Design Thinking + Scenario Planning

June 2, 2016  

When I launched Givkwik in 2010, a software company that helps businesses give away money, I applied two powerful frameworks for spurring innovation:design thinking and scenario planning. Scenario planning helps organizations become more agile by asking its practitioners to form a strategy for situations that seem far-fetched and even implausible today. Meanwhile, design thinking is an approach that puts a product's or service's users front and center.

During my two years at iTP, the Interactive Telecommunications graduate program at NYU's Tisch School of Arts also dubbed the "Center for the Recently Possible," we learned how to be creative and collaborative using technology. However, the combination of design thinking and scenario planning helped me turn my thesis project into a full-fledged business. As you'll read below, some of those insights even forced me to pivot from a consumer-first software company to one that focused on employee giving, and now a business that concentrates on helping companies, first and foremost.

Here are some ways I've used design thinking and scenario planning for Givkwik and in our work with clients--and more importantly, how you can, too!

User-centered design is like a GPS for innovation

Design thinking is all about the user--what they think and feel when they experience your brand. It goes beyond asking them how they feel about your packaging. They are involved at every stage of your product's or service's development. At its inception, Givkwik was a platform that helped consumers donate to their favorite causes in one place and provided an online community for them. But after fully exercising design thinking techniques--interviews, surveys, and mock demos with millennials, design students, executives at nonprofits and investors--Givkwik changed it focus. The findings suggested that the market needed a way for resource-strapped nonprofits to tell their stories easily and for businesses to easily connect with them. We call it the plug-and-play-foundation, a scalable philanthropic platform that makes it easy to meet the growing market demand for cause-related marketing and employee engagement programs.

Rapid prototyping saves money and time

One of the tenets of design thinking is rapid prototyping. During a recent workshop with Western Union, we derived several prototypes for ways the company could handle their equivalent of unused rewards points. It's not unusual to end a session with many prototypes. Having many prototypes saves money in the long run because you can test ideas faster, rather than investing time and resources on a years-long prototype that fails. By working with us, clients also eliminate the need to hire yet another agency--we provide the strategy and the solution. We also show our clients how you don't need to be a hot shot graphic designer to create a prototype for a website or mobile app. Simple, everyday items like construction paper, markers, and off-the-shelf software like Powerpoint can get you there, too.

Traveling back and forth in time

Scenario planning forces us to be creative and dream up wild ideas during these collaborative sessions. With the use of whiteboards and shareable documents projected on a large screen to capture everyone's real-time thoughts and the ground rule that no idea is off-limit, we've been able to help clients innovate. We're currently working with AEO, an organization that helps create economic opportunities for small businesses, on a solution that will connect small businesses from low-wealth communities declined for loans from mainstream banks with nonprofit, community-based lenders. While that project was in the initial discovery phase, we convened representatives from various nonprofit lending organizations. Over the course of an hour they envisioned a near future where people applied for business loans via mobile devices using their fingerprints to authenticate the transactions. Think: "Back To The Future" or "Minority Report" or "The Matrix." But how future technology might work is not necessarily the point. The point is to agree on a what's plausible for the future and work backwards from there. If you believe cars will be flying in the year 2020, and you own a car wash, what will your company need to do over the next few years to be ready for that innovation? Imagining a future without concern for constraints can be liberating and realizing the opportunities that lay ahead as a result can be truly inspiring!

Over the years, our commitment to those two approaches have helped Givkwik grow. We now offer this type of strategic consultation as an additional service available to our clients. Please inbox me to learn more.

How is your organization using design thinking or scenario planning? Let me know in the comments!


Jason Rosado is CEO and Co-Founder of Givkwik