What you need for innovation and customer-centric design (CCD) culture transformation to happen

On August 9, 2012, I attended a talk by Claudia Kotchka at Westpac in Sydney CBD (organised by BT Financial Group). Claudia is a Senior Executive and Change Agent who successfully led an innovation culture transformation at Procter & Gamble. I walked out of the room inspired to continue doing what I do as an innovator, service and user experience designer. Below are some of my notes:

Procter & Gamble brief story

Procter & Gamble (also known as P&G) is a consumer goods company with a vast stable of household brands. The story in a nutshell was that P&G was doing fine relying on their technology and TV (advertisements), but it was only until 2000 when the company crashed. The reason was they lost the touch with their customers. Two mistakes Claudia mentioned P&G fell into were:

  • relying just on data to take decisions, and
  • only thinking from the “What do we make for customers…” angle, instead of “What do the customer really want/need?”

Introducing this new Design Thinking  approach to things at P&G took Claudia about 7 years. It is not a simple task when the understanding of “Design” for the majority is different from what “us” service designers understand. Design is everything that is man made -Claudia said.

The Rough Design Maturity Continuum

There are 5 levels of design maturity said Claudia; only a few companies work on level 5 (e.g. Apple), other very few on level 4, and the majority work on levels 3, 2 and 1.
The image below is the one I grabbed from the internet, which was used by Claudia to explain the levels.
design maturity model by bplusd


As a example of a product design at this level Claudia mentioned the universal remote control, which was needed but not consciously designed.

Level 2. STYLE

The Altoids mints, P&G didn’t think the style and aesthetics of the packaging could impact so positively to the customer experience. P&G almost made the mistake to make it all plastic and uniform to reduce costs.


The liquid measuring cup angled. Initially P&G thought they couldn’t improve the original liquid measuring cup as it worked just fine, they said. With research designers they learned that people struggled looking at the measurements on the side of the cup, so they included an angled measurement ruler to be seen from above, which was a hit!


Nike was the example here. Nike found that the problem was not making better shoes for runners, but the need to have a ‘personal trainer’ to take with you when going running. The solution – a chip in the shoe that talks to your iPod and keeps track and provides feedback of your exercise.

Level 5. FRAMING

The story of Keith Tantlinger, the inventor of the shipping containers. The way he saw the problem of limited storage and mobility and created the shipping containers that shaped and revolutionised the cargo shipping industry.

What is a Prototype?

“A prototype is to further the dialog with a customer”. The more unfinished or rough it is, the more honesty you get from customers as they are not afraid to hurt your feelings, they can see you need help!

Customer Centric Design process

  1. Insight through Empathy
  2. Experimentation
  3. Multi-disciplinary Collaboration. CCD is for everyone to practice.

Among some of the examples she mentioned to support this process, are:

P&G’s data told them that the problem with the nappies was the leaking, so what do they do next? P&G put all the budget into the “absorption” of the nappy. On the other side, their competitor Huggies, they cut budget from “absorption” and put it into the nappies wrapping material, making it quite and nice touch-feeling; not the plastic feeling and loud material Pampers was using. The end result: Huggies killed Pampers in sales. Mums didn’t want to see their kids wrapped in noisy, hard-looking, plastic nappies, plus the Huggies nappies felt good to the touch when holding up the babies.

“Keep the change” – Bank of America (B0fA)
A solution they came up working with IDEO. After observing a behaviour of people rounding amounts when paying by check, they took that behaviour to the credit and debit card payment systems, putting those extra cents into their savings account. This solution brought billions in savings to B0fA.

“Fast, Cheap” – Apple retail store
How did Apple made sure their new retail store was a success? Apple prototyped the new retail store with cardboard several times, guaranteeing this way the success of it by the time they build the first real one.

“Gen Y laundry” – Tide detergent
Research on gen Y showed that gen Yers don’t do much laundry or non at all. Plus there was a finding around their attachment to their jeans, which were not cheap. So Tide created a formula “Total Care” that focused on cleaning and taking care of those expensive jeans.

Factors for Success

To close her presentation, Claudia shared what to her are some of the factors for a successful innovation culture transformation. There are:

  1. Senior Management Champions
  2. Hire Experiences Talent. Give designers spaces, no cubes to work
  3. New types of research (Claudia is not fan of focus groups)
  4. All disciplines together
  5. Get help (meaning that you don’t have to do it alone, find someone who can do it better than you, and think what’s in it for them as well)
  6. Go with Suction. Who is in more need of a CCD culture? E.g. Claudia started with Pampers at P&G)
  7. Teach CCD to Business Managers (injecting the language, mentoring up, visiting design schools, case studies, field trips)
  8. Teach Business to Designers. Send them to classes!
  9. Show Don’t Tell
  10. Put Systems in Place. It is not possible to do competent work in a flawed system, no matter how good the people are.
  11. Fail Early, Fail Often

That’s it! Well… there’s a lot more that can be said for each of these factors and examples but I prefer to hear from you if you have any comment or question.


Using Service Design on Internal Project

I want to share an internal project that one of the interns (Derek Lau) at Meld Studios  and I have been recently working on with the objective to learn about trends and opportunities in the area of air travel.

Due to the nature (small) of the project and the limited time we had to dedicate to it, desk research was our main source of information. My suggestion to do an observation exercise at the airport didn’t happen as we didn’t want to get Meld in trouble in case I was arrested for staring at people suspiciously 🙂

We used Evernote to collect and share information. I highly recommend this tool if you want to quickly capture thoughts, URLs and pictures while working on your mobile, laptop or desktop.

The process and service design activities used


We researched several sites such as air travel online magazines, free online reports, travel booking sites, social forums and online news. We were looking for trends, good or bad, on people’s experiences and airlines’ efforts on air travel.

Among some of the things we found interesting or being repeated we had:

  • If available, travelers are considering alternative ways of travel such as: luxury buses, high-speed trains, ferries & cruises; mainly because of convenience, lower costs and quality of service
  • Emerging markets to consider are India, China and Brazil; with people traveling more, farther, and looking for luxury rather than economy travel
  • Travel forums and social media sites growing increasingly influential. Traveling decisions are greatly influenced by this ‘virtual stranger’ recommendations
  • Airlines introducing online seating upgrades via bidding systems in an effort to fill up empty seats
  • Travelers finding difficult to stay connected and communicate via mobile devices on arrival, looking for SIM cards rather than pay-up cards
  • Airlines introducing iPads as in-flight entertainment devices saving the airline fuel (e.g. Qantas and Jetstar). The current entertainment systems can weight a couple tons*
  • Airlines switching from using radars to GPS systems. These are more accurate, saving time in landings and using less fuel (an airline burns $100/minute in fuel**)
  • Airlines offering internet access in-flight for business and first class travelers (e.g Qantas, Emirates)

Affinity diagram

After gathering a good amount of information from our research, we conducted an affinity diagraming exercise. This helps when you have a good amount of information that needs to be categorized in order to see more clearly the main themes.

affinity diagram

Concept mapping

Concept mapping is one of my favorites exercise, perhaps because it helps me pull everything that is in my brain in a way that allows connecting points and thoughts.

So far, Derek and I had identified main themes and lots of opportunity areas. Some of our main themes were:

  • Reducing costs
  • Increasing revenue
  • Travel alternatives
  • Growing markets
  • Mobiles access
  • Social media
  • Airport services

Then again, due to the limited time we had, I decided to concentrate only on one area or theme, such as ‘reducing costs’, and see what could we do to improve that.

There are many ways to cut costs from the business side, but I wanted to include the consumer or passenger in the equation. I wanted to articulate the following: how can I help reduce costs to the airline in a way that it also provides a better experience for passengers?

concept mapping

Sketching & Experience Mapping

Sketching and mapping the experience were the tools that helped me visualise the idea I wanted to communicate. The challenge at this stage was to force our imagination to create something that made sense to some extent, avoiding getting lost in the detail, but thinking about the things that could make the experience a reality, or something worthwhile to put more effort in developing it at a later stage.

experience map

The Outcome

Imagine, a travel experience that begins with the airline engaging with you before the flight to gather your preferences and have your entertainment ready for you when you hit the airport.

At the airport, a single device (for now imagine an iPad) given by the airline to all passengers at the time of checking in at the counter or kiosk, that gives you access to the entire network of information and entertainment (previously selected by the passenger). Information and entertainment available not only during the flight in the aircraft, but while waiting at the airport too.

Some of the benefits to the passenger are: not having to worry about forgetting any of the artifacts for your entertainment (such as ipods, portable play stations, ipads, books, magazines) or to entertain your children, if you travel with them (such as DVD players with kids movies, Nintendo DS, iPads); knowing that you will have access to all the wished digital content uninterrupted for as long as you wait at the airport or while you fly (such as e-books, e-magazines, games, movies, music, internet, social media, etc.) gives you, as a passenger, more control of how to use your time inside and outside the aircraft. E.g. if you want to sleep during the flight but want to take advantage of reading a magazine or watch your TV show, you can start doing that at the airport prior boarding, why wait until you are inside the aircraft?

On the other hand, among the benefits for the airline are: reducing the weight of passengers by carrying only one device; the reduction in weight of the aircraft itself by removing the local entertainment system that according to an article on the airguideonline site says approximately weights a couple tons. Less weight = less fuel consumption! And did you know that the price of fuel has risen 36% in two years and it counts for approximately 40% of all airline budget? This is a big concern of any airline**.

Another benefit for the airline with this one artifact experience is having a direct communication channel with the passengers. A channel that could be used for upgrading passengers, running online bidding systems to fill in empty seats in business or first class, allowing passengers to quickly get involved and get that upgrade if wanted without the need to approach the counter.

At the end it was very regarding to see where we got and how service design thinking and service design activities can help you find opportunities and innovate.

As for all the other themes and trends that we didn’t get to explore further, Derek put them on cards (we call them trend cards) that can be used for future idea generation.

(*) – airguideonline.com

(**) – airguideonline.com

5 useful concepts when practicing service design

Towards the end of 2011, Jono and I attended the 3 day Intensive Service Design Course at UNSW (November 21–23) lead by Marc Stickdorn. It was a fun and insightful experience with lots of acting and performing and also a healthy amount of talking and discussion. There were a few topics that strongly resonated with us, and we would like to use this blogpost as an opportunity to elaborate and reflect on these topics.

1. Get beyond the “bad first draft”
This is about making people fail right at the beginning so they are not afraid to fail again. The “bad first draft” is a great way to get the members in a team to work together with greater confidence.

Do a quick exercise (in 10-15 minutes max) where everyone is likely to fail. In the workshop, in small groups we were then asked to come up with a mobile solution in 10 – 15 minutes that introduce online banking to preschool children. The solutions we came up with weren’t the best. But through this exercise, any form of unassigned leadership were removed, and we embraced the “bad first draft”, and celebrated the failure.

This 10 – 15 minute technique can be used on any other service design activity. It works great if you want to get results quickly, get people doing and not talking. You’ll be certain that people are going to come up with something.

2. Train the trainer
Service design as an iterative process it’s more than creating better prototypes each round. As service designers is also part of our “job” to help others express their ideas and accustomed to the way of thinking about service design. “Train the trainer” said Marc is about training our clients so they can practice service design by themselves once our involvement has ceased.

For service design to happen we need to adapt our language to the client’s language, use their language, their jargon. The initial buy-in from the client is essential for service design to happen.

3. Theatre
I took some improvisation classes a few years back in Chicago at Second City, and this came in very handy for this exercise. Marc showed us how theater and some improvisation techniques (such as say “yes, and…”) can be great tools when acting scenarios or situations to elicit deeper insights. But Marc disliked the term “theatre”. He preferred the term “investigative rehearsal” or “theatrical methods”. And clients generally dislikes any word to do with “acting”.

Theatre can create fast and cheap human interactions and emotions, plus it allows us the ability to put emotions together. As an example Mark said a lot of businesses are about creating really cool scripts, but you have to find the methods and how to implement it. Theatrical methods can accomplish just that.

But not everyone can jump on to the stage like that. For theatrical methods or investigative rehearsals to take place, people (actors) need to feel that they are in a safe space, where a level of trust has been ensured.

A quick activity to achieve this is by asking participants to share truth in small groups and to decide what can be shared back with everyone, then incrementally raise the level of honesty and trust. Don’t take yourselves (facilitators) seriously, but take everyone else (clients, customers) seriously. It’s important that your fail yourselves first. After all, if you’re precious and apprehensive about failing, how will you get everyone else to fail and learn from it?

We all had fun but after the exercise, we asked ourselves ‘What happens after the theater?’ Theatrical methods can then be turned into early prototypes, blueprints, or a service advertisement. It can also be used to feed into the presentation back to the client.

4. Subtext
Subtext is a term burrowed from the theatre. On the stage, it is to find out the underlying plot of the play. In service design however, it can be used to make our thinking more concrete by questioning the view in front of us. It’s the “Don’t take it word-for-word” approach. This also adds a level of emotional input into the context, making the scenario richer and thorough. It helps us think in a step by step progression, dwelling deeper and deeper, unveiling the true intention and helping us to gain insight. For example, the statement may say ‘It’s concrete’, the subtext for this idea would be ‘Why is it concrete?’, which unveils the motivation for the action, and ultimately the purpose ‘Why is concrete important to the person?’

Subtext is highly accessible. Similar to the ‘five whys’ that we often ask in the design process. It is also highly comprehensible and people understand it instantly. Subtext is also more about the action of doing and showing the idea rather than just talking about it. Marc said in the workshop, “Doing gets more emotional results. It provides access to my guts rather than just the brain.” The use of subtext however does not reflect others outside of the workshop room. It only concerns what the person inside the room thinks.

5. Evidence of service
While it’s important to provide good service to customers, it’s also important to remind them of the great service you have provided. This is often achieved by producing and doing something that customers can touch and see. For example: the folding of the toilet paper in hotels. The folding is an evidence that a service was performed while you were out of your room. An evidence of service can also prolong customer touchpoint by reminding customers of their experience. For example: the sample of shampoo bottles that salons give you after your visit.

Virgin Australia actually created an artifact that does just this. Because Virgin know that customers often takes away the bottle openers provided on the flight, so they instead of engraving “stainless steel” on the bottle openers, they engraved “stainless steal” instead. This subtle gesture will remind the customers of the vibrant attitude that Virgin markets itself to be, as well as the (hopefully) pleasant flight experience.

P.S. A special thanks to Jono to contribute on this post.