The D&I Awards: Stories of Design Transformation at Scale

Marisa White

The Design and Innovation Awards

With our extension just announced for the Design Thinking 2020 Awards we wanted to take some time to highlight our transformation stories. These holistic stories of larger change lent itself to this year’s focus on highlighting exceptional cases of innovation and transformation.

Our two Design Transformation Winners were:  

 End User Winner: Pact
Vendor Winner: IN2 Innovation

We included summaries below to highlight their excellent work

 About the Winner: IN2 Innovation

IN2 Innovation is an experience innovation design agency that partners with companies to create effortless experiences. They work in physical and digital spaces to transform unexpected ideas into new products and services that delight consumers, differentiate brands, and disrupt markets.

The Story

The IB Pulse™ is an advanced automotive battery tester that builds trust with consumers by delivering the peace of mind that they won’t get stranded with a dead car battery.  This connected device enables an ecosystem of improvements and new features for auto shops – and it revolutionizes Interstate Batteries’ business model and IP strategy. This ecosystem revolves around the automotive technician, who serves as the primary connection to consumers and is the primary user of the battery tester.

Current battery testing solutions are heavy, cumbersome, unintuitive, and error-prone.  That’s why the IB Pulse is designed for technicians, in their context - a hot / cold / dirty / loud / busy shop.

IN2 deployed with the Accelerated eXperience Innovation process (AXI) that enables the team to:

1) develop a deeper understanding of users,

2) connect meaningful insights to fresh ideas, and

3) to refine, build, and test concepts to ensure that new thinking is on track.

The discovery process included a marriage of survey-based (of over 2000 respondents) and ethnographic, user-focused research, observing technicians in their environment.  To move from information to insights, the IN2 team led a cross-functional team of researchers, engineers, marketers, and designers to convert insights into over 100 potential ideas, which were tested with technicians in the shop setting.

Totally reimaging the experience, the IB Pulse makes testing a battery easier, smarter, and faster.  To complete a standard test, the technician 1) scans the vehicle’s VIN number, 2) scans the battery information, 3) hooks up the cables, and the IB Pulse generates accurate results in under 60 seconds.  

Now, results are personalized to the make and model of the consumer’s vehicle.  This information can be shown in plain language to the consumer on the tester’s easy-to-read screen, or results can be sent to a wireless printer, emailed, or texted directly to the consumer’s phone or tablet.

As a user experience, the simple 2-screen workflow dramatically improves upon the previous process.  Before, each test involved 13+ unique screens where the technician had to manually enter a great deal of data.

Key Design Features:

  • The battery testing process now takes less than 60 seconds.
  • The number of input screens went from 13+ to just two.
  • The IB Pulse is 50% smaller and weighs 2.1 pounds, half the size and weight of previous battery testers.
  • It features a rugged, gorilla glass touch screen, rigorously tested to reduce chances of damage during rough use.
  • Users can access a custom Android operating system via the touchscreen and/or with directional pad intended for (and tested by) users wearing gloves.
  • The ergonomic design is lightweight, balanced, and easy to hold in one hand, with multiple grip zones.
  • Parts are field-replaceable so that an accident doesn’t halt productivity or incur costly repairs.
  • The on-board holster includes storage for the attached clamps to prolong product life, and the clamps have been redesigned to be smaller and more manageable.
  • It improves communication between the technician and the user.  Test results can be sent wirelessly to the shop and to the consumer’s phone, and the tester connects wirelessly to printers for physical record keeping.  (Research showed this interaction in particular builds trust with the consumer.)

 About the Winner: Pact

Pact is an international development nonprofit based in Washington, DC, that works on the ground in 40 countries around the world. Pact instituted a dedicated in-house innovation team in 2013 that creates an enabling environment to catalyze transformative ideas that accelerate impact. The innovation team is responsible for sourcing innovation across the organization using human-centered design, incubating new products and services, and finding sustainable models for new innovations.

The Story

In the spring of 2016, the U.S. government released a pre-solicitation to support the social inclusion of Afro-Colombian and indigenous people in Colombia. These communities have a long history of marginalization and are among the most affected by the violent guerilla conflict from the FARC and National Liberation Army (ELN) guerilla groups. They have suffered massacres, kidnapping and forced recruitment as child soldiers for the FARC, as well degradation of native land due to extractive activities.

Women in particular face greater levels of discrimination, often with few opportunities for education, personal development or economic empowerment. Therefore, in order to address donor requirements, Pact’s design thinking exercise focused on how to create new opportunities for Afro-Colombian and indigenous women to gain economic empowerment.

The data and prototypes generated through design thinking informed a preliminary concept note to the US government in July 2016. Empathy, compassion and sensitivity were foundational as the communities had been direct victims of violence and instability. In fact, one of the focus communities made headlines in October 1998 when at least 45 people burned to death and more than 60 others were injured when the ELN bombed Colombia's largest oil pipeline.

With the “how” statement guiding the research, we outlined two trips for a workshop-based, mix-methods approach, including interviews, focus group discussions, observation time, and creative verbal and non-verbal activities.

As research progressed, we established trust among the community and the designers, which permitted the triangulation of critical insights for action.

One insight in particular proved both powerful and problematic: Although the women acknowledged the need for greater financial empowerment, they ultimately believed economic empowerment activities would lead FARC and ELN to return to their villages to demand profits, thus destabilizing a precarious state of peace.

Most importantly, this insight was seemingly at odds with the mandate of the design exercise and the donor’s requested economic activities.

During the brainstorming phase, the design team controlled for this insight. Three ideas appeared to most address women’s concerns around vulnerability:

1)        Pop-up vocational training with the government.

2)       Inclusive hiring policies with employers.

3)       Capturing and broadcasting stories from interviews with elders to resurrect traditional agricultural and peace-building practices.

We successfully prototyped the third concept and packaged the data in a concept note for the US Government. However, despite praise for the design thinking, the concept note was not selected for implementation.

And yet, the powerful insights generated from local women in Colombia - seemingly “lost” when the proposal did not proceed - stimulated a critical conversation at Pact. Leadership began asking:

How can we better retain and use local insights to do more for the people we serve?

How do we ensure that local insights remain actionable, not tied to the life or death of a proposal?

How do we design community-led programs when their needs do not align with donor needs?

Thus began an organization-wide effort to reframe how Pact meets the needs of the people it serves. To put insight into action, Pact proceeded to institutionalize design thinking across the organization, training more than 300 global staff, with a commitment to create a customer insight database to house critical user insights to ensure that actionable needs are recorded and addressed in the future.

The original research also directly improved Pact’s existing project in Colombia by providing 80 pop-up vocational trainings to more than 2,200 people and focusing efforts on co-op farm initiatives linking women to formal supply chains.

Ultimately, the design thinking research conducted to support one proposal in Colombia went far beyond the needs of marginalized women. The research and subsequent failure of the concept note undeniably highlighted the powerful disconnect that can occur at the intersection of community needs and funding priorities.