Some of you might be familiar with the Diffusion of Innovation. It is a theory that seeks to explain how new ideas and technology spread and is typically used to explain consumers’ adoption of technology.
Through our course of work, we’ve come to realise this theory can also be used to describe the readiness of a business for innovation.
First we have the Innovators. They are companies that view innovation as a driver for their business. They constantly look at what they can do next, investing in R&D to create new technology, products and services to better serve their customers needs. They have a great creative culture, experiment often and learn from failure.
For them, being so ahead of the curve, they need to educate others on the benefits that their new product or services offer.
Early adopters are open to, but cautious about innovation. They are typically very aware of what leading businesses in their industry and similar industries are doing. After doing their homework, they create their own products and services inspired by what the innovators are doing.
Being earlier on the curve, their challenge is to convince customers of the value they provide and to adopt the solutions offered.
They try new ways of doing things, but are less consistent with doing so. They know they should innovate and are driven to do so due to a competitive business environment.
They typically innovate from outside in, focusing more on products and services they deliver, sometimes forgetting to change their internal processes to support what they deliver. They need to look their businesses not just from the front-end but also the back-end, so they continue to deliver what they aspire to do.
Being less open to innovation, they wait to see what works and what doesn’t work, enabling them to avoid the common pitfalls. They focus their energies on providing those products and services they are sure people need, but in a more efficient and streamlined manner.
As they arrive later on the market, gaining market share is a challenge as the innovators, early adopters and early majority have taken up a good chunk of market share.
Typically the most risk averse, they wait until almost all their peers and competitors have moved ahead before they realise “I need to do something”. They may not keep up with technology, often updating their processes only because the old way is far too inefficient and the new way is the norm.
They are often caught in a situation where they have to compete with other more innovative businesses. Due to their lack of innovation, they find it hard to survive. A vicious cycle of daily fire-fighting drains time and money, affording them little capacity for innovation.
What do you all think? We love to hear your thoughts, let us know in the comments below!
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 Giza, 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.