Earlier this month, it was reported that 22 patients in a renal ward of the Singapore General Hospital (SGH) have been infected with the deadly hepatitis C virus. 4 have since died. The current prognosis is that it was likely due to cross-contamination across medical equipment. I’m convinced that the hospital in question and the Ministry of Health will take steps in identifying the root cause and fixing the problem, however the real victim in this series of unfortunate events is trust.
If we took a user or customer centric point of view to these proceedings, we will soon realize that the basic reason for medical institutions to exist has not been held. All this said with no disrespect to the many professionals in the industry, many of whom are my good friends.
In design thinking, we often adopt a problem solving mindset we call: “Jobs to be done”, or “What’s in it for me?”. This helps us understand what is in the mind (or heart) of the consumer when he or she visits a medical institution. In most cases, our research tells us that this “job” is to get well. In this case of cross contamination due to poor infection control, not only did patients not get well, they just happen to pick up an incurable disease as well.
This aligns with some ethnographic research that we did some time back when people whispered to us that there are certain “hospitals” you don’t bring the sick or elderly to…if you do they never leave. When people’s deep-seated needs and motivations have not been satisfied, they lose trust in the system. Further reports telling us that such infections are rare is only going to create more cynicism. While this challenge of building trust is a wicked one to solve, some basic principles apply.
Say Sorry – To the credit of all the parties involved this was done. Admission of guilt shows that you are taking responsibility and ownership of the problem. Nothing diffuses hate and distrust quicker than saying sorry.
Transparency – This is one of the cornerstones of building trust, which unfortunately, takes guts to deliver authentically. People don’t like to see the responsible parties hiding behind bureaucracy or even things beyond their control. Try engaging your stakeholders (patients, caregivers etc.) by brining them into your organization to validate what you have done to solve the problem. Even better, work with them to co-create an even better solution. I believe the role of patient or community advocates in hospitals are here to stay.
Stop treating people like numbers – Many large organizations, not necessarily in healthcare, tend to look at their customers as a number on a spreadsheet. When this happens, it becomes too easy to treat problems like we do collateral damage. Numbers should be used to track improvements, not as a means to accept failure when your percentages are low enough.
Be Human – understand that people have deep seated needs and motivations (often not expressed or made visible) that need to be satisfied. Most importantly recognize that this is going to conflict with how you do your job, especially if you are in healthcare.
The key to all of this is about understanding and managing your stakeholder’s expectations. Many things that we do, especially when they are systemic, are now expected as a standard deliverable by our customers. Especially if we have good competitors that do their job well. This means we need to classify services, productivity, efficiency, infection control etc. as “hygiene” factors. Something that we need to get right from the start, if not we are just wasting our time doing what we do. Not an easy task, but at least we know that the design thinking mindset will help you manage this and even alert you when these expectations shift.
A few simple observations on how you can implement Design Thinking in your or any organization large or tiny. These observations have been validated time and time again during my continual involvement with this activity.
1) The acceptance of Design Thinking is a lot easier when there is a real problem to be solved. If there isn’t one, it helps to talk about Design Thinking in the context of one.
2) Biggest roadblock to Design Thinking: organizations seeing it as a nice to have rather than a must-have.
3) Many of the articles I’ve read about DT misses this point: It is not only about the “who” or the “how”, but also about the “why” and “so what?”
4) Design Thinking lives in the future; hence it is hard to convince the minds that live in the present.
5) Design Thinking is really about applying design strategically across many disciplines and functions. This perspective helps designers be more comfortable with the concept.
6) Not everyone can be a design thinker. The stories I could tell you about trying to convert the unconvinced. Therefore, it is a huge myth when someone tells you that anyone can be a Design Thinker. Well, let me qualify that, anyone can be a Design Thinker if they allowed themselves to, most people can’t move past that. So therefore not everyone can be a Design Thinker.
7) I’ve found that Design Thinking sometimes struggles with credibility when non-designers facilitate the activity. The reverse is also true, in that not all designers are Design Thinkers or able to facilitate Design Thinking activities.
8) Most organizations don’t get innovation. They think it is this shiny new thing that can be sold for a premium. The trick is that most people forget that it is really a positioning play. To be positioned so far ahead that the competition has a hard time catching up. Design and design strategy (or thinking) can help you here.
9) Implementing Design Thinking requires a change in mindset. Most businesses, especially those taller that the Pyramids of Gaza, struggle with change. That’s a fact. So when Design Thinking does not work take a look at the talent or the organization’s culture instead.
10) Design Thinking also needs to stop being fluffy and start being results-oriented. Wait, I think we can phrase it better. Design Thinking needs to stop focusing on the process but on the outcome. Yep, make sure there is always one.
11) There is never a 100% success guarantee with the solutions generated by Design or Design Thinking (don’t forget to learn and iterate quickly!). But that does not mean you do not identify your ideal outcomes or define your KPIs (the horror!). Just make sure it is not always about making more money.
12) Finally, Design Thinking is a very uncomfortable activity, process, approach, mindset etc. (pick one?) for many people. After working with a number of clients and also with participants from many Design Thinking workshops, we have found people lost, uncomfortable and sometimes even angry. We should spare a thought for how they feel when we are working with them. Wait; is that not Design Thinking as well?
So what do you guys think? I would love to hear your experiences and stories of how you have helped or led the implementation of Design Thinking in your or any organization. Please do leave your feedback and comments below, thank you!
If you have not already check out this other series of articles on Implementing Design Thinking. (I was experimenting if I should write many small articles or one longer one like this. In the end I just did both!)
Jeremy Keith writes:
Convenience. Ease of use. Seamlessness.
On the face of it, these all seem like desirable traits in digital and physical products alike. But they come at a price. When we design, we try to do the work so that the user doesn’t have to. We do the thinking so the user doesn’t have to. Don’t make the user think. But taken too far, that mindset becomes dangerous.
Marshall McLuhan said that every extension is also an amputution. As we augment the abilities of people to accomplish their tasks, we should be careful not to needlessly curtail what they can do:
Here we are, a society hell bent on extending our reach through phones, through computers, through “seamless integration” and yet all along the way we’re unwittingly losing perhaps as much as we gain. The mediums we create are built to carry out specific tasks efficiently, but by doing so they have a tendency to restrict our options for accomplishing that task by other means. We begin to learn the “One” way to do it, when in fact there are infinite ways. The medium begins to restrict our thinking, our imagination, our potential.
The idea of “seamlessness” as a desirable trait in what we design is one that bothers me. Technology has seams. By hiding those seams, we may think we are helping the end user, but we are also making a conscience choice to deceive them (or at least restrict what they can do).
Hmm…food for thought, but perhaps along the same line of reasoning as “Is Google making us stupid?”
I do see Jeremy’s point, but if we treat technology as tool that helps the user achieve his goals, “seamlessness” just becomes the grease that makes achieving that goal a whole lot quicker.
In a rare interview with Fastcompany, CEO Dietrich Mateschitz shares his thoughts about what Red Bull is all about.
What Red Bull stands for is that it “gives you wings…,” which means that it provides skills, abilities, power etc. to achieve whatever you want to. It is an invitation as well as a request to be active, performance-oriented, alert, and to take challenges. When you work or study, do your very best. When you do sports, go for your limits. When you have fun or just relax, be aware of it and appreciate it.
“Gives you Wings…” has to be one of the best Elevator Pitch I’ve seen. It is finely crafted, well thought out, concise, and meaningful.
Just like Red Bull, elevator pitches are something many companies should also take a moment to get right. This is because elevator pitches (or some say brand taglines) are a great way to communicate your purpose or what you are all about to your customers.
Do you have an elevator pitch? Does it match what you are all about? Do your customers get it? Do your customers really care? A no to any of these questions usually means a lot of soul searching is required.
The urban legend for an elevator pitch was all about a hungry entrepreneur who, in the time it took for an elevator ride from the ground floor to the top floor, had to convince a CEO of a large corporation to invest in him. It’s an urban legend as to date; there has not been any evidence that it was a successful way to raise money. But the romanticism of the idea stuck.
Elevator pitches are usually made up of a few sentences and describes what your idea, company, purpose is all about. Gamestorming (Amazon Link) has a great example on how to construct an Elevator Pitch. Get together with your team and brainstorm the answers to the following questions. Then fill in the pitch sentence at the end.
Going through the exercise involves both a generating and forming phase. To setup the generating phase, write these questions in sequence on flip-charts:
Who is the target customer?
What is the customer need?
What is the product name?
What is its market category?
What is its key benefit?
Who or what is the competition?
What is the product’s unique differentiator?
These will become the elements of the pitch. They are in a sequence that follows the formula: For (target customer) who has (customer need), (product name) is a (market category) that (one key benefit). Unlike (competition), the product (unique differentiator).
This is a good and fast way to get your elevator pitch together. It’s a great start, but it will take more time to refine it, test and validate it to get it right especially if you want to include your organisation’s purpose in it. Consider your Elevator Pitch a living document that is always in Beta.
Here is Design Sojourn’s elevator pitch, which took me about 50 tries to get right.
We help our clients leverage on Design Led Innovation to make people’s lives better.
The objective of our pitch was to get our clients to understand what we do in a nutshell, and then contact us for more information should the pitch resonated with them. So far it has been working well for us, but we are still looking to improve it.
But why is it important for your design strategy?
I have found that a strong elevator pitch is very powerful in communicating a design strategy or your design principles. While most elevator pitches are used outwards towards your customers as brand taglines, a well-crafted elevator pitch can be used to drive a design strategy internally through multiple departmental levels or business units. The fact that a well-crafted pitch often lacks jargon and is easy to understand, helps many people (especially non-designers or design thinkers) to get it immediately and thus increase the chance for a more consistent execution of an idea.
Why not try creating an elevator pitch in your next design or business strategy workshop, and let me know how it goes?