of the employees began when they realized that their knowledge was valued, and they were included into the steps of the product development. For them it became more of an opportunity than a threat. Through the iterative process they were able to shift their fear into a motivation to effectively change their organizations processes and to move themselves out of the comfort into the learning zone.

A Conversation with April Anazodo CEO & Co-founder Metamentis

“To stay ahead in an era of global market disruption, business leaders not only need to innovate, but also build a creative culture that enables their teams proactively drive innovation.”

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How can a business turn a challenge into an innovative solution? What steps will they have to take using the strategic play model? 

There’s definitely no singular approach on how to turn a challenge into an innovative solution, problem-solving and innovation require a blend of various tools, methodologies, skills and values.

However, it’s important that businesses consider diverse perspectives when trying to solve a challenge. Ground-breaking innovation is often a result of embracing different points of view and making connections to get the complete picture. Remember the story of “The Blind Men and the Elephant”? All six blind men had touched a different part of the elephant but tried to use their individual experience to define what an elephant felt like.

“Ground-breaking innovation is often a result of embracing different points of view and making connections to get the complete picture.”

Many businesses still have meetings and strategy sessions where just a few people feel confident enough or are given the opportunity to share their thoughts and bring their ideas forward. You can already tell that they would end up with less than half an elephant! 

Businesses can use LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY®  to radically enhance their problem-solving and strategy process. LSP allows people to use LEGO® bricks as a tool for creating, thought-building, storytelling and deep reflections. It creates a safe environment for innovation to thrive and gives all participants a voice regardless of culture or position.

You and your team seem to leverage the idea of ‘playfulness’ for creativity and innovation in business. Can you speak more to this, for business leaders looking to drive innovation in their organizations?

My team and I love the LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® Methodology because it’s not random play, we engage teams in deep thinking and reflection within an experiential framework. The process of building and collaborating often produces insights which simply would not have appeared in regular discussions. Participants use LEGO® bricks to create models that express their thoughts, reflections and ideas, unlike the typical strategy sessions that occur in places of work.

 In the past organizations focused on logical and methodical thinking but that’s no longer enough. It’s no surprise that LinkedIn has ranked Creativity as number 1 in its list of most in-demand soft skills for 2018, 2019 and 2020.

 With play, most of our senses are awakened and our imagination is freed to go wild and generate unconventional ideas. Busy work life and rigid routines tend to kill creativity but when organizations give their employees the space and time for constructive play the results are phenomenal.

“With play, most of our senses are awakened and our imagination is freed to go wild and generate unconventional ideas.”

To stay ahead in an era of global market disruption, business leaders not only need to innovate, but also build a creative culture that enables their teams proactively drive innovation.

“To stay ahead in an era of global market disruption, business leaders not only need to innovate, but also build a creative culture that enables their teams proactively drive innovation.”

Seeing the complexities businesses face either as a result of a new policy, customer trends or economic strains do you think the Design process is a good strategy to turn to when seeking to create innovative solutions around those constraints? 

The pace of change like you have outlined in today’s business environment is very swift. What design thinking and other creative processes do is to make room for rapid problem solving using a structured process. 

This process consistently helps you maintain focus on the customer; the very essence your business exists. It helps you track the customer journey and create tailor-made solutions or improvements on this journey.

 The tools used develops the capacity of employees to think on their feet, generate, select and analyze ideas within a short period of time.

Creating ideas is not enough; communicating these ideas is also as important as creating them. The design thinking process makes it easy to communicate ideas in 3D thereby making abstractions concrete. To develop innovative solutions to customer or business challenges, design thinking and a plethora of creative processes are your go-to toolkit for today’s business environment.

Which company would you say you admire for their approach in using design to create innovative solutions?

It’s awesome to see more companies embrace design as a critical business driver. However, I absolutely admire Apple’s tenacious approach to design. I would love to see more of our traditional institutions in Nigeria embrace this same level of commitment to design in order to create highly intuitive customer experiences.

“I absolutely admire Apple’s tenacious approach to design. I would love to see more of our traditional institutions in Nigeria embrace this same level of commitment to design in order to create highly intuitive customer experiences.”

You have a background in the Banking industry, if there’s something you could add or do to improve the process around corporate governance (which you know quite well seeing you have worked within that department in the past when you worked in the banking industry) or any other department based on your experience now in design, what would it be? 

There seems to be a common assumption that corporate governance introduces bureaucracy and roadblocks that hinder innovation. This is based on another common misconception that creativity and design thinking should not be structured processes.

However, I believe, the core corporate governance principles of fairness, transparency, accountability and responsibility are critical in building a culture of innovation.

The problem might just be the way some banks execute corporate governance controls. It is possible to be more creative and intentional around implementing these controls in a way that does not negatively impact customer/employee experience but rather complements innovation efforts. This is what I would love to improve.

“I believe, the core corporate governance principles of fairness, transparency, accountability and responsibility are critical in building a culture of innovation.”

What #innovationmoment have you experienced in your career so far? (We define an #innovationmoment as something you’ve been a part of or have witnessed that has been incredibly life-changing and impactful to others) Can you share? 

A real estate firm approached us about their growth challenges. They had spent a lot of money on marketing efforts but the CEO didn’t feel the ROI was worthwhile. 

We gathered more facts and information on their challenges and we realized they had never really defined their brand and this was negatively impacting the customer journey.

So, we ran a customer experience design workshop for them. The challenge was “How might we design a unique customer experience across all touchpoints and meaningfully portray their brand”.

Following the workshop, the firm immediately redesigned its marketing strategy and offices to reflect their brand identity. They have since doubled their revenue and exponentially grown their customer base.

“A real estate firm approached us about their growth challenges… we ran a customer experience design workshop…They have since doubled their revenue and exponentially grown their customer base.”

#innovationmoment

“A real estate firm approached us about their growth challenges… we ran a customer experience design workshop…They have since doubled their revenue and exponentially grown their customer base.”

A Conversation with Scott Boylston, Sustainable Design Expert and Social Entrepreneur

“People hear the word innovation, and they immediately think: iPhone, AI, VR, etc.”

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Sustainable Design and Innovation Expert, Scott Boylston shares with us how businesses can innovate and profit, from the lesser-known approach of social innovation and sustainability. He gives examples of companies doing this and sheds light on what innovation truly is-beyond just technology

Tell us a little bit about your journey to your current position as Graduate Coordinator of the Design for Sustainability Program at Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). What led you onto this path of innovation?

It’s been an interesting path that has included everything from writing fiction and designing sustainable surfwear, to creating package design for luxury cosmetics and facilitating change in how professional groups perceive the value of construction waste.

The big driver for me has always been a deep and active curiosity that’s manifested itself in the interplay between the tiniest and most transient of expressions and the broadest and most complex of contexts.

Innovation generally starts with questions; why are things the way they are, and what keeps them in that state even when imperfections are obvious, abundant, and even fundamentally problematic? We’re a strange species; while our desire for change is constant, dysfunctional habits whose detrimental impacts are on full display can remain sacred and ingrained.

“Innovation generally starts with questions; why are things the way they are, and what keeps them in that state even when imperfections are obvious, abundant, and even fundamentally problematic?”

In my transition to teaching design, I’ve focused on exploring how the value of innovation is determined not by the innovation itself, as much as by what it is perceived to be. As we teach it in SCAD’s Design for Sustainability program, design is understood as the creative potential to create conditions for sustainable innovations to burst forth from any given context.

“design is understood as the creative potential to create conditions for sustainable innovations to burst forth from any given context.”

What are your thoughts on design and innovation (particularly in the area of sustainability) as it is currently around the world?

People hear the word innovation, and they immediately think: iPhone, AI, VR, etc. These are all great forms of innovation, but when almost 100% of our population thinks about technology when they hear the word innovation, we’re way out of balance.

“People hear the word innovation, and they immediately think: iPhone, AI, VR, etc. These are all great forms of innovation, but when almost 100% of our population thinks about technology when they hear the word innovation, we’re way out of balance.”

With so much emphasis on technological innovation, humankind’s ability to keep up with all of that technology’s unintended consequences is lagging disturbingly behind. We need to turn our attention to social innovation—innovating the ways in which we work together; the ways in which we explore shared futures of abundance and equity through generative conversations.

That doesn’t necessarily mean slowing down technological innovation as much as informing it with deeper, inclusive, and future-oriented intentions. When you’re driving a car at 20 kilometers per hour you have plenty of time to react to unforeseen complications in front of you. When you’re traveling at 120 kilometers per hour your response time has to be faster if you want to survive.

The rate of technological innovation continues to accelerate at an astonishing rate, and it’s out-scaled our human ability to respond to unanticipated repercussions. Yet we consistently neglect to focus on the character of the human dynamics that could infuse human-scaled and human dignity-oriented quality controls into this technological deluge.

What are your key responsibilities as a Graduate Coordinator, Design for Sustainability program at SCAD?

My great honor in this life is to help guide young, creative, and deeply caring individuals through a journey of discovery into how their passions can manifest themselves through sincere, curious, and rigorously impartial explorations of complex situations.

I co-founded the Masters’ program a decade ago and teach many of the classes, as well as mentor the students through their everyday challenges and epiphanies, including thesis development, internships, community interactions, and professional development; you name it. I also recruit young and justice-oriented individuals who are seeking ways to make a visible difference in other people’s lives.

How would you define innovation based on your vast experience in the sphere of design?

Our program talks about a three-pronged approach to innovation: Mind, Matter, and Society (see image).

When we speak of ‘mind,’ we focus on people’s mindset or worldview. Paradigms matter. In systems thinking, the purpose of any system defines the interaction of its elements, and in societies, our worldview—what we cherish; what we emphasize in our daily lives, either explicitly or tacitly; what we deem normal or abnormal; acceptable or unacceptable; just or unjust—determines everything else.

The ‘matter’ part of the equation explores the materiality and technology of our rapidly changing world. This covers what most people think of when they hear the word innovation, and from a sustainability perspective includes everything from renewable and distributed energy production to circular and re-localized flows of material goods, and from economically just forms of finance and banking to open source software and hardware.

And the ‘society’ part focuses on social innovation; participatory and iterative human interaction with a shared vision of a common future. The idea is to activate different aspects within each realm of innovation when considering how a context-specific solution can enhance the social, cultural, environmental, and economic conditions of that situation.

We see these forms of innovation as if they were items on a tapas menu; pick a few from each category that are most appropriate for the occasion and create the most sustainably savory of combinations. You don’t have to be an expert in each one. What you need to do is seek a nuanced understanding of the breadth of any context—in place, and over time—and apply a suite of strategies that most effectively generate both change and the conditions for further change.

Do you run workshops for Ideation, Planning or Problem Solving? If so, how do you go about them?

We do run a lot of workshops. Most of them are catered specifically to the context of the situation. They emerge from our human-centered research, and they are generative, in that we run a series of them to create a cascade of learning that includes those we work with throughout.

We’re very keen on framings such as Theory U and transformative scenario planning that allow groups of people to leave behind past assumptions of what’s possible and what’s not. We believe storytelling can weave contrasting views into a harmonious tapestry. We focus on ‘getting the system into the room.’

And we look at the opportunity much like organizations like Reos Partners, Roller Strategies, and Bridgeway Partners, although we are approaching it from a designing and design-thinking perspective. This would include adapting self-organizational workshop approaches like frog’s Collective Action Toolkit, and the Thinking Wrong, which adds elements of surprise and playfulness when the situation allows for it.

What factors should one consider when designing for sustainability?

A focus on long-term consequences of seemingly attractive short-term solutions, as well as exploring potential unintended consequences of actions is one.

Considering the value of prototypes that test assumptions even as they pave the way forward is also important.

Systems thinking is always considering the interdependence of all elements and placing special focus on the quality of information flows, and the power asymmetries that are either visible, invisible, or hidden.

Julian Agyemen has observed that you can’t retrofit social justice, and so this is essential too; if you don’t bake social justice into the process from the beginning, it will always slip off the agenda.

How important and relevant is sustainable design for businesses?

It’s becoming more and more relevant every day due to the shrinking resources on our precious planet and the increasing appetite for a materially wealthy lifestyle.

We’re running up against some real limits, and the global corporations have understood this for a while. But we are also moving into an era of higher demands for accountability and sustainability from consumers.

There’s an increasing risk in business as usual, not only from changing consumer mindsets, but from regulatory changes, and from upstarts that are diving into social entrepreneurship with a passion and a commitment to doing things right.

Which companies do you admire most for their approach to innovation? Can you share what caught your attention about their approach?

Patagonia’s new mission statement is simply this; “We’re in business to save our home planet.” No mincing words, and cutting to the quick when it comes to what, in the end, makes the difference between a hospitable planet, and a life of toil in an uncertain landscape: vibrant ecosystems that are solely responsible for our ability to thrive.

Their approach is systemic; it looks at their value chain and asks who contributes and what do they receive in return; what ecosystems are compromised, and how might they be restored and regenerated in return. They look at sustainable innovation holistically and rigorously, and with care and respect for all that bring value into their business sphere.

Companies that have innovated material sustainability like Method and Pangea Organics due to their commitment to sustainable material innovation have created opportunities for others to follow that same path with less risk.

Mud Jeans has disrupted the denim market with circular concepts that can reconfigure the reverse logistics for textiles. There are many companies that have embraced an ‘we’re all in it together’ attitude.

There are new ones every day that raise the bar and reveal just how unimaginative and un-innovative companies that still rely on exploitation of people and natural resources really are.

What advice would you give to professionals looking to improve their career in sustainable design, strategy or innovation leadership?

Find the passion inside you to build innovations that celebrate our deep interconnectivity with all of nature, including your fellow humans, no matter how seemingly far removed they are from your process.

If you define success by this measure, you’ll be surprised just how exciting your exploration of innovation can be. It’s simply a matter of reframing the basic challenge you’re confronted with. There are regenerative feedback loops that exist everywhere, but if we don’t feed them, they remain dormant, and thus, unseen.

When we tap into these kinds of energy flows, they almost always kick start an increase in positive energy that benefits us all. This is not only the way to operate; it’s a way to present the power of your own design contributions to potential clients.

“Find the passion inside you to build innovations that celebrate our deep interconnectivity with all of nature, including your fellow humans, no matter how seemingly far removed they are from your process.”

What #innovationmoment are you most proud of in your role in the Sustainability Program at SCAD?

It actually involves DODO’s founder! Our SCAD team was invited to participate in a Rockefeller Foundation effort by Pyxera Global to reduce post-harvest loss of tomato crops in northern Nigeria.

The deep contextual fieldwork we facilitated—conducted in large part by Susan Onigbinde and another SCAD alumni—helped us identify a design opportunity in creating a facilitation tool for smallholder farmers and their business partners along the supply chain to access more value from the tomato supply chain before the post-harvest losses occurred.

The project—an interactive, multi-stakeholder tool designed to create generative dialog around shared value creation—resulted in a train-the-trainer program across northern Nigeria and has become a model for similar initiatives in other parts of the world.

Your new book: “Designing with Society”, talks about a new culture of design that’s emerging and how designers/design agencies can leverage them along with the set of competencies the book introduces, to begin to effect lasting change on our world and its future. How could this incredible concept be infused to businesses today, especially to drive growth?

The book Designing with Society presents a detailed, and hopefully compelling, case for designers to adopt Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum’s Capability Approach to Human Development into their design thinking mindset.

The basic principles of the book can help businesses reconsider their role in society altogether.

It can help them adopt a mindset that challenges them, for instance, to ask questions about the ability of people along their supply chain to do and to be what they have reason to value. And this, in turn, might help them discover how new opportunities arise not simply through a value chain that enhances human integrity along its full course, but within it as well.