Embedding design across the organisation
Transformation, though, starts within the company, Maguire emphasises. Crucially, a company needs to get its middle management staff to buy into design thinking because in his observations they are often averse to new ideas. The middle block, so to speak, is the middle block. “They are the barriers to innovation, rarely their CEOs. The think tanks, the change moments, the initiatives and all that stuff are crowd-sourced from the lowest levels or started at the highest levels. But the middle of the organisation is totally at odds in every way. They are not on board and the incentives are not with them.”
Change in behaviours, he points out, follows incentives. “If the incentives are wrong, the behaviour would be wrong. The question that needs to be addressed, then, is ‘Are the incentives actually aligned to what a company’s values are and wished to get out of its people?’ Otherwise, you are literally at odds with yourself.”
Justin Maguire, of Salesforce, points out that behaviour change follows the right incentives
and these incentives have to be aligned with the company’s values.
He adds that if each of the executives were to pick five people for a new start-up, and if the sum of their super powers” won’t help the start-up be more user focused, “then you have picked the wrong people”. Taking this further, Sheppard points out that being able to measure design performance with the same rigor as revenues and costs is one of the ingredients for success outlined in the McKinsey report.
The metrics, he says, need not be industry specific, but they have to be company specific. He shares how a company, specialising in diabetes, had highly specific design-related metrics, e.g. system usability, for different teams whether they were in finance, project management or R&D. In this case, it took the company years to get to “a place where they have that level of granularity they are looking at”.
“For another company in the other extreme, I worked with a CEO, who was adamant that his top team had lost connection with customers they served,” adds Sheppard. “He made changes, mandated that they spend a day a month with customers.
“This is the metric he introduced: Instead of tying 100 percent of their bonuses to profit, he changed the formula to 50 percent of the profit. The other 50 percent would be tied to the favourability of their products.”
The CEO told his staff that on Christmas Day, he would go onto Amazon, where they sold 47 of their products, and see how many stars out of five these products received. The average of those scores would determine the 50 percent of their bonuses.
Sheppard admits, “This is not the perfect measure but it had the exact intended consequences.” In the boardroom, he reveals, the executives of that company were suddenly talking about how the products would resonate with users – user-centricity had been successfully brought back to the fore.
Sheppard adds, “This is a crude example to show that you don’t have to wait three years to create Singapore’s best set of metrics. Start early, start with something as crude as that and you will have an incredible impact early on.”
Ben Sheppard recommends setting metrics early in order to achieve impact fast.
If there is one thing to get design thinking off the ground in Singapore companies, what would it be, moderators enquired of the panel of experts.
Yen recommends keeping the conversation going outside of their respective organisations because everybody is going through the same journey and learning the same lessons, especially the patterns of success and failure. Sheppard points to the research he co-authored, as it contains a wealth of information to get them started.
For Engman, it is about marrying the design with the communications processes and to talk about what they are doing and not what they have done. Maguire says continuing to invest in, and breed a desire and culture for listening is important. He adds it is equally important to identify channels through which they can listen to their customers and this needs to be embedded across the organisation.
In pointing Singapore companies the way forward in design thinking, both Wee and Kwek say the DesignSingapore Council is fully prepared to support them on this journey.
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