Welcome to Q.Lab.
We promised in our How to Build a Problem Solving Machine post to share some more details about how our customers work with us in our Q. Lab to solve complex business problems using design-thinking. Central to this idea is the belief that, for the approach to work properly, a multi-disciplinary team must be encouraged to embrace ambiguity and supported to work together using a series of associated design processes and activities that foster successful problem solving.
This post describes what that approach looks like for customers who come to a Q. Lab.
A structured problem solving process.
Embracing design thinking to solve problems requires a well-structured process that can be replicated consistently and scaled, regardless of the size of an organisation. At Qrious, we think of our problem solving process as a journey with three stages: Uncertainty, Convergence and Focus.
Each of these stages has associated design processes, activities and needs that support successful problem-solving and which ultimately deliver significant usable value to an organisation.
When they’re at one of our Q.Lab workshops, our clients work with our design team through each of these stages as follows:
During the uncertainty stage, the team will be unclear about what the problem is they’re working to solve. Even if there is certainty about what the problem is, people will likely have different ways of explaining it and various ideas about potential solutions. The role of design during this stage is to enable the team to:
- Understand the problem it’s trying to solve from inside and outside the organisation. In Q.Lab, we work with clients to create stories and narratives that bring a problem to life and make it easier to communicate. We might also visualise and map any business systems and processes that impact a problem as these will likely need to be re-engineered when designing a solution.
- Discover user needs and context and spot trends by observing and talking to users of a service or product to fully understand - usually in a series of interviews and workshops.
- Synthesise their shared understanding of a problem by creating personas, customer journey maps and system architecture maps that simplify complexity to enable effective collaboration later in the design process.
During the uncertainty stage, the team must be acutely aware of, and prepared to mitigate against, the kinds of risk that are common when trying to solve complex problems using design thinking.
These might include:
- Uncertainty in the process and outcome.
- Lack of understanding the value of design and belief in design as an effective methodology to deliver a solution.
- A lack of belief in the insights gained.
- Changes in motivation and requirements not being acknowledged.
- A lack of willingness to learn from the process.
To overcome these risks and ensure the team makes progress, it will need the right combination of people, activities and tools necessary to create empathy and understanding to build trust and to maintain confidence.
During the convergence stage, the team will begin to come together. The problem will be well defined and clearly understood, and the team will know how to explain it consistently to people across the organisation. The team will also begin to converge around potential solutions to the problem.
The role of design during this stage is to enable the team to:
- Develop their ideas (for solutions) by conceptualising and visualising ideas in ways that support conversations that need to happen within a multi-disciplinary team responsible for designing the solution.
- Iteratw the problem statement and create user stories and prototypes to provide a proof of concept to support a business case for further investment and development.
Similar to the uncertainty stage, here the team must be aware of and be ready to mitigate against common risks that might occur as it develops its ideas for a solution. These might include:
- Becoming too solution orientated and losing focus on the problem.
- Individuals or even the whole team not being willing to let go of an idea.
To overcome these risks and ensure the team makes progress, it must be open and transparent. There should be no hidden agendas, and healthy debate should be encouraged to resolve conflict.
During the focus stage, the team begins to lay the foundations for the implementation of the solution. However, this is unlikely to mean the team immediately starts to turn prototypes into working services and products.
The primary goal at this stage is to build on the problem statement by creating:
- A strategy framework that describes how the service or product will meet user needs and in doing so, support the objectives of the organisation.
- A roadmap explaining how a digital product might be developed over time.
- A service blueprint that sets out the relationships between service components (i.e. people, processes, and systems etc.) and customer touchpoints.
Again, there are risks during this stage which the team needs to consider and manage.
These might include:
- The identified solution is undeliverable, given the current situation and context.
- The team might fail to buy into the solution.
Progress beyond this stage will ultimately need buy in from the team and the organisation. Keen to get involved in Q. Lab? Lets talk.