I saw this wonderfully smart solution for tracking delays and waiting times at Airports last week and it got me thinking.
The basic premise is that, by merely counting and following mobile phones in an airport, you can predict waiting times at the various steps — immigration, security, etc. — that you have to go through. Using beacons that collect anonymous information (MAC addresses) from mobile phones, you can track the movement of people through the airport.
Add some smart algorithms — ideally learning algorithms — and you can generate accurate real-time updates for visitors and staff. This then translates into a better customer experience for the airport.
As Candace McGraw, CEO at Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG ) says, it helps “ensure that the passenger experience at CVG is one that enhances the journey experience — not detracts from it”.
By implementing solutions such as this, people’s lives are made better (something very close to our hearts at Pancentric) and the airport experience can be optimised for staff and customers.
You come across these very creative solutions occasionally but, when you do, there is always that nagging question.
How did they think of that?
The traditional response is the impression that someone somewhere had a ‘light bulb’ moment and came up with the killer idea. A corollary to that is the view that these things are rare and that they are personally unlikely to be able to do it.
I would beg to disagree, and want to explain one of the ways that design thinking can be used to generate and validate ideas, thereby driving innovation and value generation.
One of the methods used in Design Thinking is divergent followed by convergent thinking.
We can use a variety of non-verbal exercises, tools and approaches to unleash people’s innate creativity and to capture all of their ideas
We use divergent thinking as a way of generating ideas from groups of stakeholders representing service providers and service users in order to co-create solutions that match needs. An important component of this is investigating the problem to ensure that we understand all aspects of the problem and use empathy to get insight into all stakeholder concerns and needs.
Key to this activity is freeing up participants’ creativity outside of their normal modes of expression. People typically ‘self-censor’ their thinking and its expression in group environments. In typical workshop activities, people normally censor themselves in the very act of writing stuff down. We can use a variety of non-verbal exercises, tools and approaches to unleash people’s innate creativity and to capture all of their ideas.
Having generated a ton of ideas we then start to reduce these down — the convergent thinking part — to identify the best ideas to solve the problem.
Starting with clustering similar ideas, discussing them, combining and building on them, investigating and understanding them, we can quickly distil them down to the best candidates for further exploration. The result will be a set of powerful, non-overlapping solutions to the problem.
Doing this collaboratively with all stakeholders — especially the non-expert customer — also means that these are grounded in the real world and have been validated and agreed on by all the stakeholders.
As Tim Brown of IDEO says, “Design thinking can be described as a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.”
I’m not close enough to the CVG beacon project to know whether design thinking was used. What I do know is that this sort of big idea doesn’t come out of thin air and adding design thinking to your strategic toolbox will enable you to generate valuable ideas for solving real world problems.