Transport NSW, a leading Australian transport organization, came to us to design and facilitate an innovation incubator program which would enable us to collaboratively and rapidly take problem areas, explore business models, deeply understand the problem and for whom, ideate, create solutions and hypotheses and test with target customers.
The program concluded with each team showcasing the activities undertaken, talk about their learnings and present outputs in a 10-minute pitch back to project sponsors.
To comply with my non-disclosure agreement, I have omitted confidential information in this case study. The information in this case study is my own and does not necessarily reflect the views of the client.
The 3 week program was intensive and extremely collaborative, with teams assembling each day to run through various workshop activities as we went from problem space all the way through to envisioning and designing the future experience using design thinking methodologies and divergent/convergent thinking.
Some of the activities conducted were: Hearing from SME’s, project sponsors, Landscape review, Current state mapping, How to's and then conducting interviews (with my guidance), Affinity mapping, Synthesis (internal), Defining the problem, Value proposition map, Revised problem statement, JTBD exercises, Ideation, Storyboarding and future state process mapping, Hypothesis for testing, Testing day with customers, Showcase preparation and final presentation back to project sponsors (team).
As team lead my role was to facilitate and oversee all activities for my group. My problem space was around improving the candidate experience for the business. I was there to support the team through each of the activities, ensuring they understood why we were doing them, how they can be applied to their day-to-day, and ensuring they were armed with the knowledge to take back to their respective teams in the organization.
The activities were deliberately designed to be rapid, ensuring conversations were focused on the goal at hand and time not wasted.
Our process: Problems to Solutions
We used the double diamond framework for the program. The first diamond is focused on understanding the customer and defining the problem that is intended to be solved. The second is aimed at ideating and then testing, refining and validating solution concepts. Each of the diamonds combines divergent (broadening) and convergent (narrowing) thinking styles.
The original problem statement was “How can we improve the candidate experience across the organization through the job application process?” This was later refined as we took the team through research and had a better understanding of the value proposition for customers.
Take an empathetic and wide-angle view at the problem space, understand the broader context of who the customers are and how they experience problems in the context of their lives. Then narrow the insights down to one problem definition.
We utilized creative techniques to generate radical ideas and explore a wide range of potential solution. Then quickly build, test with customers and iteratively refine prototypes until concept validation is achieved. This means having developed a solution concept that solves the problem in the eyes of customers.
Activities included: Hearing from SME’s, project sponsors, Landscape review, Current state mapping, conducting interviews (with my guidance), Affinity mapping, Synthesis (internal), Defining the problem, Value proposition map, Revised problem statement, JTBD exercises, Ideation, Storyboarding and future state process mapping, Hypothesis for testing, Testing day with customers, Showcase preparation and final presentation back to project sponsors (team).
The creative problem-solving and design thinking activities were designed to be rapid and focussed with an emphasis on moving forward over being right; progress over documentation.
Diverging on the problem
To get a better understanding of the problem space, we first invited key stakeholders and subject matter experts (SME) to do a 'look at the landscape' of the problem we were tasked with – How can we improve the candidate experience at Sydney Trains and NSW Trains through the job application process?
Hearing from this group provided valuable insight to some known problems and challenges the business faced and candidate pain points, but also things they wanted to know more about or areas of uncertainty.
Understanding the current employee experience
This step involved some planning and preparation on our end. Once recruitment was organized with our external agency, we had participants come in and spend time with us so we could hear their stories, challenges they’ve faced and generally how they perceived the recruitment experience and what could be improved. Every minute was worth it – some of the stories told here really hit home for the project team and remained front of mind throughout the course of the program.
Once we'd spoken to end users (candidates), it was time to speak to key personnel representing parts of the business involved in the recruitment process. This provided a holistic view of the current state experience, touchpoints, challenges, gaps in the experience and opportunities through both lenses.
This step was extremely important for a few reasons, one being the chance for the team to hear and learn from actual customers and two, the feedback and insights would be used and referred back to over the coming weeks in various workshop activities.
Armed with insights, we wanted to ensure we were aligned on the primary archetype and their biggest challenges/pain points. In other words – defining the who and what before thinking about solutions. We fed the learnings into a customer proposition canvas (CVP) canvas which helped the team to not only visualize product market fit, but highlight how we might bring value to the people they’re designing for.
Using the canvas, we crafted a revised problem and challenge statement that would be a 'true north' and keep the team working towards the right goal as we transitioned into solution mode.
Ideation & solution concepts
I then led the team through various ideation and concept generation activities to get them thinking how we could solve the problems discovered in research. Pushing ideas is great, however, it was also important to understand from the businesses' perspective what was technically feasible too, so we included some high-level feasibility activities e.g. the NUF test (New, Useable, Feasible) to assess value and feasibility of solutions the team has converged on.
Service model prototyping & Storyboards
Having reviewed, refined and narrowed our solutions down it was time to draw and annotate the ideal scenarios and physically prototype the future service model experience. Physical prototypes are a useful way to collaboratively map out what the ideal experience, touchpoints and behaviors when reimagining a target customer scenario.
Ideal scenarios help participants understand what the ideal experience looks like, using character-driven storytelling to create the ideal future state narrative. Storyboarding the scenarios helps the team envisage how people will use the solution, and helps develop and articulate the vision. These scenarios form the basis for testing the concept with customers.
Hypotheses & Concept validation
Using pre-prepared templates, I then had the team write out hypotheses that told us what their assumptions and expected outcomes were and how proposed solution/s will benefit customers and fix the problems.
I worked with a designer to mock-up solutions in preparation for one day of customer testing in the hopes to understand;
How desirable the concept is to customers – does it match people’s needs and expectations? What resonates the most?
If the concept has market viability – what things people find the most useful or desirable and what adds value for customers
If the concept successfully improves what’s currently available
A high-level roadmap was created to communicate project plans at a glance and inform stakeholders what to expect and when if we were to proceed. Due to the pace of the program the roadmap was relatively high-level, but shows thinking into dependencies and what some ‘quick-wins’ and future consideration might be.