It's a bit hard to believe that Fidelity Investments, one of the largest financial services groups in the world, was so influenced by design thinking that it became an employed practice during their recent quest to improve their site. After all, can you picture the financial corporate geeks at Fidelity embracing a process like this one?
Teams spend time with customers from the beginning of the development process, asking questions, rapidly generating multiple ideas and testing them. The point is not to validate or prove an idea "right," but to get instant, unfiltered reaction. Design thinking promotes a culture of prototyping and a bias toward action. These "low resolution" prototypes can be as rough as a napkin sketch or a model built with pipe-cleaners.
Believe it or not, Fidelity folks were so inspired by watching Stanford Design School students employing design thinking to solve a specific problem that they decided to give it a shot themselves. The task at hand was to understand how Fidelity's workplace-services customers used their employer-offered benefits. Here is what they did:
When a Fidelity team met with a group of its customers they brought blank paper and markers instead of PowerPoint slides and slick Photoshopped pictures. "When was the last time that you interacted with your benefits? How was the experience? What was good? What could be better? Why? Why? At one point during this session, we asked customers to formulate their benefits needs as a Craigslist ad and were floored by the directness, humor and clarity of their responses. The customers' verdict: "That was the best five-hour meeting we've ever been to."
In another session, customers and Fidelity team members broke into groups and generated three different low-resolution paper prototypes:
"What if benefits enrollment worked like a navigation system?"
"What if benefits looked like an airplane cockpit?"
"What if benefits enrollment was a perfect first date?"
We let the customers react without offering editorial commentary, remaining open to hearing reactions.
At the end of the session the Fidelity team had a detailed picture of the customer perspective. After focusing on the customer, prototyping with cross-functional teams, putting the "show and don't tell" technique to use and listening to the customers, the Fidelity team dug deep into understanding customer needs. Who knew that large financial giants can use design thinking to improve their sites!