Last month, we hosted an open design thinking workshop as part of London Design Festival.
This was the first time we’ve ‘officially’ taken part in this flagship global event, so I wanted to share our experience (who, what, why, where, how) for anyone that took part, couldn’t make it or is just interested in the design thinking.
Why design thinking?
Design thinking underpins everything we do at Pancentric, whether it’s service design, experience design, digital transformation or innovation strategy.
Call us advocates, crusaders (or something else!)…but essentially it’s the approach we use to help organisations solve complex strategic problems and is, in many ways, what drives us as an organisation.
The thing about design thinking is, while many people talk about it, few people do it. When you’re design thinking, you have to ‘learn by doing’ (we ALWAYS do) which means rolling your sleeves up, ignoring the self-censorship that holds you back and getting on with, well, stuff.
This is easier said than done, especially with senior executives who understand how to build successful businesses but can struggle with a people-centred approach to innovation.
So, by opening up these sessions to everyone from our corporate contacts to the design students treading the festival path, we hoped to show how divergent voices can come together and co-create innovative ideas for new products and services that people actually want.
Groups had a mix of designers, developers, marketers, senior executives and customers.
Who was involved
Our event was led by our design director Kate Greenstock, a one woman visual, digital, experience and service designer who is at the forefront of much of the agency’s design thinking approach.
She was joined by James Downes, our strategy director and someone who won’t mind me referring to him a design thinking evangelist. James uses design thinking in his consulting role, helping clients to solve their biggest strategic issues.
Joining the Pancentric team for this event was our partner James Rock, the UK lead for Design Thinkers Group. James is a skilled facilitator and someone that Pancentric has worked with for a number of months now on design thinking and service design projects.
Then there were the most important people — the participants. As mentioned, this was an eclectic mix of London Design Festival goers (nationalities included Chinese, Israeli, Spanish and Czech), senior insurance executives, Better Bankside (the Business Improvement District) representatives and multi-disciplinary Pancentric people.
Finally, a special mention for Hixter in Bankside where we hosted the event and their brilliant event and sales manager Selena Evans (take it from us, Mark’s Bar downstairs is a fantastic collaboration space).
How we structured the event
1 idea, 2 topics, 3 days.
Imagining tomorrow is about innovation, in this case for Bankside and insurance.
The idea: Our starting point was innovation, something we investigate through our ‘Imagine tomorrow’ stream. Of course, design thinking can be used to solve all sorts of problems. But we wanted to focus on innovation because, with such a diverse group, we thought this would be a great opportunity to access truly divergent thinking.
The topics: Bankside and insurance were the two topics we chose to imagine tomorrow for.
Having worked with a wide range of insurance clients, we know how difficult it can be to innovate in this sector. Therefore, we were keen to showcase how people-centric design thinking can even be used in this established industry.
Bankside was our other topic because, until a few weeks ago, our office was located there. As a business, we’ve benefited from the Better Bankside initiatives but we also know that they need to constantly look ahead at how the area will change in the future.
The days: Our ‘learn, create, make’ process, which merges our design thinking consultancy work with our digital delivery expertise, fitted neatly into the three day timeframe. So, on day one, we learnt about Bankside in the morning and insurance in the afternoon. The topic streams then flowed through the morning (Bankside) and afternoon (insurance) sessions of each day.
While this might sound like a repetition of techniques, the great thing about the range of tools we use is that they allow us to follow coherent flows without being rigidly attached to one technique.
We showcased our ‘learn, create, make’ process and the design thinking tools we use within this.
What we did (and didn’t do)
(Spoiler alert for anyone that doesn’t know much about design thinking)
We did: Use a range of tools and techniques to enable divergent and convergent thinking on the part of multi-disciplinary teams so they could collaboratively co-create ideas for products and services that people value.
We didn’t: Start with a rigid brief that served a narrow, preconceived idea of a target market built on an individual’s ‘expert’ knowledge.
(and) What we discovered
Bankside: What do you love, hate and wish for when you think about the urban district you live in, work in or dream of? This was the question for our participants as we kicked off learning about the topic and understanding what big issue needed to be tackled.
At the end of morning one, we had our big question:
“How might we create open environments that foster authentic human experiences?”
This question was then taken on by the groups on morning two, who were tasked with creating answers. More divergent thinking followed, countless thoughts and ideas were written, drawn or half-scribbled on post-its, whiteboards and idea cards. Finally, the groups converged on three potential solutions (the pitches for which you can watch below):
- Bankside Bricks
- Let’s Talk