Design lifts a company beyond ordinary. But if the thought of implementing a design thinking ethos within your company sounds like conquering Everest, then a great place to start is with your BA practice. We’ve been there. And the good news is it doesn’t require you to don a red cape, climb mountains or wear your undies on the outside. When done well and with a sense of reality, you can lift your BA practice beyond ordinary.
What makes design thinking so relevant is the realisation that we are living in the age of the customer, digital disruption and instant gratification. It’s an age where services are becoming on demand, on mobile devices in particular, where end users want the thing to work and work immediately. Churning out “just ok” products or services no longer cuts it. Receiving a bad product or service review eats a clever marketing campaign for breakfast every day of the week. This has led to challenging the status quo, flipping logic on its head and evolving our BA practices so that the customer is at the heart of everything we do. It’s this kind of thinking that is attracting organisations and management to look more closely at the world of design.
So what is design and design thinking? Playing it safe, we went with the Oxford Dictionary definition for design: “the art or action of conceiving of and producing a plan or drawing of something before it is made.” Design thinking is not new. Our take on Design Thinking (keeping in mind, we still want this to be a blog and not a book) is that it is “creative problem solving with a human-centred focus”. Whether we are working on a new product, a service, or a process, we are designing something for people. People who will experience in terms of their feelings. To design a great customer experience requires empathy. Design thinking forces us to look at a problem from the customers lens first and then work our way back through the more traditional business and technology lenses. Great design is all about finding the right balance between what’s desirable (customer), what’s feasible (technology) and what’s viable (business).
What I love about design thinking is that it is a mindset. Unless you know a jedi-mind master, learning to think like a designer is as much about attitude and having the belief that you can make a difference, as having an intentional process in order to get to new, relevant solutions that have an awesome impact.
Design Thinking and Business Analysis overlap on many levels. But distinct from analysis, design thinking generates curiosity, optimism and connects us back with our customers. It puts forward, fresh techniques and approaches that complement and extend our BA practices such as divergent thinking, need finding, persona scenarios, customer journey maps, empathy maps, story-telling, going beyond brainstorming, prototyping and info-graphics to name just a few. These techniques can help validate the BA’s findings and help ensure there is ongoing focus on customer experience.
Having a design framework, practices, processes, techniques, tips and tricks all helps, but I believe the secret sauce is people and having unity in diversity. Design is a collaborative process, and collaboration is nothing new to many of us. But when we talk about collaboration in a design sense, it’s about getting the right people in the room and capitalizing on diverse perspectives and types of expertise within cross-disciplinary teams to create richer, more robust, and more unexpected outcomes.
Where do you start? Start by encouraging a curious culture within your team. When developing your people or hiring, look for people who have a sense of curiosity, and empathy for the people whose problems they are trying to solve. On the curious theme, design thinking is often done best when you move beyond the comfort and safety of your PC, office or building. So if you are not already doing this, encourage your BA’s to get out amongst your customers and be curious, watch them work, capture their insights and listen to them with an open mind. This may sound obvious, but often easier said than done.
Finally, when defining your flavour of design thinking mojo for your BA Practice, keep in mind that your approach can be compared to that of human beings, no two are exactly the same. As you explore design and collaborate with design thinkers, it’s likely that your design influence, thinking and approach will be made up of similar design practices found in other organisations. However the way you apply the sum total of these parts will be distinctive to your BA Practice.
I would love to hear how you’re using or thinking about using design in your BA Practice….please comment below.