Aligning Insights with Business Objectives in a Design Thinking Ecosystem: A Case Study

In the last decade, Design Thinking has gone from buzz word to relevant business process for customer-focused businesses. Insights professionals working where Design Thinking processes are in play need to be clear about how the process works so that they can meet the needs of their business partners and achieve a successful outcome.

This case showcases how one team found success working in this environment. They started with a Smart Insights Brief to plan the inspiration and ideation stages of an Emergency Room (ER) redesign project that was using Design Thinking principles. Then they provided the strategic decision support so that ideas could be immediately prototyped and A/B tested, all while tracking the ROI of the research investment. It’s how today’s insights teams must respond to the need for insights while working within ever-changing parameters for problem solving.

Design Thinking requires a business to empathize with consumers and design around their needs and wants. I can’t imagine a management philosophy more closely aligned with how insights professionals already think!

Design Thinking

What do Apple, IBM, Fidelity, Intuit, and Herman Miller have in common? They all rely on Design Thinking principles to guide them in creating products and services that meet the needs of their target audience.  Design Thinking requires business to empathize with consumers and design around their needs and wants.  I can’t imagine a business management philosophy that would be more closely aligned with how insights professionals already think!

Design Thinking adapts the creative process used by designers to provide a problem-solving framework for creating human-centered products, services, and internal processes. Its proponents point to benefits such as:

  • Reducing the risk associated with launching new ideas.
  • Reducing the time it takes for organizations to learn.
  • Producing solutions that are innovative, not just incremental.

Design Thinking utilizes elements like empathy and experimentation to arrive at innovative solutions focused on what future customers want. The focus is on relentless questioning: questioning the problem, questioning the assumptions, and questioning the implications. Insights professionals are likely to run into Design Thinking in projects where the problem to be tackled is ill-defined or requires creative solutions.

Marketing Research in a Design Thinking Ecosystem

Here’s what aligning insights with business objectives looks like in the Design Thinking ecosystem.

The Scene

An inner-city hospital wanted to redesign their ER department. They assembled an ER Design Team that decided to use Design Thinking for the process. The existing ER had a less than stellar reputation. It was perceived as slow, dirty, and even scary. The Design Team turned to the Insights Department for assistance with obtaining patient input.

Insights Project Planning

The Insights Team used the Smart Insights Brief with the ER Design Team to get clarity on the current situation as well as their goals and expectations. The teams jointly identified the learning needs necessary to build a best-in-class ER. In the process, they established success metrics that identified ways to improve the learning process in the future and how the insights process impacted the newly redesigned ER.

Empathize Stage

Design Thinking always starts with defining the problems to solve. The teams already had a leg-up on this stage because they used DecisionAdvancer’s Smart Insights Brief process. So, the Insights Team was ready to jump into action starting with deep-dive research to identify their target audience’s needs and wants. This included:

  • Secondary review of ER best practices and several interviews with benchmark ER departments across the US
  • Observational research of the ER, including some very brief, in-the-moment interviews with ER staff and patients
  • Focus groups with past ER patients and their family members
  • Focus groups with ER staff members

By the end of this stage, the teams had a clear understanding of the challenge and a human-centered statement of the problem.

Define and Ideate Stage

The Smart Insights Brief process upfront helped the teams maintain focus while mentally “going wide” to look at the ER redesign from many different angles.

Next, the ER Design Team and the Insights Team brought in all key stakeholders and held convergent and divergent sessions to identify ideas, solutions, and alternative ways to looking at the problem. Convergent sessions clustered and identified pain points while divergent sessions ideated solutions. These creative sessions generated many ideas that were then filtered. The Smart Insights Brief process upfront helped the teams maintain focus while mentally “going wide” to look at the ER redesign from many different angles.

Prototype/Test Stage

Several of the ideas coming out of the Ideation Stage were tested immediately. The Insights analysts helped set up several A/B split tests to evaluate new processes. This iterative process continued until the best processes were identified. Where appropriate, visual concepts were developed and quantitatively tested.

Because success measures were identified in the initial research planning stage and careful track was kept of how learnings informed decisions, both the ER Design Team and the Insights Department were able to measure the ROI of the research investment.

Redesign Success

Throughout the process, the Insights Team was able to guide the Design Team to make the optimal customer-based decisions. The redesigned ER Department saw improved quality outcomes and higher patient satisfaction scores. Because success measures were identified in the initial planning stage and careful track was kept of how learnings informed decisions, both the ER Design Team and the Insights Department were able to measure the ROI of the research investment. As a bonus, they identified new ways to improve the insights process for future projects.

The DecisionAdvancer Difference

This Insights Team was up to the ER redesign challenge. They knew they could rely on the Smart Insights Brief to keep the teams focused on the right problems and opportunities from the very beginning of the project. The Insights Team confidently delivered actionable insights that were properly aligned with organizational objectives. The ER team was appreciative of a process that resulted in an improved, customer-centric ER using Design Thinking principles.  The sponsoring academic institution was assured that their research resources had been used wisely.

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