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Brandwave-logo-6.png |Design Thinking | october '13
Design thinking can be a powerful approach that helps organizations break through their limiting assumptions of what is possible. It creates deep empathy and gets us out of the abstract debate over ideas in meeting rooms, to a place where we can collaboratively create and test tangible concepts. The theory is great, but getting to implementation is often difficult. Why is that?
When one of us (co-author Glenn Fajardo) started organizing the TechSoup Asia Program Design Session, an event that convened leading social innovation professionals in Southeast Asia to collaboratively prototype new ways of using technology for social impact, he decided to use design thinking for the first time. He encountered questions and worries that we think most first-timers have. The first was:

"OK, so I'm convinced that using design thinking is a good idea. I think I understand what it is after reading Tim Brown and Jocelyn Wyatt's article "Design Thinking for Social Innovation," and it sounds great, but I'm not sure how to put it into action."

Since then, we have experimented with using design thinking in several projects. Based on our collective mistakes and experiences, particularly in organizing two recent events in Southeast Asia (Changeweekend and the TechSoup Asia Program Design Session), it's clear that it's not always easy to put the theory of design thinking into practice.

We agree with Brown and Wyatt that "most [people] stop short of embracing the approach as a way to move beyond today's conventional problem solving," and that "one of the biggest impediments to adopting design thinking is simply fear of failure." However, to better understand how we might help more social innovators with "design doing"—actually applying design thinking—we need to better understand how people learn to use it effectively.

Learning "design doing" is experiential and social

There are already good learning materials available online, including the The Stanford d.School Bootcamp Bootleg and the HCD Toolkit. So what makes it tricky to learn and teach design thinking in a way that helps people embrace it more fully? These current materials might provide some sense of security and help, but are toolkits and workbooks enough?

Written materials alone cannot capture all the nuances of design thinking because the approach involves a structured approach with a lot of unstructured elements. Design thinking, like jazz, requires an appreciation for improvisation; learning how to apply it is an experiential and social activity.

Like learning to ride a bicycle, it is experiential. You cannot learn how just by having someone explain it to you—you have to actually try to do it yourself to find your own balance. You also need to practice to get better.

You can also increase your understanding by observing and interacting with more advanced practitioners—in this way, it is social. You enhance your understanding by practicing with your peers, sharing perspectives, and giving each other feedback.

This learning combination of the experiential and the social means thinking of design as craft rather than design as a codified process or design as an outcome. Think "knitting circle" rather than "classroom."

From knowing to doing

As an example, let's look at just one part of design thinking: how to prototype. A prototype is a simple simulation of the experience of a new product or service—a simulation that a user can interact with. It is often quick and dirty, and it makes an idea tangible and real. Prototyping helps you surface questions about the desirability, usability, and feasibility of your idea. Iteratively making and testing a series of prototypes can help you gain a deeper understanding of your users and help you refine your solutions.

We've seen anxiety from newcomers about making their first prototypes. They understand the concept of a prototype, why making a prototype can be useful, and how others have made prototypes. But the part about them actually making a prototype themselves…scary!

We saw this in the first design challenge for Changeweekend, where participants were tasked with developing new ways for currently unbanked populations to gain greater access to financial services. As we dived into a 45-minute session to create the first prototype, panic ensued:

"Aaaaack! Now what? I understand what a prototype is supposed to do, but not how to make one."

"Prototyping is for creative people. I'm not creative."

"Aren't there more detailed process steps? Tell me what to do next, not just 'start building.''

After about 10 minutes of spinning, and with some prodding from the facilitators ("You won't learn it until you do it..."), one small group finally started to build a "business in a box" prototype out of cardboard and construction paper.

As they started to engage in the experience of prototyping, they overcame considerable fear and inertia, despite feeling like they didn't really know what they were doing.

Conversations broke out: "I like what you did with this. Can you tell me more about your thought behind it? What if I tried this too?" The richness of the learning increased with the social interactions throughout the event, as participants had a chance to iterate and get feedback from their teams, other teams, the event facilitators, and other invitees who work in social enterprise development.

Once they started to work experientially and socially, and as their creative confidence grew, participants were able to start applying prototyping to their own design challenges, ones they face in their day-to-day work. One group took an idea for a "charity gift card" and started building prototypes that it could actually put in front of its intended users. This practice led to significant changes to the organization's business model, to the product offer itself, and to the product's presentation.

What's needed to support more design doing?

Even if you're just getting started, you might be surprised at the kind of help you can find. Try reaching out to your networks. Try posting to the Stanford Crash Course Facebook page. LinkedIn has several design thinking forums, such as Design Thinking, a subgroup of the Industrial Design group, and another (separate) group that is also called Design Thinking. Use these resources to find information and—more importantly—to connect with people. Let people know what you're trying to do and ask for their advice.

Gawad Kalinga Design Session at Playhouse MINT College in Manila. (Photo by Issa Cuevas-Santos)

We also believe that there's both a need and an opportunity here for more experiments around how to create systemic support for learning design doing. One could imagine a spectrum of modes for learning (varying in their degree of direct support of the experiential and the social) that lie between reading manuals online and signing up for a formal course on the topic.

One of the most significant challenges we see is enabling beginners to interact in real-time with experienced hands, in ways that are substantive, scalable, and sustainable. Though it wasn't by design (no pun intended), we saw some promise in something that happened after the TechSoup Asia Program Design Session: Several participants who experienced design doing for the first time during the event took that experience back with them and held design sessions where they were based. Organizations that did this include ASSIST and Gawad Kalinga in the Philippines, and ChangeFusion and OpenDream in Thailand. As a result, many more people were able to access experiential and social learning experiences that included interaction with (newly) experienced hands. In the future, one idea is to more explicitly build in an "each one teach one" expectation of participants.

What do you see as the barriers to introducing and applying design thinking in your organization?

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Brands are not things they’re emotional experiences. Creating these experiences, and the use value they offer customers, is the result of an integrated creative process of design.
Everywhere you look in the marketplace there is revolution and disintegration. Few marketing organizations have successfully navigated through the disruptive forces of globalization and commoditization. Wave after wave of technological innovation comes upon us more rapidly, engulfing us, confusing us more profoundly. There are two fundamental realities marketers face in this brave new world:

-  Ideas are now more valuable than process
-  Move up the value chain or be cast aside

Through all this creative destruction the dead wood is being cleared from the system, making way for more innovative players to take hold and prosper. Many once beloved and dominant brands have surrendered their leadership position to scrappy startups who offer more. Amazingly, the rules of the game change in real time even as we all play along. Improvisation, once shunned by corporate organizations, is now considered an essential strategic business skill.

Yet, through all this disruption and confusion, it's an exciting time full of opportunity for those big thinkers and dreamers who view it as such. If you're a marketing executive charged with defining the perception of competitive advantage for your brands, the implications of this disruptive age are of significant importance to your own future.

Creating relevant and differentiated value for people is less and less derived from the attributes of product features and benefits, and more from the quality of the experience customers have through their association and engagement with your brand.

A focused fanaticism to create enormous value.

Design, in all its disciplines (product, process, environment and communication) is a strategic business imperative. For the entire enterprise to receive its benefit in the marketplace, design is the differentiator not a decorative act.

Design and the process of "design thinking" has added billions of dollars worth of market capitalization to those enterprises that understand its significant power and higher purpose to engage and delight customers in ways never before possible. In every leading company, design has become the soul of enterprise strategy.

You don't have to look very far to see brands that apply this principle with phenomenal results–Apple, Nike, Starbucks, Google, Patagonia, BMW, Herman Miller, Target, Gillette, Virgin – every one of these enterprises are absolute fanatics about design and its importance to their business strategy.

Whatever the product or service enterprise, you'll find design fanatics at the very top of leading organizations–fanatics who value design as the driver of competitive advantage.

Design leaders are not bound by the restrictions of the competitive plane (think cost and commoditization), when they are free to grow and expand by leveraging the love (think passion and devotion) customers have for their offerings.

Bake your marketing into big dreams.

These days, the stakes grow ever higher for marketers. Nothing is more destructive to success than clawing your way to the middle, to the common, to the good enough. It takes big, uncommon dreams to design beloved products, design beautiful environments and design rich customer experiences people love.

The biggest dreamers of all are designers and design thinkers. It's their inherent nature to dream. In many ways, marketers ought to think more like designers and dream the seeds of a bigger, brighter future regardless of the naysayer and quantitative non-believers.

Dreams require imagination. Market leaders always have big dreams. Design lights their way forward. The idea economy is especially kind to the dreamers who utilize the discipline of design as an inspiration force for manifesting much loved customer experiences into the real-life marketplace.

The functionality or usefulness of a thing is not enough to create devotion to it. The current battle in the smart phone category and the demise of the original category leader proves the point. Nowadays everything "works"! Everything is good!

It's far better to place resources on designing excitement, surprise, delight, passion and uniqueness. Think about, and create beauty. Forget product and service attributes, instead, design experiences people love and share. Bake your marketing into your big dream.

Make your next product innovation an opportunity to design an experience that people can't live without. Dream big. Never let the metrics of short-term demands weaken the resolve of a big dream still in the "goo" of creation. Creativity is a process not an event. There is no more room in the marketplace for me-too anything– dream dramatically different!

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Brandcell designs winning labels
WK Bars and Nights label designed by Brandcell has been finalist at UK's beverage innovation competition. Brandcell developed “Bars and Night” Visual identity and Label with the aim of expressing the attributes of Modernism, Innovation, Trendiness and be appealing to the lively young generation.
​Large companies today spend billions to manage their public image. And in many industries no part of that image is more important than how people think a company's customer service is. Customer Service is becoming a lot more than an ‘industry buzzword' as large companies who treat their customers poorly are starting to lose customers right and left.

Customers want good customer service, but if companies can just hire good PR people to cover problems up, how do we, as customers, ever demand that companies improve. We thought that a good start would be to close the information gap, so that customers know who is good and who isn't. With that in mind, we have sifted through customer surveys and studies as well as some real-life experiences of customers, to come up with a list of the 10 best and the 10 worst companies for customer service.
The Best Ones:

Dells's loss, Apple's Gain?

The American Consumer Satisfaction Index (ASCI)* second quarter report indicates that within the Personal Computers category, customers perceived Apple as the best company in terms of customer service. Apple's baseline score was 77 (on a 100-point scale), and the Q2 2006 score was 83.
Computerworld, discussing Apple's number one ranking says, "The Company's focus on product innovation and customer service has won it a cadre of famously loyal customers, unlike any other PC vendor. And why are Dell's scores slipping? The article elaborates, "Survey respondents complained mostly about the quality of Dell's customer service, not its products, Van Amburg said… customers were clearly more frustrated with Dell than they were last year, he said."
This blog post ‘New Virus Found! The You Suck Virus,' states, "Part of being "excellent" in business is being innovative. If you agree with that one criteria (I know there are more) then Apple is the clear winner when it comes to innovation. Companies like Dell, HP, and IBM make good computers but once you compare them to a really excellent product (like an Apple) it is easy to see the difference."
This 2003 article indicates that Apple is pretty consistent when it comes to high-quality customer service, "Apple did garnish the number one customer service ranking in the 2001 Consumer Reports Annual Questionnaire, and a number one ranking for desktop repairs in May 2003." 

2. GE
Black Belts in Customer Service

In the major appliances category, the ASCI survey has named the General Electric company no. 1 with a baseline score of 81 and a Q2 2006 score was 82. Among other things, a company blog is a very good way for organizations to keep in touch with their customers, and GE is one of the few corporates that has its own blogs:

Another proactive measure adopted by GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt that promotes goodwill and customer satisfaction is the program wherein the GE Six Sigma black belts / management experts assist their internal customers in streamlining processes, cutting costs and increasing profit margins - all free of cost. Steven Pearlstein, in his article, ‘GE's Wealth of Free Advice,' illustrates the process.
"Another happy customer is Stephen Carter, president of the American subsidiary of Komori, a Japanese maker of printing presses… GE's Six Sigma "black belts" saw that most of the orders that took longer involved items that were out of stock. After analyzing more than a decade of parts orders, they found a way of ensuring that the most-sought items, or those with long lead times, were never out of stock, while reducing inventory for slow-moving and less hard-to-replace components. The result: 95 percent of orders now go out on time." With this kind of commitment to improving the customer's experience, it is small wonder that GE tops the popularity list for consumer durables.

The company to emulate in the automobile industry

Within the automobiles section, Toyota is the leader with a baseline score of 79, and a Q2 2006 score of 87. In her article "Ready to Roll," Katheryn Potterf says, "No wonder Toyota Motor Corporation is the envy of other manufacturers. The quality and reliability of its vehicles are the gold standard of the industry. Customer loyalty is so high that Toyota can make money without offering extreme discounts."
And, according to Potterf, its not Toyota's products or profits that are the jewel in its crown (pay attention, all you companies that think good products will make up for poor customer service). "Rather, it is something less tangible but more essential. Called the Toyota Way, it is the foundation of the Toyota Production System, or Lean manufacturing techniques. In the largest sense, it is a mindset or management philosophy… Being customer-centric is part of the Toyota Way, which is based on "pure logic and pure respect…"

Dynamism and Consistency are Key

Search engines Q2 2006 score of 81. The google experience is a classic example of a company committed to wowing its customers based on consistent quality and constant innovation over the years.
2003: "Google Inc., of Mountainview, Calif., continued to lead the category with a score of 82, a 2.5% improvement from last year. It has introduced new features, including an image search where users can hunt for photographs. The site commands about 30% of all Web searches, according to ComScore Networks."
2004: In her article, ‘Google Tops in Customer Satisfaction,' Jennifer Laycock says, "Google, the current king of search, topped the list of search engines with a satisfaction rating of 82 points."
2005: "Every year, if we do the same as we did last year, consumers are going to see us as not fulfilling their needs."
2006: Google continues to retain the leadership position in the search engine category, with a Q2 2006 ASCI score of 81.

Happy Employees = Happy Customers

Within the airlines industry, Southwest Airlines had a baseline ASCI score of 78. Innovations such as Ding!, along with a passion for customer service is what keeps southwest ahead of the competition. In ‘Customer Satisfaction and Willingness to Pay,' Kelly Shermach says, "Southwest Airlines (NYSE: LUV) recently introduced DING!, a free program that sends audible electronic notices to a consumer's desktop. Today's dinged fares typically undercut Southwest's published fares."
Also, the company remembers the very basic yet very vital rule of customer delight: happy employees = happy customers. "While 90% of its employees are unionized, labor relations have been remarkably positive, especially by industry standards. There are no formal structures for labor or union participation in management decision making, but the company - led by top managers who actively solicit and respond to employee views - has taken the lead on developing and maintaining this culture."

Scope to perform better

Cox Communications is a king when it comes to customer satisfaction - it ranked first in customer satisfaction in the fixed line telephone service provider category. It reflected customer satisfaction in areas such as customer service, billing, performance and reliability, company image and cost of service. However, the Q1 2006 ASCI score of 76 is well below the average score for other industries. And with options such as VoIP and mobile phones now available to customers, the paying attention to customer service has become more important than ever. Wake up, fixed line telephone companies!

Laboratory Studies for Improved Customer Service

Innovation combined with a desire to better the customer's experience is apparent in Hilton's programs like the Hilton Technology Room, which is basically a laboratory for gathering customer feedback on new and emerging technologies. ""In its current iteration, the Hilton Technology Room blends high-tech features into a luxurious guestroom setting, enabling us to gain insight into how guests interact with the technology and which pieces would be appropriate for full-scale deployment to our hotels." In With an ASCI baseline score of 75, the hotels segment too could do with improvement!

Pizza with pizzazz

With a Q1 2006 score of 79, Papa John's leaves behind larger pizza rivals Pizza Hut and Domino's, and also Starbucks, in the limited service restaurants category.
"We have a fundamental belief that if you serve a superior quality pizza with excellent service and value, consumers will recognize the difference and reward you with repeat business," said John H. Schnatter, Papa John's founder and executive chairman."

Can do better!

"As of June 2006, DirecTV has 15.4 million subscribers, more than any other in the satellite industry, having subscribed their 15 millionth customer in November 2005." Though direcTV is ranked no. 1 in the cable and satellite TV category, the ASCI Q1 score of 71 indicates that customers are far from happy with the overall standard of service in this industry.


"Samsung Electronics, one of the world's largest producers of mobile handsets renowned for cutting edge mobile technology," With an ASCI Q1 2006 score of 73, Samsung is the number one cellular phone company in the industry. Again, 73 means that there is lots of room for improvement!


And here are the 10 worst…

1. AOL
Playing Dirty, Tricking Customers?

An overwhelming majority of netizens have had bad experiences with AOL - especially while closing their accounts. Listen to Vincent Ferrari's conversation with AOL CSR John here.
About Ferrari's experience, blogger Rich Brooks says: "After 15 minutes he finally got through to a human being. The call resulted in something that's a cross between Dante's 9th ring of hell and Orwell's 1984. The king from Monty Python's Holy Grail had an easier time explaining to the palace guards to keep his son locked in his room than Ferrari had explaining that he just wanted to cancel the account."

Dan Spencer says, "I will never forget when I called to cancel my family's account with AOL after my dad passed away very suddenly. This was about six months after the death. AOL said because the account was in his name they needed to talk to him to cancel it. We explained how difficult that may be considering the circumstance and they then had the nerve to tell my family they will not cancel it with out proper identification of the death such as a death certificate. They then even said that they billed my father for the six months each month. We had moved and never recieved these so we told them if they get the money from him to call us ASAP so we can witness a miracle. Even with all the information concerning the security provided with them they refused to cancel it."
When a company believes it can retain customers by antagonizing them, something is very wrong with their customer service policy. Also, AOL is not above tricking customers into buying stuff online that they were only browsing.

Worst customer service?

Though it faced serious competition from Wal-Mart, Best Buy beat its competitors to bag the position for worst customer service in the retail sector. Bill says, "Best Buy and AOL seem to share that short-term thinking, screw the customer, anti-social mindset."
A whole lot of customers are unhappy with the company, mainly because of the customer service policies. When your insistence for selling protection plans drives away customers, you need to rethink your policies, buddy!
And what's with all the sour faces, guys? Do they treat you so bad at best buy? Read this customer's experience with Sour Face Jim and Handshake John at Best Buy.

Customer who?

In the online service provider category, the winner undoubtedly is This company has been featured on watchdog for fraudulent practices, yet continues to survive and harass customers who are not aware of its history. Tom Wright says, "A series of phone calls and broken promises later - lastminute finally agreed that they had made a mistake by not sending through the booking - and offered to refund me……….HALF the purchase price!!"
Dave had a similar experience with the company, that he has described on his blog. Another customer, Claire says, "If you have a problem no one listens, they honestly do not care and have no idea what customer service means. The so called manager of this company laughed at me with my complaint and when I I asked for his company address to write a complaint he answered I don't need to give you that!!? and refused to do so."

Who cares about your home? Not us!

Lowes, though having its fair share of disgruntled customers, is not the topper for bad customer service - it is beaten by Home Depot. When this customer wanted to complain to the Home Depot manager about a rude employee, the manager seemed to be worse! "After 10 or so minutes I asked where the manager was, the person behind the desk called again. At that time the so called manager Anthony called back, did not bother to come to the service desk just called and said, "What does the customer want"."
This Business Week article elaborates "The University of Michigan's annual American Customer Satisfaction index shows Home Depot slipped to dead last among major U.S. retailers, 11 points behind Lowe's."
Americans ranked Home Depot's customer service as dead last, according to Steven Silvers. Home depot customers complain about the worst service they received from the company.

5. AT&T
The Next Dinosaur?

In the article entitled ‘Should you remain an AT&T customer?' Liz P Weston states, "It's not as if AT&T horror stories are anything new. Those old enough to remember Lily Tomlin's Ernestine the Operator can recite her mantra: "We don't care. We don't have to. We're the phone company!" With that attitude the company may soon become the "ex" phone company! Weston observes, "Of the six largest cell-phone carriers, AT&T Wireless generated the most complaints overall and the most complaints per subscriber last year, according to FCC records obtained by Consumers Union."

6. SBC
$200 to cancel the service!!!

Cliff Edwards writes about his experience with SBC customer service, "Another eight days later, still no faster speed. In fact, the upstream speed appeared to have slowed down! I called customer service again, but was told the speed had been upgraded. My testing through told me otherwise. The new suggestion: Wait a few days more, then call back."
In "Stay away from SBC DSL !!" A Anand says, "My basic complaint is that AT&T Yahoo charged me 350 dollars unfairly. They also have a very unfriendly attitude, stay away from them!"

We're racists AND We break promises

While this customer was told to "go back to China," Stan Dulkiewicz of Rochester was denied the one night free stay that he was entitled to.

No value for customer privacy

"Albertsons' pharmacy customers receive direct mail and phone solicitations derived from confidential customer medical information provided to the pharmacy solely to fill prescriptions. The solicitations look like they are from the patient's concerned local pharmacist and remind the customer to renew a prescription or consider an alternative medication. But they are actually generated for pharmaceutical company's sales purposes by a specially-designed marketing database, sold by Albertsons."

Billing for eternity …

The company violated state service quality rules 850 times, including failing to: • Inform customers when the new service will be provided • Investigate customer complaints promptly • Repair service interruptions within 48 hours
The most frequent violation by the company involved the continued billing of customers who had cancelled the phone service. Here are some MCI customer complaints.

We have your money - now get lost!

One example of the many disgruntled Circuit City customers - Though it was acknowledged that the laptop purchased by Matt Southerton was defective and no other pieces were in stock, the customer service rep refusing to refund his money.
And if you're thinking about purchasing their extended warranties, stop for a moment and read about John Alexander's interactions with the company when he tried to (and deserved to) get his TV replaced.
Linda Meister has wasted money on extended warranties that are not worth the paper they are printed on. According to Consumer Affairs, "Circuit City pushes a lot of electronics out the door — and they're also pretty good at loading up the customer with extended warranties and other add-ons, many of which turn out to be a big disappointment if they're ever needed."
* The University of Michigan compiles the ACSI in numerous product categories by randomly calling U.S. residents and surveying their buying habits.

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UNIGAZ aims to become a global player and one of the leading energy suppliers in the region by moving from its current position to a more clearly defined and focused one.
We began our redefinition of Unigaz's brand strategy with an overall brand audit, a brand foundations workout and a brand architecture exercise. We then used our findings to reposition the company from a simplistic 'gas co' to a wider 'clean energy' service company.
This was then followed by a strategy deployment plan which started with the brand identity and led to the development of whole new series of communication materials.
Brand Thinking
by Debbie Millman
The notion of the brand, like any concept that dominates markets and public consciousness, is a challenge to define. Is it a simple differentiator of the cereals in our cupboards.
1. Invest in Great Service

2. Get The Right People

3. Make the Customer Feel Welcome

4. Listen/Give Credence to Complaints

5. Learn Your Business – Be An Expert

6. Go the extra mile

7. Be True to Your Word

8. Be Memorable – For the Right Reasons

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