“A great thought begins by seeing something differently, with a shift of the mind’s eye.”
– Albert Einstein
This week, my five year old son brought home a book from school called “See, Hear, Touch, Taste, Smell” after he finished reading it, we discussed the human senses and he was most intrigued at how these sensory messages are sent to the brain. My son’s learning experience reminded me of the importance of our human senses in Design Thinking. Sometimes we feel that we “need to see it with our own eyes” and have a first-hand experience which fully engages all of our human senses; often other people’s knowledge, views, explanations and perspectives are just not enough.
So what has this really got to do with Design Thinking? Design Thinking is a set of tools and mindset for problem solving & finding based on empathy. Design Thinking uses iterative cycles of Look, Think and Do, here I focus on the Look phase, and in particular the importance of exploration through the use of observation, which is fundamental foundation for Design Thinking with SAP.
Here at SAP we are challenging ourselves to go beyond the traditional methods that most would typically use to conduct ‘discovery’ with customers. In the business world we often work with extremely formal requirement and solution specifications; the problem here is that it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to comprehend real human meaning and build true empathy from just reading a document, hence the need for exploration through observation.
Observation usually starts at the beginning of our Design Thinking journey with customers, however Design Thinking is all about small iterative cycles of look think and do, so observation becomes part of the iterative cycle, it’s similar to buying a house; it’s often the second viewing that reveals additional insights after you’ve had time for reflection; you see things with a fresh pair of eyes! Techniques used for observation can take the primary form of observing a customer office, site or store, and also be complimented with the secondary form of reviewing social media (sentiment analysis), market research reports, company reports, websites, newspaper articles, plus many more.
The best observation results come when multiple people and therefore multiple perspectives are engaged; each of us operates with our own mental model – which is essentially a personal lens through which we see and perceive the world around us – therefore it’s highly effective to use a diverse group of stakeholders to conduct observation and collate feedback. We must also acknowledge that sometimes the obvious is ‘hiding in plain sight’, multiple and external views on a situation can often bring new insights, frequently those who think they have the best understanding the situation can suffer from ‘Wilful Blindness’ – a state in which they quite unknowingly ignore the obvious i.e. “cannot see the wood for the trees”.
Why do I feel so passionately about this? If someone said to you when thinking about buying a house “it’s just a house, a house is a house” would you just sign the paperwork and buy it without a viewing it a couple of times? Most probably not!! During my previous role in the Logistics Industry I frequently encountered cynics who believed that exploration and observation were unnecessary “you don’t need to visit that site, I can tell you all you need to know about it…” or “a warehouse is a warehouse, once you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all, why do you need to go and see another one?” I never agreed with these points of view and still don’t! I always requested (insisted) on site visits to see with my own eyes and experience first-hand the situation (sometimes working the nightshift), interviewing staff (truck drivers, warehouse operatives, office personnel etc.) – this always gave me and my team a great foundation during projects and allowed us to truly empathise with the situation and often bring new insights that were previously not considered. It’s great that I am able to continue this approach within SAP and take it even further with a complete Design Thinking mind-set and approach – I can tell you that we really are making Design Thinking part of SAP’s DNA!
Thinking back to my son’s schoolbook “See, Hear, Touch, Taste, Smell” Observation is about experiencing and using our human senses to develop a deeper understanding, associate real human meaning and build genuine empathy which provides a very powerful foundation for Design Thinking partnerships with our customers.
This is just one part of the Design Thinking Journey with our customers, it is the fundamental and foundational stage that helps to set the scene for everything that follows.
Interested in finding out more about Design Thinking with SAP? Visit: www.designthinkingwithsap.com
Business Solution Architect & Design Thinking Practitioner, SAP