Maritza has a PhD in Communication Sciences from the Complutense University de Madrid. She is a board member of “Innovation and Design” Foundation in Madrid (Spain) and co-founder of h2i institute, the human-centred innovation institute, where she also teaches Design Research. Maritza has participated at TEDXUSB 2012 (Venezuela) and currently combines management of four Designit offices (Madrid, Barcelona, Medellín and Lima) with her academic work. She teaches Anthropology and Design at IED Madrid and gives support to the research group “Emergent cultural practices in the new Madrid” at the Anthropological department of UNED.
From a socio-anthropological approach to innovation, Maritza has worked on projects for large international corporations by coaching and applying ethnographic and co-creation methodologies. Those methodologies allow teams and organisations to deal with uncertainty in a collaborative and creative way, placing humans at the centre of transformation and change processes.
In this interview Maritza shares her design thinking expertise and provides insights on applying design thinking in the business analysis domain. She also provides valuable tips for business analysts on how to make design thinking work and become more effective in their work.
Maritza: Traditionally companies hired external companies to solve their problems or to make a diagnosis of the problem followed by offering some solutions. I call it a ‘black box’ way of working. By working that way, a company that hires these services will never learn how to work on its own. The difference between a traditional BA and design company is that we opt for co-creation.
The heart of true innovation is to discover the real challenge. Sometimes a client calls us and describes what the challenge is. Yet when working out details we discover that the challenge they provided is not the one with most generative potential. What do we do? We facilitate the co-creation process by providing them with our expertise in the strategic design and offering tools that improve communication and co-creation.
If a BA wants to create a solution to ‘fuzzy’ problems/‘fuzzy’ challenges, they need to co-create the solutions with their clients. The key point here is not only your background but also your facilitator skills. The problem is not that organisations lack the knowledge – organisations have all the knowledge needed to solve the problem! But you with your facilitation skills are a key factor in helping them to:
• think together
• make decisions quickly
You also add your expertise in this process. The idea of a company having a problem and someone external giving them the solution has created really bad dynamics in companies. Today it is not only what we do that’s important but also how we do it. This is also the strength of design thinking. A design thinking framework is not only concerned with what and why but also how: how people do things. The way you do things makes the difference. Perhaps you saw companies with almost the same challenge, but has the way they address the challenge made a difference? Take a look at the financial sector with their new emerging challenges. They face many challenges related to money and comprehension of what money is today for people. You can easily observe how banks approach their challenges, and that their approaches differ.
Maritza: The traditional output of business analysis is often in a form of a PowerPoint presentation or a thick document in which the company receives advice. Sometimes someone explains to the company what they have to do. I don’t believe it will work. Let me give you an example.
Imagine the current challenges for the telecommunication companies: many of them know that they have to work on their IoT (Internet of Things). I worked with a telecommunication company that received a strategic report created by a traditional consulting company. This report said very generic things. When Designit came to work with this company, they realised that ‘how’ matters; the way you do things matters. I am completely convinced about that.
You need to get a complete alignment in the entire organisation. Design thinking provides you with a framework and techniques to do co-creation in the organisation. Remember that you are not the smartest guy in the world. Even if you were, you would need other departments to work with you. When I refer to ‘how’, I do not mean the methodology, but also ways how you involve people from your organisation to become agile and adaptive, aligned within the whole company and working in another way.
Currently the barriers between an organisation and its clients are different. Clients should be seen as a part of the organisation. Perhaps you know the history of the mountain bike? Mountain bikes were invented by people who loved riding bikes on mountain trails. So the traditional bikes did not fit their needs. People wanted to cycle on hills and hiking trails and therefore they came up with the idea of a mountain bike. One of the challenges organisations face today is this barrier between producer and consumer. Organisations have to include their clients as a part of their organisation, as a part of the strategic thinking of their organisation.
Maritza: When a company decides to hire Designit, we try to understand whether the client is prepared to change their way of working. We do it even before we understand the challenge they have. If the client does not want to change, it is likely he won´t hire us ;).
To understand the challenge, we work in teams representing the at least three sources of inspiration: organisation, customer and our own design thinking expertise from several sectors. We usually develop ethnographic research within and outside the company. We also interview many people involved in and outside the organisation. From outside of the organisation we interview customers and potential customers to check the future visions they have, their expectations and future needs. We also bring our own expertise; when working for 20 years we know a bit about different sectors [laugh].
We also check the dependencies between sectors. Many times companies hire professionals like business analysts or traditional consultants, because they are looking for someone who is an expert in a given field. But sometimes it is not the best way to go. Sectors check on each other: telecom checks what retail is doing, retail checks banking, because they want to understand how other sectors work and what they can learn from them. Companies like Designit facilitate this cross sector communication. We work across sectors.
Maritza: For me these are complementary approaches. Service design thinking is another loop of design thinking. It is trying to explain that behind any solution or any innovation hides a service. Today when you think about products, it is useless to think only about a product itself. Let us think about the iPhone: the iPhone is useless without the whole experience as a client. Here we speak about the whole customer journey from the awareness of the product to after sales where the Iphone is actually put to use. Service design thinking puts an emphasis on the idea of the whole cycle of the experience around a product, moments the product will be enjoyed, used, disposed, etc. You have to go beyond the product. Service is a good metaphor of what this experience is, because this is something organisations often forget.
Maritza: The preconditions are:
• finding some stakeholders at the C-level who are willing to take a bet on this new way of thinking
• finding an organisation that is concerned about its competitors and/or market situation
Sometimes organisations facing a huge technological change suddenly realise the way they are changing, the technology platform they provide, all this has to be done in a different way. You can find this type of sensibility in different units in the organisation: in the innovation department, marketing or new business department. Recently we have discovered that IT departments, these traditional IT departments, are starting to be concerned about the way they are working. This is due to all the mistakes they made in the past.
Maritza: They do not match at all [laugh]. When we check whether the company is prepared to change their way of working, we check whether they are prepared to change the way they do project management. When you face a complex problem or ‘fuzzy’ challenge it’s hard to understand and detail tasks in a project plan. There are though some strategies to develop plans when you face this kind of problem. Firstly we try to find a long-term engagement with a client. This will allow us to do whatever is needed to solve the problem (avoiding “frequent checking scope” mode). Maybe today we think of something that will change over time. In an innovation project we have to do what has to be done. It changes project managers’ and project management officers’ work dramatically. In order to find a compromise we work with design sprints or waves. We try to develop each stage of the project in 12-14 weeks sprints, validate findings and get insights for refining service/products concepts or prototypes and then we develop next sprint. It is the only way to check in the agile way that we are doing the right thing, that we follow the right direction. Agile tools, prototypes are very important here. It can be something built from LEGO bricks, we can use digital design tools, everything that allows checking whether your value proposition is understood by the organization and the market.
Maritza: One of the trends I recognise is that organisations have to be trained internally to get some knowledge in design thinking. The organisations are not well prepared, don’t have trained teams. Companies have to take care of their employees and let them gain knowledge about what design thinking is to smooth the innovation.
Some sectors like banking or telecoms are really far ahead in the design thinking approach. The energy sector has just started to join them; it has become aware of what design thinking could do for them. So the second challenge is to evangelise other sectors so they can approach their challenges better equipped.
The third challenge is related to the way we teach in schools. People are leaving the universities not prepared for this complex world, some universities try to improve but there is a lot of work to do. Improving university programmes with co-creation and facilitation tools, besides the analytical skills would be beneficial.