Strategic design and improvization
Strategic design puts the customer at the heart of the creation of products and services
Throughout my working life, I have charted a path to develop into areas of technology. However, day by day I have come across several projects in which the real business problems are not being solved because the conversations or definitions only involved the IT area, or functionalities are imposed on customers that do not meet their real needs, or there was no accurate design before executing, resulting in long and expensive projects.
The key is to be able to understand customers in all aspects, design products and services focused on them, as well as business models that deliver value and can be replicated quickly.
Currently, I am in charge of the area of Continuous Innovation at Axity Mexico, where we use agile and creative methodologies to create from design to product development and; or final solutions using technological components, and that’s how I began to venture into Strategic Design issues.
The Strategic Design has the indicated elements that, when applied in the correct way, help us to put the client at the center of the strategy.
On the other hand, some years ago I started as a hobby to take classes of Improvisation theatre (let’s call it Impro) in the Mexican school of the creators of the show; “The Impro Struggle“.Although I was already a fan as a spectator, from the day I took my first-class, I nailed myself. This led me to continue my training in different Impro schools and meet brilliant and inspiring people and now, a part of my life, revolves around this passion.
¿You're wondering why I'm telling you this?
As I have lived in both worlds, I have realized how much they have in common regarding the soft skills I have developed and the emotions they have touched me, as well as the benefits they deliver to us as people, inside and outside of an organization.
Neither Strategic Design is a simplepost-itssession, nor does Impro create banal spectacles. Both have a lot of technique, will, spirit and background involved.
Let’s first understand the concepts. . .
Strategic Design is a discipline that uses design principles, methods and tools to help organizations build their product and service strategies from a people-centered perspective.
Impro is a theatrical technique that uses a set of resources to create stories in the moment, from established triggers, maintaining a clear purpose and a firm structure.
Let us now explore the similarities.
Be patient, you’ll understand what I mean. . .
Strategic Design has a structure to execute a process through the Discovery, Design and Prototyping phases, providing clients with an impact strategy to improve the client experience and/or; turn an existing situation into a preferable situation,”; as Herbert Simon rightly putt.
The structure of the Impro to tell a story generally consists of Approach, Development of the event and Auction, in the latter the intention is to generate the greatest possible impact on the public.
The structure is always important, however, you will have to adjust it along the way depending on what both the design challenge and the story in an Impro.
¡Don’t be afraid to break the rules!
Now let’s think about the complexity of Design. Due to the approach we want to give and the level of depth we want to touch, we know Richard Buchanan’s;“The 4 Design Orders”; which consist of Graphics (visual), Industrial(products), Interaction (services and experience), Systems (organizations).
The different degrees of complexity are not something that Impro leaves out, these can vary depending on the duration of the story, the conflict in the event and the relationship between its characters, this is why we handle the types of format Short, Medium and Long.
It’s not the same to start an Impro saying; Good afternoon doctor, my tooth hurts, please take it out”; and saying; Joaquín, I’m sick of what you’ve been doing to me for five years”; In the first case, the characters and the event are clear from the beginning, there is not much complexity. In the second case, you can go deep into a story, just like in Systemic Design. In the first case, the characters and the event are clear from the beginning, there is not much complexity. In the second case, you can go deep into a story, just like in Systemic Design.
Working with Strategic Design and Impro requires us to apply a style of thinking that involves different resources, which make you agile to respond to the immediate and always keeping an eye on what comes next.
Examples of resources to be used
In the Strategic Design ideation and co-creation sessions we carry out warm-up dynamics that prepare participants for generating ideas, for example, asking them to imagine different ways of squeezing a lemon.
Before we go on stage and start improvising, we also work on a series of dynamics to activate the brain and reach the same energy level. The exercises help us to awaken imagination and creativity, as well as Tobe focused and attentive, for example: association of words, action and consequence, word by word history, justification of position, photographs, transfer of impulses, etc.
During the Design process we use inspirers that help us and encourage the generation of ideas, for example, case cards and images, trend research, benchmarking, what is being done in different industries and sectors.
In order to have elements to find the purposeof a story before starting the improvisation, we have techniques to obtain detonators of ideas that inspire the development of the story.
“Sir, please tell us a word that will make you happy. . .”
The definition of the challenge or Design challenge is the first step to work the whole process around it, for example: Reduce waiting time in line at a bank to improve the customer experience. The technique of “Problem framing” helps us brainstorm to choose the right challenge to tackle.
PROLstands for Character, Relationship, Objective and Place. At the beginning of an improvisation, it is necessary to establish a clear approach that contemplates the four elements so that the story revolves around this and the improvisers do not get lost in the way.
In order to create effective designs and strategies that achieve an emotional connection with clients, it is necessary to understand the motivations, desires and needsthat they seek to satisfy with the products or services and to focus the benefits on them. This has been sounded very much like Customer Centric in the world of innovation for the creation of experiences.
We improvisers must be empathic and be aware of the actions and proposals of our colleagues on stage, work on their behalf to make them shine and provide what they need to move the story forward.
“While the actor uses emphaty to perform dramatic characters in scripted situations, the designer uses emphaty to perform design solutions that are drawn from deep identification with real, individual people in specific situated contexts in the real world” — Design Improvisation, Brenda Laurel.
The world is changing so fast. In the blink of an eye technology evolves or transforms, a new business model appears or the competition overtakes us. We have to be alert and have skills to solve obstacles, be responsive to changes in the environment, act quickly to define and pursue a purpose, as well as get our team to go at the same pace.
While we improvisers are on stage, we are attentive to any impulse or action of our companions, which makes us agile our capacity of reaction. We have to decide quickly and be clear about the purpose of history in order to know where we are going, but reacting to what is happening at any given moment.
“Follow the fear”… Using error in our favor, getting in trouble and resolving a situation creatively are key elements of Impro to remove blockages, break rules, be disruptive, water it and get up. . . it’s nothing, it’s just, it could lead to something extraordinary. We have to be conscious to advance the action, to adapt ourselves to the situation, to be able to throw away an idea in order to climb on the already proposed one.
During the creation of a story it is important to maintain the slogan of thinking “Yes and. . . “ in order to be present in the now, to accept what is to come and to advance the action. A “But. . . “ blocks or slows down the action, it’s like a “Delete”; when you’re writing an idea.
This mindset must be given with will in the individuals to move it little by little to the organizations and to really dare toinnovate without fear of being wrong. Mistake generates new ideas. . . that’s how Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin.
On the other hand, quick mistakes result in cheap mistakes, since errors or defects can be detected early and corrected with less impact on time and costs. Let’s think about iterating as many times as necessary in the process, because the more falls we have, the more learning we will have.
¿Do you have a digital transformation project?
At Axity we use agile and creative Strategic Design and Software Development methodologies to help our clients create customer-centric digital business strategies.