What is the Foundation of Design Thinking?

It’s the willing and even enthusiastic acceptance of competing constraints.

The first stage of the design process is often about discovering which constraints are important and establishing a framework for evaluating them. Constraints can best be visualized in terms of three overlapping criteria for successful ideas:

  • Feasibility – what is functionally possible within the foreseeable future
  • Viability – what is likely to become part of a sustainable business model
  • Desirability – what makes sense to people and for people

A competent designer will resolve each of these three constraints, but a design thinker will bring them into a harmonious balance.

This pursuit of peaceful coexistence does not imply that all constraints are created equal; a given project may be disproportionately by technology, budget, or a mix of human factors. Different types of organizations may push one or another of them to the forefront. Nor is it a simple linear process. Design teams will cycle back through all three considerations throughout the life of a project, but the emphasis is on fundamental human needs – as distinct from fleeting or artificially manipulated desires.

That’s what drives design thinking to depart from the status quo.

Questions for ChurchWorld leaders:

  1. What are the constraints facing you today?
  2. Can you classify them into the 3 categories listed above?
  3. How will you balance them?

inspired by and adapted from Change by Design, by Tim Brown

Change by Design

Will the DEO Become Your Organization’s New Hero?

More than rigor, management discipline, integrity, or even vision – successfully navigating an increasingly complex world will require creativity.     – IBM Global CEO Study, 2010

There is no shortage of advice and counsel on how to become “creative” – as a matter of fact, the books and online resources available to today’s eager-to-learn leader are staggering to a fault. So much so that many leaders are tempted to throw in the towel and hope that their inherent traits or some measure of luck will suffice.

Authors Maria Giudice and Christopher Ireland want leaders to take another approach – one that organizations have used many times in the past. In their recent book Rise of the DEO, Giudice and Ireland advocate that leaders identify the strategy and function best suited to these tumultuous times and use it to guide your actions.

In a time where organizations need agility and imagination in addition to analytics, they believe it’s time to turn to Design as a model of leadership.

When we think design, our first association is change: change that responds to need, embodies desire, pursues a stated direction and reflects a shared vision. Those who are designers – either through training or by nature – actively encourage and support collective change.

Enter a new model for future leaders – the Design Executive Officer, or DEO.

Design leaders usually possess characteristics, behaviors, and mindsets that enable them to excel in unpredictable, fast-moving, and value-charged conditions.

Which pretty much describes the world leaders in organizations of all sizes find themselves today.

Giudice and Ireland have developed six defining characteristics of a DEO; do any of these look familiar to you?

DEOmindmap

Change Agent

DEOs aren’t troubled by change; in fact, they openly promote and encourage it. They understand traditional approaches, but are not dominated by them. As a result, they are comfortable disrupting the status quo if it stands in the way of their dream. They try to think and act differently than others. They recognize this ability as a competitive advantage.

Risk Taker

DEOs embrace risk as an inherent part of life and a key ingredient of creativity. Rather than avoiding or mitigating it, they seek greater ease and command of it as one of the levers they can control. They recast it as experimentation and invite collaborators. A failed risk still produces learning.

Systems Thinkers

Despite their desire to disrupt and take risks, DEOs are systems thinkers who understand the interconnectedness of their world. They know that each part of their organization overlaps and influences another. They know unseen connections surround what’s visible. This helps to give their disruptions intended, rather than chaotic, impact and makes their risk taking more conscious.

Intuitive

DEOs are highly intuitive, either by nature or through experience. They have the ability to feel what’s right, by using their intense perceptual and observational skills or through deep expertise. This doesn’t mean they have a fear of numbers. They know they that intuitively enhanced decision-making doesn’t preclude rational or logical analysis. They use both – and consider each valid and powerful.

Socially Intelligent

DEOs have high social intelligence. They instinctively connect with others and integrate them into well-defined and heavily accessed networks. They prefer spending time with employees, customers, and strangers rather than equipment, plants, or spreadsheets. “Everyday people” are a source of strength, renewal, and new ideas.

GSD

DEOs can be defined by a new set of initials: GSD – euphamistically short for “gets stuff done.” They feel an urgency to get personally involved, to understand details through their own interaction, and to lead by example. DEOs make things happen.

Is it time for someone in your organization to move toward becoming a DEO, looking at every organizational challenge as a design problem solvable with the right mixture of imagination and metrics?

inspired by and adapted from Rise of the DEO, by Maria Giudice and Christopher Ireland

Rise of the DEO

When Moses Isn’t Around, You Have to Create Your Own Miracle

According to the authors of Solving Problems with Design Thinking, most managers they meet harbor a deep, dark secret: They believe in their hearts that they are not creative.

In today’s seemingly rampant innovation mania, managers and leaders cannot appear unimaginative, let alone fail to come up with brilliant solutions to vexing problems on a whim.

For most of us there will be no Moses-like parting of the waters of the status quo that we might safely cross the Red Sea of innovation. Drowning is more likely our fate.     – from Solving Design Problems

There is hope.

Instead of trying to part the waters, leaders need to build a bridge to take us from the current reality to a new future.

In other words, we must manufacture our own miracles.

According to Liedtka et al, the technology for better bridge building already exists, right under our noses. What to call it is a matter of dispute, but they call it design thinking.

This approach to problem solving is distinguished by the following attributes:

  • It emphasizes the importance of discovery in advance of solution generation using market research approaches that are empathetic and user driven
  • It expands the boundaries of both our problem definition and our solutions
  • It is enthusiastic about engaging partners in co-creation
  • It is committed to conducting real-world experiments rather than just running analyses using historical data

And it works.

Design thinking is capable of reliably producing new and better ways of creatively solving a host of organizational problems.

inspired by and adapted from Solving Problems with Design Thinking by Jeanne Liedtka, Andrew King, and Kevin Bennett

 Solving Problems with Design Thinking

For further reading:

Why Design Thinking?

What If Leaders Thought Like Designers?

Leaders Need to Work Our of Both Sides of Their Brains

Invisible Design

It’s a home run for me: the September issue of Wired magazine features a section on experience and design thinking.

courtesy wired.com

courtesy wired.com

Here are a few select quotes – a paragraph, 2 sentences, and a phrase:

The Wright brothers didn’t invent powered, manned flight. By the end of the 19th century, daredevils around the world had already put motors on gliders and launched themselves into the air. Technically these machines could fly—they just tended to crash afterward. But the Wright brothers created a plane that people could actually control, with an effective steering system that let pilots maneuver the craft in midair and land safely. They may not have invented powered flight, but they brought it into the realm of human experience. They designed it.

Design doesn’t just make things beautiful, it makes them work.

The next great challenge for design: weaving the threads of technology, information, and access seamlessly and elegantly into our everyday lives.

carefully designed experiences appear invisible

Read the stories here.

Today.

How will you apply invisible design in your organization?

Looking Back to Look Ahead

Henry Petroski, a professor of civil engineering and history at Duke University, has a brilliant, innate talent to help people see the miraculous in the mundane. Author of twelve books including “The Evolution of Useful Things” and “Success Through Failure”, he has made it his calling to help the rest of us see the world through the eyes of the engineer.

I’m reading his book, The Essential Engineer, and this sentence stopped me cold:

Design is effectively proactive failure analysis

He was writing about the continual change in automobile design; how we can predict the changes coming in auto design by looking at what annoys us today or what features we wish it had or think it should have.

What a brilliant, simple statement!

Now apply it to ChurchWorld.

  • Are there things that aren’t working in your church?
  • By identifying what is still lacking in your church today, is it possible to predict what will be standard in your church tomorrow?

What are you designing for tomorrow that is a correction to today?

Sign Language

A wayfinding system links different people together, even if they do not share a common language or destination, by guiding all of them through the same spaces with a single system of communication. The unifying language of a wayfinding system creates a public narrative of how people witness, read, and experience a space. Each sign in a system, each separate voice, serves a particular function and displays a specific kind of content called a message, which might include nonverbal graphic symbols, images, or words.

– David Gibson, The Wayfinding Handbook

Most wayfinding systems can be broken down into several categories of signs: identification, directional, orientation, and regulatory.

EXTERIOR

Identification – the building blocks of wayfinding

  • Site monument identification
  • Site entry identification
  • Building mounted identification
  • Entrance identification
  • Parking area identification
  • Accessible parking identification

Directional – the circulatory system of wayfinding

  • Off-site trailblazers
  • On-site vehicular directional signs
  • Pedestrian directional signs

Regulatory – describes the do’s and don’ts of a place

  • Parking regulations
  • Entrance information

INTERIOR

Identification

  • Store identification
  • Area/level identification
  • Public amenity identification
  • Service and maintenance identification
  • Office identification
  • Elevator and stair identification

Directional

  • Directional signs

Orientation – provides an overview of surroundings

  • Building directory
  • Elevator/floor directory

Regulatory

  • Fire egress maps
  • Life safety signs

The sign narrative is the voice of the building and its owner, revealing the pathways and destinations of the building or space, the rules that govern how to use it, and essential information about activities happening within. It is the job of the wayfinding designer to weave these voices together into a single eloquent statement as people navigate the space.

Wayfinding systems serve living environments where functions for areas change, spaces are renovated, and new facilities are constructed. Wayfinding systems must be flexible and adapt to the evolution of a place.

Information from this series of post this week has come from The Wayfinding Handbook by David Gibson. A concise and engaging work, it is an excellent resource for leaders wanting to apply the art and science of wayfinding to their organization. The extensive illustrations, using real-life examples, provide a visual analysis of the fundamentals that lead to great wayfinding design.

You may not think of yourself as a designer; you would be wrong.

Wayfinding design is an intuitive process we use all the time, one that helps us navigate the places and spaces we encounter every day. Leaders may not design a wayfinding system, but it is a process that they need to have a firm grasp on.

 

part of the 2013 GsD (Doctor of Guestology) journey

Where is your Red X?

In this case, literally.

The one that says “You Are Here.”

red x

Exciting the subway in the middle of a city or stepping off the elevator onto a strange floor is momentarily disorienting: you scan the space to figure out where you are and find clues that will lead you where you want to go. This scanning is similar to searching for an article in a magazine or perusing the home page of a website to figure out how it is organized and how to read a specific section.

All these reflex actions are about wayfinding.

 – Christopher Pullman, design consultant and senior critic at Yale University School of Art

Wayfinding pays a very important part in ChurchWorld – from the design of your website to the design of your graphic pieces to the design of your building (notice the common word – design.) If you are a ChurchWorld leader and don’t think you are or need to be a designer, I invite you to join me in a conversation that started here.

People will always need to know where they are, how to reach their destination, what is happening there, and how to exit.

Yesterday, I enjoyed spending some time with Zach and Benjamin from The Avenue Church in Waxahachie, TX – they were visiting Elevation Church’s Uptown campus. Zach is the Associate Connections Minister there, and he and I had some great conversations about Guest Experiences, specifically wayfinding.

Increasingly, my discussions with church leaders about Guest Experiences include the issue of wayfinding – most of the time in a physical sense of the spaces they are using, renovating, or preparing to build. Sometimes, it’s just a dreaming conversation, but even that is a great place to start!

For the next few days, I want to dive into the topic of wayfinding in ChurchWorld – I hope you will enjoy the journey!

 

part of the 2013 GsD (Doctor of Guestology) journey

What Retailers Don’t Know – But Churches Can Learn

For the final post on my return review of Paco Underhill’s classic book Why We Buy, it’s time to dive into the brains of retailers and take a look at what they don’t know – and what churches can learn from them.

  • How many of the people who walk into stores buy something? The quick, and wrong, answer is almost 100%. The conversion, or closure rate – the percentage of shoppers who become buyers – is almost always thought to be much higher than it actually is. Conversion rates measure what you make of what you have – it shows how well (or how poorly) the entire enterprise is functioning where it counts the most: in the store. It’s all about what happens within the four walls of the store.

ChurchWorld Lesson: How effective are you with what you’ve got in terms of ministry? Marketing, advertising, promotion and a great location can help bring guests to your church – but it’s the job of your leadership team, the ministries you’re attempting, and the entire church body to make sure the Guests not only leave fulfilled, but return. Maybe as second timers, maybe eventually as participants and then members. The lesson: How are your assimilation systems working? Sure, you’ve got a great front door, and maybe even a few effective side doors – but how big is your back door?

  • How long does a shopper spend in the store? Assuming that he or she is shopping and not standing in line, this may be perhaps the single most important factor in determining how much she or he will buy. Studies have shown a direct relationship between the amount of time in a store and the resulting sales volume; usually a buyer spends almost 50% more time than a non-buyer.

ChurchWorld Lesson: There are certainly differences of opinion in the church world as to how long you want Guests and members to linger before or after worship services. Churches with multiple services often need to have a smooth transition from one service to another. This is an area where design or renovation can play a critical role: make adequate space for a foyer, café, other gathering place so that those who choose to do so can fellowship with others. Another opportunity for evaluation in this area might be the pace of services – does the timing/scheduling need to be altered?

  • What is the store’s interception rate? Interception rate is the percentage of customers who have some contact with an employee. This is an especially important measurement in a time when stores use fewer full-time employees and more minimum-wage employees. Research has established a direct relationship: the more shopper-employee contacts that take place, the greater the average sale. Talking with an employee has a way of drawing a customer in closer.’

ChurchWorld Lesson: This is a critical factor in making Guests feel welcome to your church. Well-trained and observant Guest Experience teams should make all people feel welcome to your church by extending a verbal welcome and offering a handshake or other appropriate physical touch. Guests especially need to have a verbal interaction with someone beyond a cursory “Good Morning”. The key is to engage the Guest as you are attending to their needs.

  • How long does the store make customer’s wait? Studies have shown this is the single most important factor in customer satisfaction. Few retailers realize that when shoppers are made to wait in line (or anywhere else) their impression of overall service plunges.

ChurchWorld Lesson: While church participants aren’t likely to leave like a shopper might in a long checkout line, it can happen. Most often you will find this expressed in the parking lot – in church consultations observing traffic patterns I have seen cars pull in, find no parking spots, and pull right back out onto the street. Examine all your areas where waiting might occur – can you reduce, or eliminate, wait time?

  • Who are the shoppers in the store? Take the retail store who stocks pet treats on upper shelves, unaware that the main buyers of this product were senior adults and young children. Or the family style restaurant who had too many tables for two and not enough for four or more, which caused headaches during busy times. Or the Florida-based drugstore chain’s Minneapolis branch, where a full assortment of suntan lotions was on prominent display – in October.

ChurchWorld Lesson: This is probably one of the most important areas church leaders can discover – and one that many church leaders get wrong over half of the time. Who is in your target area of ministry? Who is coming to your church? Who is not coming to your church? Grouped under the broad area of demographics, this type of information is invaluable to help you understand who your neighbors are and how they may be changing. Once you understand the who, it is much easier to begin to answer the how, where, and why questions of ministry.

As I close this brief foray into the science of shopping, I need to remind you of a couple of things: First, there is a whole lot more about this area that I think could be very beneficial to churches who want to make sure they are doing all they can to attract and retain Guests who come to their churches. My focus has been on the front end of that – hospitality – and there is a lot more. Interested? Contact me for a conversation.

Also, there are probably many who would say all this focus on the church guest and member in a consumer mindset is wrong. Certainly, everyone is entitled to their opinion. Mine is that we live in a very consumer-driven, consumer-oriented society. The competition for churches seeking to reach new people is not other churches – it’s any place and any experience that these people will compare your church to.

Shouldn’t we be doing the very best we can to reach them?

Read Part 1 of this series here.

Read Part 2 of this series here.

Parallels in the Retail and Church Worlds

Today is the second look at what the church can learn from the retail world. Below you will find a synopsis of the classic work done by Paco Underhill, noted leader in the field of retail observation and analysis. After each section is a bullet-point application to your church.

 If we went into stores only when we needed to buy something, and if once there we bought only what we needed, the economy would collapse, boom.

This quote, by Why We Buy author Paco Underhill, was eerily prescient when written in 1999. In his revision of the book in 2009 as the world was in the midst of an economic crisis, it was still spot on. Today, we continue to experience the turmoil of a shifting economy when people are rightly making wise decisions when purchasing. Even so, you almost have to make an effort to avoid shopping today. Stay at home to avoid all the stores? Internet shopping is available 24/7, delivered right to your door. No computer, no problem – home shopping networks will gladly sell you the latest gizmo for 3 monthly payments of only $39.99. But wait – there’s more! Don’t check your mailbox if you’re going to avoid all those catalogs, sales flyers, and direct mail offers. The result – we are now dangerously over-retailed – too much is for sale, through too many outlets. Retailers are not opening stores in the US to serve new markets anymore. They are opening stores to try to steal someone else’s customers.

  • Your church’s competitors isn’t other churches – today churches are competing with any other company, service, or event in which the customer has a positive experience. Remember that people are first consumers, and the environments they live, work and play in are the ones that will first attract, and then keep them to your campus. Guests to your services are making dozens of decisions about your church before they hear the first music of your worship team, or the great sermon you’ve prepared. Those decisions will play a major role in whether or not they will return.

Just a few decades ago, the commercial messages intended for consumers came in highly concentrated, reliable form: there were three TV networks, AM radio only, a few national magazines, and each town’s daily newspapers. Retailers advertised in those media, and the message got through loud, clear, and dependably. Today there are hundreds of TV channels; FM, satellite, and Internet radio; hundreds of magazines devoted to each special interest; and exponentially expanding Internet sites for information and entertainment. Mobile devices and the hundreds of thousands of apps available for them are the next wave of technology. Simultaneously, we are witnessing the erosion of the influence of brand names. A generation or two ago, you chose your brands early in life and stuck by them loyally until your last shopping trip. Today, in some ways, every buying decision is a new one, and nothing can be taken for granted.

  • Churches, too, are heavily impacted by the fact that traditional branding and marketing are no longer effective tools for connecting with potential members. While they may build brand awareness and help provide information, those factors seem to have a lessening impact in the final decision. Just as shoppers are becoming more susceptible to impressions and information they acquire in stores, Guests to your church are being impacted by your physical campus. An important medium for transmitting messages and helping people make decisions is now your building appearance and “people flow” within in. Consider your facilities a great big three-dimensional marketing tool for the ministries of your church.

Underhill’s studies also proved that the longer a shopper remains in the store, the more he or she will buy. And the amount of time a shopper spends in a store depends on how comfortable and enjoyable the experience is.

  • Imagine a guest coming to your facility for the first time: what if they couldn’t find a convenient place to park near the main entrance; had trouble locating where to drop their kids off; got turned around and lost on the way back to the worship center because of the lack of signage; were dismayed by the dinginess of your children’s space; … you get the picture. Now imagine the same Guest driving in a well-marked parking lot with greeters directing them to a guest parking spot right by the main entrance; another greeter welcoming at the door, and helping the Guest find bright, cheerful, warm spaces that their child eagerly rushes into, staffed by caring leaders; color-coordinated signs direct your guests to and from the worship center with no confusion; and so on. Which Guest is going to return?

So, the “science” of shopping can teach the church a lot about how our building appearances and our welcoming processes can improve our ability to attract, and retain, guests (and members).

How does this “science” lesson translate to your church?

Read Part 1 of this series here.

Go to Part 3 here.

Shopping and the Church

This post by my boss Will Mancini on how churches can leverage trends in retail brought to mind some research I had done a couple of years ago about the connection between retail stores and the church.

What? You don’t think there are some similarities between the two? Read on, and then let me know what you think…

Paco Underhill, the founder and CEO of Envirosell, Inc. wrote the book on the science of shopping – literally. Why We Buy, originally written in 1999 and updated in 2009, is a witty and pragmatic report from the retail trenches on consumers’ tastes and habits — what makes them tick, what happens to people in stores, how to influence or change customers, and how and why customers change stores. Envirosell is a research and consulting firm that advises a blue-chip collection of Fortune 100 companies seeking to understand the behavior and motivation of the contemporary consumer. Envirosell films, records, and follows 50,000 to 70,000 shoppers through their retail experiences in stores, banks, and public spaces. Underhill uses video, trained “trackers” (researchers who discreetly cruise the aisles tracking shoppers and making notes on their activities), and photo analysis to help retailers understand why consumers buy – or don’t. Here’s a quick story that shows how Underhill and the Envirosell team’s research documented, then changed, the way many stores market a common item today.

A large company owned a chain of drugstores throughout the country. In efforts to understand buying patterns, they had Underhill study a typical store near their headquarters. It was located in an enclosed regional mall in the Northeast. The store’s sales were good overall, but in one category – analgesics – it was underperforming. Video study showed that the closure rate – the percentage of shoppers who bought – was below expectations. Plenty of customers picked up the packages, read the labels, but didn’t complete the purchase. The company’s previous studies had shown that the conversion rate was high, so there was another factor at work.

store aisle

Over the course of three days, a pattern emerged. The aspirin was displayed on a main aisle, on the path to some refrigerated cases of soft drinks, which tended to draw many customers to that section of the store. The main customers for the cold drinks were teenagers, many of them mall employees on a quick break. They would rush down the aisle, grab a drink, and hurry back to the front to checkout. Along the way, they would have to brush by customers – often median and senior adults in the aspirin aisle. The video studies showed that many times the aspirin shoppers would simply stop their browsing and walk away empty-handed.

The primary learning was that a store has more than one constituency, and it must therefore perform several functions, all from the same premises. Sometimes those functions coexist in perfect harmony, but other times they clash.

Hello? Does this sound like your church? Do you not have various constituencies “competing” for the same space and resources? Does it often seem like a tug-of-war with no winners?

The solution for the drugstore chain? They moved the aspirin to a quieter section of the store, where sales rose 15% immediately. They also located a selection of cold drinks and snacks close to the front of the store – a move that has now become industry standard.

That’s what the science of shopping can teach the church. People have habits on how they move in spaces, interact with others, and make decisions.

Why not study the retail world and apply those principles to the design and operations of our churches?

What are some retail lessons you have observed and have implemented at your church?

Read Part 2 in this series here.