In 2016, DBS’s CEO Piyush Gupta had led the bank to adopt a customer-focused, problem-solving approach, based on the principles of DT. Teams – throughout the bank – were charged to map customers journeys so as to empathise with customer concerns and to improve their experiences radically.
Design coaches became the in-house point persons on everything related to DT, particularly for novel financial products that DBS staff were devising. “As design coaches, we were not the product owners, but we made product-making easier,” he explains.
For a start, that involved introducing every employee, from the chief executive to administrative staff, to DT, which uses a strong user-centred approach to design products, services and experiences.
In fact, to his colleagues, Ryan was the next best thing to hearing from customers themselves, as Ryan was expected to relay the latter’s views to them. As he puts it: “My role was always to filter their efforts from a customer’s point of view in relation to whether the new financial product would be valuable to customers.”
A design coach is also a vital middleman between an organisation’s internal and external stakeholders. Ryan did so by floating his colleagues’ financial product ideas to existing customers, and then funnelling the latter’s feedback to his colleagues, sending them back to the drawing board, if needed.
Design coaches then reinforce DT within an organisation by getting senior management to solve a range of problems, periodically, using DT. These coaches also help the bosses strategise and plan how they can immerse the rest of their organisation in being user-centred.
At DBS, Ryan kept the C-suite apprised of the latest DT trends and insights; he was on hand at corporate retreats to ensure that any business directions the bank set squared with DT best practices.
In employing design thinking within an organisation, design coaches like Ryan are also on the lookout for opportunities to redesign the ways their colleagues work for greater productivity.
Ryan is now a design practitioner at Wildlife Reserves Singapore and part of the team involving in the ambitious mega-nature attraction in the works at Mandai featuring the new bird park, two new wildlife parks, eco-accommodation.
He says successful design coaches must be adept at adapting to team dynamics, which evolve all the time and vary from team to team. “You need to know the level of understanding of those you are speaking to,” he stresses. “You need to adjust to the context accordingly and in real time."