At Digital FastForward, we believe design thinking is a superpower for creative problem solving, allowing teams to innovate through any challenge, including the current coronavirus crisis. We now see leaders tapping into innovation practices – such as design thinking, design sprints, and low-code development – to quickly adapt their business models and customer experiences to address new realities imposed by coronavirus.

Has your team built up enough innovation muscle to power through the current crisis?

If not, now is the time to adopt innovation and design thinking practices that help you power through challenges in the face of crisis. As Rahm Emanuel famously said during the 2008 Financial Crisis, “Never let a good crisis go to waste!”

Begin applying these design thinking practices to help your team innovate through the current crisis:

  • Take time to frame your biggest challenge. During a crisis, teams waste precious time battling over which path to pursue. Instead, your team should focus on framing the biggest problem or challenge you face. Be sure to frame your challenge using these three magic words, “How Might We…” Framing challenges this way opens your team up to effective collaboration and prepares the team to explore new possibilities. For example, from a business perspective your team might frame your biggest challenge along the following lines: “How might we minimize the impact of restricted travel on client engagements?” Another example from a personal perspective, you and your family might frame your biggest challenge along these lines: “How might we keep our children engaged while they are attending school remotely?” Once you have your initial challenge identified, check to make sure the challenge is framed from customer or employee (or family member) perspective.
  • Observe customers to deepen empathy. The first step to deepen customer empathy is to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Here’s a simple way to build customer empathy: Reach out to customers and interview them. You will need to spend a little bit of time preparing for your customer interviews. When done well, customer interviews provide a very quick way to uncover a treasure trove of deep insights into customer pain points and opportunities. Customer interviews also help you understand what customers are saying and doing in the context of the problem you are trying to solve. When interviewing for empathy, always ask open-ended questions designed to deepen your understanding of what customers are thinking, seeing, saying, and doing.
  • Brainstorm ideas to overcome your biggest challenge. As leaders work to put new policies in place to address the coronavirus crisis, they will also need to brainstorm new ideas for empowering customers and employees to work in new ways. Effective brainstorming allows your team to come up with dozens of ideas for a single challenge. First, you will need to establish some basic ground rules to get the most out of your brainstorm session. Here are some simple brainstorm ground rules from our friends at IDEO:
    • Withhold judgement on other people’s ideas
    • Allow for wild and crazy ideas, since they spark other ideas
    • Hold one conversation at a time when brainstorming
    • Build on other people’s ideas
  • Design rapid experiments to test and learn. Spending precious time to think through every scenario is not a good option during a crisis. Instead, you and your team will need to quickly prioritize the ideas identified during your brainstorm session and pick one idea to test. A simple way to test your top idea is to build a four-frame storyboard that tells the story of how a user will interact with your idea. Each frame represents a stage in the journey of a customer or employee interacting with the idea. Take time to walk customers and employees through your storyboard to test your key assumptions and learn which aspects of the idea work for customers, and which aspects don’t work. Use rapid experiments to quickly iterate and scale ideas based on real feedback.

Earlier this week, I facilitated a design thinking session with one of our clients who faced the challenge of switching their contact center staff to a remote work schedule. During the session, I worked with the contact center team to frame the initial challenge around:“How might we shift our contact center staff to work remotely with minimal disruption?” We iterated on this initial challenge multiple times, creating a final challenge focused on: “How might we provide customers with a sense of stability and certainty through each call or interaction?” This challenge served as the jump off point for an effective brainstorm session and designing quick experiments.

Digital FastForward recently launched a new online course, “7 Habits Of Disruptive Innovators”, designed to help you and your team build and strengthen your innovation muscles. As a gift to our audience and community during this time of crisis, we are offering this course at no cost. Click here to register for the course, and enter “SUPERPOWER” in the discount code field at checkout to receive the course at no cost.

The “7 Habits Of Disruptive Innovators” online course goes into greater detail on the design thinking steps outlined above, and provides supplemental material you can use to facilitate design thinking sessions with your team.

Please feel free to reach out to me at clay@digitalfastforward.com if you have any feedback or questions about how to apply design thinking during this epidemic.

Stay safe, and be well.