Pavan Soni

Design Thinking at Novartis India

[ad_1] By | Dr. Pavan Soni | Innovation Evangelist

Design Thinking, a practices that dates back to 1970s, has caught on a frenzy in Indian corporate of late. Yours truly have had some share of the action with companies such as Asian Paints, Cafe Coffee DayCapgeminiFlipkartHoneywellInfoPro LearningInfosysTAFETitan, and Qualcomm, amongst others, and have learnt that YES some of these concepts do work!
Last month, I hosted a one-day immersive workshop on Design Thinking for the senior managers of Novartis India. The workshop was hosted at ISB Hyderabad as a part of the three-day program for Executive Education at the institute’s Srini Raju Center for IT and The Networked Economy.
Here is an overview of the approach adopted to induct the audience through the methods and principles of Design Thinking and help solve complex business/ technology problems.
I first look into the process model of design thinking and some of the key tenets. They I offer you an overview of the approach adopted, without going much into details and sensitive topics, to give an appreciation of the rigor involved.

Overview of Design Thinking
As Tim Brown, the CEO of world’s foremost Design Thinking firm- IDEO, puts it “Design Thinking is an approach to problem-solving in which inspiration, ideation and implementation occur not in a sequence but as a system of overlapped spaces”. He identifies the essential elements as a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements of business success”.
In fact, a must watch for anybody interested to learn more about the topic would be Tim Brown’s TED Talk.
Of the several process models of Design Thinking (DT), the one most popular is that from Stanford University.

The model, which is iterative, start with developing an understanding of the customer and the problem space, sharpening the problem, then generating ideas, making quick and dirty prototypes, and finally putting those to test.
The nuances might vary, but largely, the approach remains iterative with successive stages of divergent and convergent thinking.
As for the tenets or principles of DT, I can largely think of these as: Customer Centricity, Rapid Iteration, Visual Thinking, and Collaboration.

Discovery and Problem Definition 
The first, and in fact, the most crucial stage is that of empathizing or understanding the problem from close quarters. This calls for developing empathy and parking your personal judgements. Some of the methods most suitable for such an approach are: Empathy Mapping, Pain-Gain Analysis, Day-in-life Scenario, Appreciative Inquiry, and Buyer Personas, amongst others.
Once the audience gets a hang of the problem space and some of the root causes, it is then imperative to narrow the focus down to the most crucial problem, one which is impactful, fungible and the statement has a built-in constraint.

The problem discovery happens around clearly identified theme, such as in the case of Novartis, one of the themes was – Patient Centricity.

Ideation and idea shortlisting
Once a set of problem statements are well defined, the team then delves into ideation, and once again a series of methods are adopted to generate a high quantity of ideas (remember, quality comes from quantity, when ideating). Some of the useful techniques here include Analogous Empathy, Design for Extreme, Buyer Utility Map, Three-tiers of non-customers, Mind mapping, ect. I have found Brainstilling and Brainwriting to be more productive than classical Brainstorming while generating ideas.

Individuals post their ideas, emerging from adoption of certain concepts and methods, on to the charts with clearly identified problems.

A good ideas has to be also narrated well. By adopting some methods of idea shortlisting, primary of which is the Venn diagram of Customer Desirability, Technology Feasibility, and Business Viability, the team then picks the top three ideas to be woven into a story.
Some of the most compelling stories keep the user and her needs in the centre, and then touch upon how the idea helps alleviate a pain or creates a gain.

The one-day workshop was a sort of sprint on how to implement some of the tenets and methods of Design Thinking onto solving complex and ambiguous problems more elegantly.
As for the key takeways, I would offer:

  • Design Thinking is a systematic method of problem solving 
  • Immerse yourself into the context
  • Start by defining the problem
  • Go for quantity over quality when ideating
  • Validate ideas in the real context 
  • Convert ideas into business plans 
  • Embrace constraints 
  • Work with complementary skills 

Feel free to reach out for more practical insight. Thanks.
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