Design Thinking in Paradise: Facilitating Change
NOTE: In order to meet my non-disclosure agreement the client details and deliverable details are not given in this post. Identities have been hidden in photos where appropriate.
I usually get excited when someone contacts me about helping them with business design. But when they say it is going to be held in the Cayman Islands, I am already packing my bags. I was contacted by a representative from six companies that are merging into one and they needed to get everyone one the same page in regards to how the merger would occur and what the new company would look like. Needless to say there would be a lot of complexity that needed to be condensed into an easy to use format. So I spent a few weeks planning the facilitation schedule and tools that would be needed to meet the objectives.
Prep work – Picking the right tools
First, I find it best to understand what the client really is trying to accomplish, from the pragmatic as well as inspirational points of view. After a few discussions I felt I understood what the deliverables needed to be, so I then worked backwards to choose and/or create tools that would help the participant’s think visually and then move them from aspirations to actionable outcomes.
As usual I pulled from several sources in my toolbox creation process. One very helpful set of tools can be found in Design a Better Business http://designabetterbusiness.com/. I have marked these tools with an asterisks to properly cite the authors.
Other tools came from friends of mine I have worked with in several business design projects. Some tools were used as they were originally intended while other were used in new ways.
Working back and forth with the client I developed a three day facilitation schedule. Things never go exactly as planned, based on learning during the exercises, so I had backup exercises ready to implement if needed.
Day One: Boot Camp
Day one contained the most exercises, which were specifically chosen to get the participants out of their daily roles and towards thinking about the future of a new business. Exercises were based around the following tools: Story Exercise - Cover Story Canvas*, Vision Exercise - 5 Bold Steps Vision Canvas*, Value Proposition Exercise - Value Proposition Evolution Tool, Core Values Exercise - Design Criteria Canvas*, Culture Exercise - Team Charter Canvas* and “Who is our New Customer?” Exercise - Capture Boards.
There were thirteen participants so I organized three groups of 4-5 people with the request that participants change groups after each exercise. This kept conversations fresh and allowed everyone to get to know each other better. In regards to the Cover Story Canvas I had each group work on a different timeline for the merged company. The result was three different views of the company at 2 years, 5 years and 10 years into the future.
Day Two – Deep Dives into specific areas
After the participants returned from a morning recreational dive (in the ocean), we got back to work in the afternoon. There were two separate sessions in specific areas. I took the sales team away to develop the Sales Model and Process for the future company. We started with a Successes and Failures Exercise because these six companies had worked together over the past year. Other tools included a modified version of SWOT Analysis. In the end we had the Sales Dream Team sketched out as well as several other deliverables.
The second group were the founders. I gave them certain tools to use for the purposes of their discussions around roles and responsibilities. For example the Design Criteria Canvas* was perfect for this exercise, but was never developed for that use.
Day Three – Bringing it all together
Day three was where we visualized the things that need to be done, both before the merger and one year into the merger. I had two teams work in two sessions to put down all of the items needed to be done. The themes included: Administration, Marketing, Operations and Sales. We used specially built post it note “flags”, that could stand up to wind, and stuck all the items in the beach sand, using pieces of driftwood to mark periods of time. Below is a photo of the final layout of 114 individual items and when they needed to occur.
While the result seemed daunting, the leadership now understood the priorities and needs in a comprehensive manner. After this exercise all information was captured and organized for transfer into digital format.
Review and Feedback
After the exercises were over I asked for feedback from participants. The CEO was very happy with the final deliverables as they took the thoughts and assumptions from several people’s heads and reduced the complexity to an understandable format. Multiple people told me that they had been through these types of sessions before but never had such an actionable set up deliverables at the end. My favorite quote from one of the participants was: “We have been talking about the merger for a while and I have seen spreadsheets, but the merger did not seem real. After these three days I can see the merger and feel comfortable we can do it.”
For me, as a Design Thinking facilitator, that says - “mission accomplished”.
Business Model Design is still seen as an anomaly by most business people I speak with. For some reason they can’t put the words “business model” and “design” in the same sentence. This post is to hopefully help business people visualize how Design Thinking can work at the business model level.
The below are based on a class I taught last fall at the Carnegie Mellon University, Integrated Innovation Institute. My students worked with a local entrepreneur who was developing a business around ride sharing and had a specific area of interest that was not fleshed out yet.
All of my consulting projects normally do not allow me to show deliverables but in this case I have been able to redact the important words in order to show the process. I will say this is only one version of a process I typically use. Each set of tools is used based on the results needed by my clients.
Step 1 – Preliminary Business Model Canvas
We started with a Business Model Canvas as a warm up to the students working with the client. They needed to get a detailed understanding of what the Founder was thinking so far. Visual Risk Assessment was used to understand risk areas. If you have not read about my Visual Risk Assessment method yet you can go to http://www.onebusinessdesign.com/blog/2015/6/29/tools-and-methods-001-visual-risk-assessment-for-business-model-canvas.
Here is the Preliminary Business Model Canvas:
Step 2 – SWOT Analysis
SWOT Analysis is a great tool as it gets all parties thinking not only about internal issues but also to get them to think externally. It is usually a short exercise, but an important one.
Here is the SWOT Analysis:
Step 3 - Customer Journey Map
Here is where we get to the heart of the matter. We visualize all parts of the user’s activities in the use of the future service, calling out questions the team discovers in the process and potential innovations that could make the experience more delightful. The students also felt this exercise gave them real insights into how the business model should change.
Here is the Customer Journey Map
Step 4 – Innovation Sectors
With the previous exercises done, the students and Founder worked together to look at a) how the business was planned to be developed, b) How the business could be run and finally c) how the business will be run. If you would like more information about Innovation Sectors go to http://www.onebusinessdesign.com/blog/2015/10/12/tools-methods-003-innovation-sectors
Here is the Innovation Sectors:
Step 5 – Final Business Model Canvas
As a final deliverable the group created a new Business Model Canvas, based on their learning and collaborative input. As you can see this Business Model Canvas is much cleaner and easier to work with. The Founder was happy and so were the students.
Here is the Final Business Model Canvas:
Some people ask why there are so many steps and how long does it take? For more information on the importance of Persistence and how it relates to this please go to http://www.onebusinessdesign.com/blog/2016/7/25/observation-007-design-thinking-let-the-science-begin-part-2. As to how long it takes. Normally one day.
I hope the above will help business people better visualize how “design” and “business model” do belong in the same sentence.