Innovation is a complex and abstract concept for some. Some design thinking principles and approaches are especially new, so especially challenging for people. Luckily, a great storyteller can bring these concepts into reality by animating the approach with a story. You're a great storyteller. Below are just a few stories, by stage of the process, to add to your repertoire. Please help us make this space more valuable by adding some of your own.
The Origins of How Might We...
Charles Warren of Google explains how P&G uses the reframing process (although not necessarily other aspects of design thinking, such as user observations) to radically change their approach to the problem of falling behind their competitor in the bar soap space.
Solar LED Lanterns and Off Grid Solar System Company
A team of designers went to Myanmar to look into irrigation challenges there. They discovered through interviewing farmers on the ground in Myanmar that the biggest challenge they were having was not irrigation, but lighting. Not only was lighting an issue, but farmers spent up to 50% of their annual spend on kerosene for lamps. Having discovered this, they reframed their question - this is an example of having to iterate, moving backwards in the process as dictated by user needs - to focus more on accessible lighting. They now do this with a series of solar powered lamps.
IDEO re-designs pill bottles for weak, arthritic hands
A grandmother describes her pill bottle experience as having no problems, but observers notice she uses a meat slicer to shave the lid off of her pill bottle!
Safeway Supply Chain Innovation for Kraft Foods
Kraft discovers Safeway warehouse workers struggling to access necessary flavors. Treating this problem as a warehousing issue rather than marketing issue, and the resulting solution, led to an increase of sales of 162%.
Microsoft's Radical Bet On A New Type of Design Thinking
Observing someone in a wheel-chair inspires the curb-cut sidewalk - a better sidewalk experience for everyone, revealed by someone with different needs.
Ford's Quest to Remake Itself Into a Master of UX
Ford routinely puts themselves into the shoes of extreme users in order to design inclusively, and for the future. This includes driving cars with their vision and hearing impaired, simulating arthritis with a suit, etc.
What one assistant principal learned from shadowing a student for a day.
A California high school Assistant Principal did "day in the life" research with students to better understand their needs, and recognize ways the system is letting down some students.
The Intuit Follow-Me-Home Program
Intuit employees spend over 10,000 hours each year conducting “Follow-Me-Homes.” The concept is simple: Intuit employees join users at their office or home and watch them work.
The process of observing customers provides deep customer immersion and has helped focus on the things customers really like and appreciate, and not burden them with things that nobody cares about
The origin of the bendy straw
Joseph Friedman invented the bendy straw after watching his daughter struggle with a straight straw. It took an existing invention, known as the “soda straw” and made it accessible to people who couldn’t sit up at a tall counter and bend their heads to just the angle required to drink out of a straight straw.
History of the modern computer keyboard
The invention of the modern computer keyboard can be traced back to the invention of the typewriter. So, who invented the typewriter?
Huggies Pull-Ups at Kimberly-Clark
Design researchers with Huggies discover that diapers signal an exciting time in a child's development, and that families see them as clothing, rather than waste control bandages as Huggies had long assumed.
OPPO, a Chinese technology and mobile phone creator is learning to explore ways to gain competitive advantage in their cut-throat industry. One superior technology in their products is the camera, so participant teams set out to learn more about the user photo experience. They quickly discovered that the most frequently snapped photos are selfies – users posing for and taking pictures of themselves. However, the most frequently posted photos are those selfies where the user feels they look like they look "natural". With this insight, the Mobile Phone maker approached a cosmetics company famous for its ‘nude’ line of products. By understanding the way lighting and shadow can make someone look natural, OPPO is able to offer a superior user photo experience.
Design for Change - Bryan Walker, Partner and Managing Director at IDEO
Tasked with reducing open defecation in Ghana, a team of designers observes behavior not relevant to sanitation: people talking on mobile phones for prestige. And so, the insight is that people want to showcase their luxury. Serviced toilets were ultimately serviced with great public ceremony to showcase the prestigious service. Story at 11:35 in this video, with the entire video being worth watching.
Air New Zealand and IDEO: The Hanger 9 Design Story
During a 9 month project with IDEO, Air New Zealand took a user centred approach to improve seating design for their long haul services. They built full scale prototypes of cabin interiors to carry out design research, evaluating seating and service concepts with real passengers.
Embrace Global has saved many infant lives with a great innovation, beginning at looking at a challenge differently. They were initially recruited to create an incubator, but when looking at "why" an incubator was being requested, they began tackling the underlying challenge of infant mortality, which allowed them to go in a very different direction.
The value of spending time with real people
In 2002, Lego sales were in decline and the company was in serious trouble. A study of their customers revealed the apparent reason: the declining attention span of their customers. Read how a human-centered approach combined with careful observation, can lead to powerful insights.
The Honey Pot: Pacific Power & Light (PP&L)
On the value of wild ideas and how they lead to meaningful ideas, as well as building on the ideas of others, Pacific Power & Light was contending with the problem of ice on power lines. Someone had suggested training bears (who lived in this region) to climb the poles and knock off the ice; so someone proposed placing honey pots on the poles to encourage bears to climb them; so someone proposed helicopters to place the honey on the poles. The current solution? Helicopters fly over the power lines, and the air pressure they create dismisses the ice!
New Device for Sinus Surgery
While describing a new device for sinus surgery, a designer quickly taped together a marker, a film canister, and a clothespin to give shape to what the idea could look and feel like. This brought the idea to life so people could understand it. It also made it possible for people to interact with the idea, and provide feedback on how it could be handled.
Elmo's Monster Maker
IDEO had a concept for Sesame Street's (now successful) Elmo's Monster Maker app. To bring life to this idea and the interaction within the app, the designers didn't begin with new software. They began with a cutout of an iPhone, and acted out some of the interaction from behind it, with someone in front playing the role of the user enacting the responses from the "technology".
Finding a New Business Model in the Everyday
Sensis, Australia’s #1 marketing services company, uses prototyping and experimentation to explore new ideas and elaborate on existing ones. Creating a digital business and new business models included poster board with cutout shapes on it. They put up posters in public spaces to see what needs people had.
Etsy Learns Through Mistakes
Not a design thinking experiment, per se, but a useful story in sharing how organizations are learning through failure, and the cultural norms required to make this possible. The global online marketplace Etsy has a practice of documenting all engineering failures in detail, and sharing through a company-wide email.
Why You Should Hire People Toughened by Failure
Another example of learning through failure, not directly design thinking quick and dirty experiments: In hiring for their AmazonFresh grocery service, Amazon staffed the team with people who had failed in a similar business already.
Kaiser Permanente: NIW (No Interuption Wear)
Healthcare leader Kaiser Permanente was seeking to reduce or eliminate the potential danger of becoming distracted while doing work where focus is essential, such as during "passing of meds" (one observation is that one nurse was interrupted 17 times during this process!). One idea was for people to enter a specific zone when focus was required. Another was to wear something that said "leave me alone" right on it. This idea of wearing something that signaled they were busy was evolved. Someone tried wearing a sash, and this was further evolved and eventually become the solution.