3rd Design Thinking Summit: Interview With The Chairwoman Isabelle McWilliams
1) Can you tell us about Foolproof and their vision for design thinking?
Foolproof is an insight-led global product and service design company. That means we create and carry out research on digital products, services and experiences. Our philosophy is that to do what we do, we put the customer/user/human at the heart of our thinking and doing.
On every project, we foster a design thinking mindset and help our clients empathise with their customers, try out new things, experiment, learn and set themselves apart from their competitors.
Design thinking permeates everything we do. It’s intrinsic to the way we work and approach challenges; so much so that there isn’t a vision for design thinking at Foolproof, it’s just baked into who we are.
2) What advice do you have for businesses trying to integrate design thinking into their
Create the conditions for a design thinking mindset and ways of working to take place:
Treat your employees like your customers.
Your employees are your most important customers in some ways. They are instrumental to the success of your company so they deserve to be understood and listened to. To create the best product, you need empathy for both your customers and your employees. Focus on continuously improving your employee experience, find out what you’re doing right and what could be improved and, very importantly, act on the feedback.
Get the right people in.
You need people who demonstrate they understand design thinking to be the champions of change in your company for this mindset to take off.
Create interdisciplinary teams.
Break down silos in your organisation. Good products and services need everyone’s expertise working together towards the same goals.
Foster a learning culture.
Build a culture where failing is seen as a learning opportunity, where it’s encouraged to take calculated risks. It’s only through trying new things and getting out of your comfort zone that you will get through the pains to get to the gains.
Look at your environment.
You need the right kind of spaces to enhance creativity. Are there places where you can get together as a team on an ad hoc basis when needed? Can you modify these places to meet your needs? Are there places where you can stick things on the wall? Is it easy to just walk up to someone and have a chat in your office? Do you have the online tools to help you collaborate if you can’t all be in the same room at once? Here at Foolproof our walls are made of cork and blackboard and we have areas where you can hide away when you need solo thinking time or get together when you need to problem-solve as a group.
Finally, just jump into the pool and have fun doing it!
3) What are some of the latest design thinking trends you are excited about?
The trend I’m currently excited about is how design thinking is being used to improve the employee experience. Interdisciplinary teams, including HR professionals, are leveraging techniques from design thinking and working together to improve employee engagement.
The other trend I’m interested in is how design thinking can help improve the implementation of AI and AI systems. AI hasn’t perhaps quite delivered on its initial promises but we are hearing more success stories around how AI is helping us become better at our jobs. Far from replacing us (yet!), AI is augmenting us, enabling better decision-making and addressing real human needs.
4) What is the most unique industry you have seen impacted by design thinking? How did it affect their business?
The beauty of design thinking is that it can be used in a variety of contexts and be applied to a range of problems.
Most are familiar with how design thinking got Airbnb to where it’s at so I won’t go there. Instead, I’ll tell you about a project that is close to my heart, one of the best I’ve worked on in my near 5-years at Foolproof.
A couple of years ago, we were approached by a medical start-up called Cydar. Their product is amazing. It enables the overlaying of live X-rays with a pre-operative CT scan of the blood vessels, in order to guide medical practitioners during surgery for endovascular procedures. The benefits of using this product are that it can shorten the time of surgery, reduce exposure to X-rays and improve patient outcomes.
We were looking at ‘how might we make this product even better’? We’re great at designing interfaces and working with healthcare providers but we had little knowledge of the end-user in this context.
Our first port of call was to see the product being used in its context; an operating theatre during live surgery. After this, we understood something that would guide us along the way for the whole project: there are so many things that vie for the end user’s attention so simplifying the interface became our key focus. Seeing things from the perspective of the medical practitioner was essential to getting to that insight. We then moved onto designing, testing, iterating, re-testing and delivering.
A quote from Cydar’s CEO, Tom Carrell, summarises the effect this project had on the business, “The proof of the project’s success lies in the adoption of the Cydar EV product by our customers into routine clinical use.”
If you want to read more about this, we have a case study on our website.
5) What is the relationship between Design Thinking and UX Design?
Both refer to a mindset and a way of working. They broadly follow a similar framework of understand, define, ideate, create, test.
They utilise similar methods to effect change and discover new truths and have a similar perspective that in order to get to these new truths, you need to understand and learn from the people who will ultimately be benefiting from the improvements you make. In essence, they both have human needs at their core.
This is how they relate. Where they differ lies in the range of their applicability. I’m simplifying it here, but UX design is about creating better products and services. Design Thinking has a wider remit and can be applied to all kinds of problems in almost every industry.
In short, a UX designer will be a design thinker. A design thinker may not be a UX designer.
6) What are your expectations for this year’s Design Thinking Summit?
My expectations are very high. I’ve looked at the line-up and I’m excited about what will be in store for us. Alongside one of my colleagues, Tim Loo, who’s a great speaker and always very entertaining, you have a range of speakers from different backgrounds, from experience and service design to strategy, business, delivery and brand/communication.
You’re going to be hearing from leading brands and you’ll be discussing both the theory and the practice of design thinking. It’s going to make you think and see things from a different perspective. I also like the way that it’s set up: there’s time planned in for networking and getting to know each other, and the venue looks excellent.
It’s going to be fun and we’ll learn a lot, about ourselves and our practice, what else can you ask for? Well…It’s in Berlin too - always a great city to visit for the first time or to come back to!
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