Design Thinking in the real world: 4 real examples

Norah Walsh Antropologa social business anthropology1. AirBnB

Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia y Nathan Blecharczyk was facing a turbulent start in AirBnb when Gebbia was introduced to the Design Thinking methodology in the Rhode Island Design School. With the urgency of stepping into their users shoes the team analysed qualitative the user experience of the guests, from searching for accommodation to user interaction and satisfaction.

Amongst some of their initial finding they discovered most of the customer satisfaction depended on user’s expectations. It seems obvious, right? But they quickly noticed the images hostesses uploaded to the website were far for ideal and did not meet customers’ expectations.

They experimented bettering accommodation images and spending time with users and hostesses. Through observation and interviews they generated a Journey Map, focusing on the vulnerable moments throughout the experience.

design thinking air bnb
The qualitative and fast experiments they developed those months changed the direction of AirBnB. Getting to know real users that gave life to AirBnB meant changing the way founders managed the human impact of the business. The began, as a company policy, motivating Airbnb’s team to travel as users and report their experience and opinions, encouraging workers to bring ideas to the table and testing them, complementing quantitative and qualitative data. AirBnB incorporated users voice into the development and growth of the platforms, keeping a continuous curiosity that made them never lose focus on the client experience.

tecnica personas design thinking air bnb

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2. Toyota

In “Solving Problems with Design Thinking“, Jeanne Liedtka, Andrew King y Kevin Bennet describe how Toyota redesigned their user experience in the Customer Service Department, proving that Design Thinking is a series of incredibly useful tools even for the company that designed and uses the most efficient production system.

Clients satisfaction when contacting the Customer Service Department was very low: it took 20 to 40 minutes for the phone to be answered and when it did they still had to wait a long time for their problems to be solved. On average, users had to place three calls to consider a problem completely solved.

Elaine Matsuda, manager of Customer Service, joined forces with Gayle Darby, a change expert from Toyota University: her team searched for Diane Jacobsen’s help, from Hitachi Consulting, as an external advisor. The change process and redesign of the customer service experience is worth analysing for it meant a radical human and technological change in the way Toyota interacted with clients.

diseño colaborativo design thining

Using ethnography, the team dove into the Customer Service worker’s routines, the managers in charge of the process, designers and engineers, partners, stakeholders and users. Knowing in depth the map of people involved in Customer Service was key to develop a plan.

Using different techniques and tools from the Design Thinking process, Toyota transformed the process bettering the software workers used, empowering them to respond and solve issues autonomously, co-creating solutions more multidisciplinary with users, and working on team-work culture.


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3. The Rotterdam Eye Hospital

Close your eyes and imagine a hospital: you are probably not imagining a warm, comfortable and homey place. That same though occurred to the Rotterdam Eye Hospital management team, that used Design Thinking to design a hospital that was cantered in user needs, making them feel comfortable, calm and taken care of. To redesign the hospital, they first had to understand how patients felt, their experiences and their fears.

design thinking hospital oftalmologico rotterdam

They conducted small and informal experiments, inexpensive to develop and designed to improve communications between health professionals and patients, improve the aspect of the space or reduce waiting times. Each experiment (even the ones that did not work) helped them adapt the hospital to the patients’ needs and innovate in the relationship hospital-person through apps, specific training for healthcare professionals or protocols to reduce patient’s fear and anxiety.

What have they achieved? The staff can perform 95% of procedures on an outpatient basis, they receive an 8,6 out of 10 in customer satisfaction, they have been awarded several recognitions on safety, quality and design, and they have increased the number of patients by 47%.

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4. Australian Taxation Office

This is a example on how designing an excellent service can better an entire country’s life quality: facilitating bureaucracy makes life easier.

Between 1990 and 2004 the Australian Taxation Office had big problems: though highly automatized it faced serious problems in many taxation processes, long waiting times or problematic confusions in registrations that turned into a target for criticism.

The Taxation Office was facing its biggest challenge: going from a technological-centered institution with over automatized processes to a user-centered organization.

With the help of 2andRoad and solid user experience diagnosis, the management team received training in Design Thinking’s methods and focused on improving taxing strategy from design, beyond just quantitative data. The challenge was bigger than simple identification of problem areas: they faced the redesign of how the Office worked internally, the way it interacted with users and, most important, the hole national taxation system.

Today, Australian Taxation Office is a global reference on functional Design Thinking on a public institution. It is recognized for its creative and innovative abilities to adapt to user needs, solve operational issues or agility.

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