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Design Thinking as a Bank

Remi Schoenmakers

New regulations like PSD2 and technical advances like machine learning bring a wealth of product and service ideas to the brainstorming table. You want to pursue ideas that solve actual needs that your clients have. Design thinking is the way to identify those needs and to uncover the best solution.

But what makes design thinking so great? And how do you introduce this new way of thinking into a big company with a lot of history, like a bank?

Why introduce design thinking?

1. To reduce the chance of failure

Design thinking is a framework for creative problem solving, used by companies like Apple, Google, and Nike. It’s not about design in the narrow sense. It’s about unlocking a creative mindset in all the stakeholders of a project.

This makes design thinking refreshingly different from conventional business innovation methods. You choose the right solutions because you continuously:

  • are truly customer-centric, think needs-first and challenge assumptions
  • focus on solutions instead of problems, exploring many alternatives that might not be apparent
  • learn fast by seeking validation of prototypes, without wasting resources

As a result, you'll release new services and products with less chance of failure, as you know what users want and need.

Want to learn more about it? Read our blogpost on the ins and outs of design thinking.

2.  Right now, you might be doing the reverse

Design thinking is actually the reverse of how big financial institutions (used to) work. They tend to develop products focussed on their own internal processes and on their historical way of working.

There’s no focus on users. Old assumptions are not challenged. Alternatives remain unexplored. Validation is only found (or not found) at the very end of the process.

The result? Frustrated clients.

So as a bank or other financial giant, design thinking could really give you the edge. Just take a look at these 3 clever banks.

How to introduce design thinking

1. Start small

First of all, do an innovation self-assessment:

  • Is the innovation process in your company user focused instead of product focused?
  • Is the innovation team multidisciplinary?
  • Is the innovation team capable of representing end users with all their pains and gains?
Hannes presenting the first step of Design Thinking

Then, choose one relatively high value project or problem. Gather a multidisciplinary team to work on it using the design thinking framework.

If the project proves successful, and most likely it will, it will spark enthusiasm among your team. You can then start implementing design thinking in the rest of your team, department, and eventually the entire company.

This way, innovation becomes decentralised and is thus at the core of each team.

2. Team up with an external partner

Working with experienced design thinkers for a side-project allows you to internalise the mindset correctly. It will also open up your colleagues' eyes to the method's efficiency. Some leading banks have even acquired product design agencies, like Capital One & Adaptive Path or BBVA & Spring Studio.

The best way to start is to engage in one or more design sprints.                                                                                          

The best way to start is to engage in one or more design sprints. Design sprints are a fast-paced way to solve a challenge, like ‘Inspiring people to invest’. Assumptions are challenged or even forgotten. The usual ways of working are surpassed.

This way, you uncover true (and maybe non-apparent) needs and find the best possible way to solve them. Then you are ready to create a prototype of the solution you have chosen, which you can then validate with your users (without actually having to build it).

Just get started

In conclusion, design thinking is well worth the effort, though it’s not easy to change the course of a big ship. Remember to start small, with one team and one project. After that, you can introduce the mindset in a decentralised way, so it will be at the core of each team.

Partnering up with experienced design thinkers for a design sprint is one of the best ways to kick-start your first project. That project might be the start of a new innovation mindset in your entire company.

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