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Design Thinking: Generating Pragmatic Ideas

Published on
19 December 2017

How can we use design tools to develop innovative and competitive solutions for business? Design thinking is the art of creating unexpected solutions to solve complex problems. This creative process was inspired by industrial design. It allows employees and managers to go beyond traditional logic and stereotypes. Here we zoom in on the work carried out with the SNCF.

Josiena Gotzsch is a senior professor at Grenoble Ecole de Management. She specializes in innovation by design. As an industrial design engineer at Philips, Allibert and others, she also holds a doctorate in business management for design purposes. She is the design thinking expert for the Grenoble Ecole de Management Certificate in innovation, Design Thinking & Intrapreneurship.

Pablo Picasso said that: "Each child is an artist. The question is how do we continue to be artists when we grow up." (Davidson, 1976). In line with this reasoning, design thinking is built on one prerequisite:

"An open mind that can go beyond analytical thinking to exploit one's creative potential. A desire for curiosity and the willingness to explore unusual paths," highlights Josiena.

Developing empathy with the user

The design thinking methodology begins with a discovery phase that is centered around the user. "SNCF employees who were part of design thinking training at GEM are, each in their own way, users of the train. As a result, employees should know in practical terms what needs to be improved. As part of the SNCF Majelan training program, 19 SNCF employees from all types of jobs and levels of responsibility, were charged with exploring all the major problems faced by train users and the company," explains Josiena.

Testing tools

How can train station wait times be more interesting for travellers? How can you efficiently fight fraud? How can you shorten lines for automatic terminals in train stations? How can you improve the security and cleanliness of the Gare du Nord train station? You can look at the trip of a traveller from London, you can improve information signs, you can improve how heavy luggage is handled... "We were basically looking for all the problems that could be solved. The discovery phase is about expanding the initial diagnostic of a problem. It then becomes a strong point to help find solutions to problems that can be recurrent and complex," adds Josiena.

Implementing ideas

The second phase is that of creating ideas AND overcoming the temptation to simply stop after the first idea. You have to generate as many ideas as possible. "For example, participants will define a standard profile for a situation (for example, a fraudulent passenger).

Then they will test the profile against a variety of ideas for improvement. It's important to test several plans," underlines Josienna. Some ideas can be developed visually and with simply prototypes that can be tested by users. This phase also integrates emerging technology to help finetune solutions.

Finally, the third step is to choose the best ideas. This implementation phase enables the company to finetune the idea until it’s completely developed and put into use.

The SNCF has fully invested itself in this design thinking approach. Josiena is also working with the Schneider Electric group. A discovery module was developed and a dozen sessions are planned for 2018.

The Certificate in Innovation, Design Thinking and Intrapreneurship includes three modules for a total of 14 hours training. It's possible to integrate the content over one, two or three sessions (in English).

Goals:

  • To understand the stakes and advantages of design thinking
  • To develop a creative and innovative approach to problem solving
  • To develop self-confidence, intuition and risk-taking

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