The Redesign Stories:
Redesigning Business Thinking

· redesign stories,work,sprint case studies,training case studies

“Redesign Stories” is a series of articles showcasing the business redesign projects we took together with 5 of our key clients. Each article takes us through the journey of innovation and agility within the organisation touching upon mindset, experience and space design. Follow the agile redesign process in the 6 inspiring stories shared in our blog.

"The post-digital era - a time when agile development and the corresponding adoption of digital tools are not a differentiating advantage, but a mere requirement for doing business. A time when brands will have to deliver immediately and on demand highly customizable products and services, rendering image development in the hands of not only marketing experts, but also all employees who deliver experiences on behalf of those brands."

This is how Paul Daugherty, CTO of Accenture, is describing what is shaping to be our close future. As it turns out, Within this multinational organisation, a leading global professional services company, doing consulting, strategies and integration of technologies in a wide array of businesses, Paul’s view turned out to be an epitome of the visionary’s approach spread around the company’s C-suite. In fact, the organization has not been a stranger to innovation for quite a while now - ever since the introduction of computer systems for commercial use back in 1954, which its predecessor actually pioneered. Currently, Accenture is part of the Fortune 500, and has more than 500 thousand employees in more than 200 cities around the world, all of them working with 92 companies of the Fortune 100. All of those numbers mean one general and reappearing in this article theme - namely, when opportunity arises, as it currently has, vision, coupled with a sparkling and contagious openness to change, can and do lead to a path of undeniable success. This is the newest success story of Accenture.

In the past, Accenture has been very strong at business consulting, creating strategies to bear huge success to its clients. But somewhere along the way, with the technological evolution rendering the user, or client, in charge of key decisions (nowadays there is an abundance of alternatives), it became progressively clear that a key link was missing. This link was a human-centered approach - it entails straightforward strategies for understanding people at a holistic level - every aspect of their realities, and offers tremendous agility for businesses to act lightning fast as the events unfold, in order to meet customer needs. And it requires a shift in the brand-building strategy. 

Since we have more freedom than ever at the tip of our fingers, enterprises can no longer only rely on conventional marketing strategies to get their message across - they now have to adopt a responsibility to create experiences in order to stand out. For the latter part of the decade, Accenture Interactive has shown that sense of responsibility for creating and delivering high-standard services to their clients, by going through a number of incremental changes, one of which has been the structured introduction and adaptation of design thinking.

The initial spark of the design thinking journey was lit about five or eight years ago, when Accenture acquired the design and innovation consultancy firm Fjord, but it was around 2016 when people really started to acknowledge the benefits of an enhanced interaction process, better understanding and problem recognition. Ever since that point, to introduce and teach the ways of design thinking to its numerous employees, the company has relied on launchlabs. 

In order to understand how this transition went in practice, we contacted Jeroen de Groot - one of the pioneering workshop designers and facilitators for Accenture, and a design thinking evangelist, to walk us simultaneously through his own and the company’s journey in discovering and adopting design thinking.

Jeroen took the academy with the specific precondition from his boss that he would present anything he would have learned to the management. Inspired by the practical approach of the design thinking academy, he then went on to transform that presentation into a three-hour hands-on workshop. As the feedback was joyfully positive, that three-hour workshop then became a four-hour workshop - Jerome tells how he would often have to stay after office hours to teach interested colleagues from different departments over some pizza. And soon enough, design thinking was slowly getting introduced at a company level. After that initial explosion of interest, Accenture reached out to launchlabs, among a few other external and internal partners, for structured training sessions, which then resulted in the famous three-day workshops.

Aimed to stock up employees from all divisions and levels with understanding of the design thinking approach, the intensive three-day workshops were a huge success. Right off the bat, people dived in, let go, and started to experiment and make that change happen. There was an abundance of positive feedback and attitudes.

“It didn't feel like there was a hierarchy in the room, it felt like an equal relationship. There were these relationships of equality with the facilitators and trainees: I do one method, you do the next. That was just super cool how that organically has developed.” - Jeroen

The structure of the workshops was built in such a way as to emphasize the first stages of the process, namely - understanding and empathy. At the start, the participants introduce themselves in a playful manner to signify a friendly environment.

“What made a big impression on me in launchlabs’ way of teaching was a mix of playfulness and professionality helping to create the perfect learning environment. And I loved the warm-ups. They are very important for bringing everything together as an integral part of the curriculum. People, place and time - those are the three integral parts of a session.”

A problem is then introduced, but contrary to the typical approach, on day one from the training course nobody was allowed to directly dive into the solutions, as hard as that may be for an Accenture consultant. Instead, the trainees from various backgrounds and specializations, facilitators and trainers together, all had to redefine the issue, look at it from various angles, and come up with a better problem statement. From a theoretical perspective, this is expected to bring better understanding of what every expert’s work entails, rendering the whole process more efficient. Of course, this does not entail redefining one’s job definition, rather it cultivates a mutual understanding and a healthy dose of skepticism to challenge one another.

Day two and three are about getting energized. This is the time when some of the most important events take place. First, people have built a lasting rapport, have loosen-up and are therefore encouraged to brainstorm and start coming up with solutions. This is also where the transition from old to new mindsets happens. Last, but not least, this is the time for practicing the learned methods - participants have to explain what they have understood on day one. These checks really help to see whether what has been taught has been perceived in the right way, but also to see how people can use the things they have learned in their daily routines. They can then adapt according to the feedback.

The follow-up is a bit more difficult. There are numerous instances when some people would not go on to use the devices after the training, unless they are explicitly instructed to do so. To bypass this and encourage employees to be proactive and spice their inventory up a little by experimenting and continue learning by themselves, a little nudging is needed. launchlabs and Accenture Interactive came up with some useful techniques to help and challenge people on a regular basis - monthly check-in calls to give some extra instructions on tools and ways of working in virtual environments, small Mural demos, ice-breakers, and confirmation emails that motivate and reassure participants. Storytelling is also a very useful technique that launchlabs and Accenture use.

“Storytelling goes hand-in-hand with design thinking: you can come up with great ideas, but if you are not able to sell them to your investor, or to your manager, or leader, nothing will happen with the ideas. Time is money, these people are typically super busy, so you need a technique to first catch them and then hold them. People are easily distracted these days, but if you are a good storyteller, you keep the mobile phones in the pockets.”

Overall, as businesses shift their strategies to adopt a more human-oriented approach to accommodate the customer and employee needs, leadership will closely depend on the speed and agility with which а company is ready to master agile methodologies. Some companies have already shifted their attention and are now reaping the benefits.

“The path to the post-digital era awaits. I invite you to take your company’s digital transformation journey to the next level by applying new technologies, investing in your talent and organization to build post-digital skill sets, and strengthening trust-based relationships for even greater success.”

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