Not all workdays begin with a convoy of cyclists hailing from India, Saudi Arabia, Europe, and America. And fewer still wind up with creations made of LEGOs, spaghetti, string, and marshmallows.
Yet every workday — no matter how challenging — should have the same spirit of diversity, adventure, and assumption-busting repartee that I experienced at THNK — The Amsterdam School of Creative Leadership.
Once our Cisco Consulting Services colleagues finished winding through the streets of central Amsterdam each morning, we got down to the serious business of “hacking” some key global issues, together with our friends at THNK.
One of those issues has evolved into a Cisco/THNK partnership challenge, inwhich we will share Cisco’s expertise on the Internet of Everything (IoE) to solve some global problems around food safety and food distribution. I will speak more about the Internet of Food initiative in a subsequent blog.
Another key challenge was to foster digital disruption in the Internet of Everything (IoE) age — a time when our enterprise customers, and especially their end users, are demanding rapid transformation.
That level of change stems from the kind of open innovation and inclusive creative processes promoted by THNK in Amsterdam. Those processes are also being embraced by Cisco at our innovation hubs in such places as Rio de Janeiro, Toronto, and Songdo, South Korea. At these centers, IoE cornerstones such as cloud, mobility, Big Data analytics, and social media are already enabling digital disruption — and will continue to accelerate it.
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Tags: Big Data, Cisco, Cisco Consulting Services, cloud, connected supply chain, customer experience, design thinking, food distribution, Internet of Everything, IoE, Problem solving
As organizations mature, often they become silo’d into groups with similar charters but without a process to align their efforts. As a member of a team that is responsible for the overall strategy for of the company’s digital experience, this lack of alignment can cause inefficient resource allocation or worse yet, competing technology platforms. With speed of innovation in the digital space accelerating daily, the risk of misalignment increases exponentially.
In an effort to insure alignment across our organization, we recently led a cross organizational workshop to define and document our vision for what the digital presence of Cisco should become in the year 2017. We brought together over 45 subject matter experts, from over a dozen teams for a day and a half of interactive design thinking exercises. The exercises focused not on our internal processes, but on how our customers interact with our digital properties. The beauty of design thinking is that it breaks down personal bias in a team and focuses fanatically on the customer experience. By doing this, key themes were defined and agreed to across the teams.
We have all heard these key themes:
- content is king
- use of data to increase value to the customer
- agility over complexity
We all had similar challenges and understood the need to align. Seems easy enough, right?In an organization as large as Cisco, collaboration is critical. In order to drive that collaboration and alignment across the many digital teams, we formed a structure that provided a forum for alignment while keeping governance over the vision that was defined.
We do this through:
- commitment at the executive level
- driving agreement of the vision thru a cross-functional steering committee
- execution is driven through working groups aligned to specific aligned initiatives (such as analytics or partner experience)
The working groups (driving execution) are led by the organization closest to the effort, yet each has representation across several groups to insure alignment across all digital efforts. Each working group is then responsible to report progress to the executive level committees. We continue to build out and refine these processes as needed.
As the working groups have come back with their plans we have noticed the success of this effort was understanding that alignment is not the key issue, all the groups have similar requirements, expectations, KPI’s for success.
The true issue is a forum through which to drive the discussion in an agile fashion to align our digital vision. The expectation of failing fast and failing forward, understanding that the most exciting thing about the digital space is the pace of change and innovation. The journey is more rewarding than the destination, as the destination is always changing.
Tags: alignment, collaboration, design thinking, digital
The early days of the Internet were a heady time of reimagining, rethinking, and, in effect, “e-enabling” a staggering range of business processes. Today, we stand on the cusp of an equally momentous paradigm shift driven by an explosion in connectivity—not just among devices, but also encompassing people, process, data, and “things.” This next-generation digital revolution will upend entrenched mind-sets and disrupt existing business strategies on a nearly unprecedented scale, transforming, yet again, the customer experience.
As I shared in Part 1 of my blog, the Cisco Internet Business Solutions Group projects that the Internet of Everything (IoE) economy will generate $14.4 trillion in Value at Stake for private-sector companies globally over the next decade. Nearly 26 percent of this total — $3.7 trillion — will be tied to IoE-driven customer experience advances.
But how do companies begin to tap the vast potential of the next-wave Internet? Since the Internet of Everything remains a work in progress, its uncharted waters and multidimensional scope will demand wholly new ways of thinking as organizations connect to a larger — much larger — universe. In order to meet IoE’s challenges effectively, your business will need a multidimensional toolkit — one that bridges marketing, design, engineering, economics, finance, or any other discipline required inside or outside your company.
The methodology that can enable these capabilities is design thinking. Drawing on methods used by design professionals, it combines empathy for the human context of the problem; creativity in the generation of insights and solutions; and rationality and feedback to analyze the solution within the customer context.
Design thinking is ideal for problem solving within highly complex situations. Which brings us to IoE. Its high level of complexity will demand that you rethink what you do for your customers, while redefining how issues can be addressed.
Knowing the customer is an age-old path to success. And at the heart of design thinking is a deeper understanding of the customer, citizen, or patient, pinpointing the human needs that fall between business objectives and the technology solutions. Employing user-centered qualitative research methods of observation, ideation, and prototyping, design thinking cuts to the essence of the human pain point and is centered on understanding the role you play in the lives of those whom you are serving. Defining and shaping the problem — in effect, determining the right question to ask — is key. Problem framing comes before problem solving and will be the foundation the creative insight in IoE innovation.
Unlike analytical thinking, which is based on a breakdown of ideas, design thinking concentrates on building up ideas with a broad focus, especially in the early stages of the problem-solving process. Once those early ideas are encouraged to develop, without judgment, they can spur creative thinking.
Here is an example of design thinking at work:
A retail client asked, “How do we increase sales conversions?” The client had the best merchandise selections, financing options, and competitive prices. Customers sang their praises in focus groups. Yet, they were converting only about 25 percent of shoppers. With a design-thinking approach, we were able to reframe the problem. Customers were attracted by the assortment, we realized, but they were overwhelmed by the choices. They were looking for guidance on the right solution. By reframing the problem (“How do we help customers make a personalized choice?”), we came up with great ideas that led to new services offerings. In the end, conversion increased significantly.
Design thinking is not a new tool—Procter & Gamble and GE are but two companies employing its concepts, and Stanford and Harvard both teach it. It isn’t a magical cure, either. But it could provide critical solutions within the complex scope of the IoE economy.
As in previous Internet eras, organizations that adapt and redesign the customer experience — essentially by knowing their consumers through empathy and innovative solutions — will thrive. IoE will reach its true potential only if it is seamlessly integrated into customers’ lives. And design thinking — with its emphasis on simplicity and empathy—could cut through the complexity of the coming IoE economy, while driving the creation of products and services that resonate with the way your customers live, work, and play.
After all, isn’t that the reason for creating those products and services in the first place?
Tags: Big Data, Cisco, customer experience, design thinking, IBSG, Internet of Everything, IoE, Personalization, Problem solving