Design thinking has certainly captured the zeitgeist of our times, moving beyond the realm of digital-product management.
Google Trends shows that interest in the topic increased by four times in the past five years. Financial services institutions need to evolve to rapidly embrace design thinking or they risk disruption at the hands of nimble start-up companies.
Design often connotes simply a beautiful product, without enough attention focused on its utilitarian aspects. This is ill-fated, as a well-designed product or experience solves a human need and is something with which users want to engage and for which they want to advocate.
Simply said, design thinking places the user at the core of an organization's agenda. It spans traditional functions within product development such as experience design and visual design, all the way to strategy and innovation.
Through extensive customer research, designers identify not just the functional needs of users but build true empathy. Designers create propositions to best serve these needs and continually test these hypotheses with customers.
The financial services industry is the perfect sandbox for design thinking. The reasons are simple.
The industry facilitates many of life's biggest decisions: buying a house, saving for retirement and paying for children's education. Planning for retirement is an emotional topic, so this makes thoughtfully designed experiences a necessity.
In addition, investors face an array of complex investment choices, which require scrupulous analysis prior to investing. Design can address the complexity of investing and empower users to feel confident in the decisions that they make.
At E*TRADE, design thinking allows the company to help investors get smarter.
E*TRADE's approach to design thinking takes its cues from the Double Diamond design process, developed by the British Design Council. There are four stages in this design process: discovery, definition, ideation and delivery.
In the discovery phase, designers and product managers conduct research to understand customer pain points. This phase is divergent as we search for new questions and unmet needs.
Techniques such as customer listening are effective enablers.
In phase two, E*TRADE synthesize customer research and converge to the problem statement. This requires ruthless discipline to ensure that the company isn't boiling the ocean.
Creating customer personas highlights differences in needs and aspirations of various customer groups. Customer journeys illuminate the path of the customer as they complete a task navigating outside and inside E*TRADE.
Next, E*TRADE creates early prototypes to visualize potential concepts in the ideation phase. Customers are part and parcel of this process and co-create these concepts.
Last, convergent thinking is employed to deliver a high-fidelity prototype, which is ready for developers to code. In this final phase, customers play a vital role in testing the usability of the new experience.