Surefire Software Design Framework Used By Industry Leaders

With Jeff Francis | Co-Founder of ENO8


All right. Well, let’s go ahead and get started, shall we? So thank you all, thanks everybody to to, to join us today. You know, we’ve got a really exciting topic, you know, as, as a lot of you probably know, we’ve got a pretty regular series that we call innovate answers where we sort of tackle lots of different questions and topics that we find, come up a lot in discussions with our clients and all of it sort of being around the, the space of creating, you know, new digital products and digital innovation.
And today’s topic is gonna be on, you know, discover the Surefire software design framework used by industry leaders and we’re doing this one with a special guest today.
Emily Holmes, we’re super excited to have her here.
She’s gonna take us through, what I think is one of the most powerful concepts behind design, great software and just solving problems in general.
And so I’m really excited to hear her talk more about this with you guys today.
As always, and we encourage you to, you know, post questions, we’ll try to tackle those along the way and love to hear kind of your thoughts as well.
So, and if you’re feeling really up to it, we can even invite you up to ask a question live as panelists.
So, a little bit, a quick intro about, about me.
You know, my name’s Jeff Francis.
I’m one of the co-founders of N 08.
We’re a digital innovation studio based in the Dallas Texas area.
I’ve worked with a lot of different companies, large and small, but in particular, I’ve done a lot of stuff with startups, probably helped over 100 startups launch their new digital products and probably that many also with larger businesses building or really advancing existing digital products.
And I’m joined today by Emily Holmes who I’ll let her kind of take through a little bit of a, an overview on her background.
But we love Emily, we’re really excited for her to, to, to share a lot of her experience on, on today’s meeting.
So I’ll, I’m gonna kick this over to you Emily and let you kind of run with it.
All right.
Thank you so much, Jeff.
And I’m, I’m really happy to be here.
I’m happy to be talking about one of my favorite topics which is design thinking and using the design process to make sure that we are focusing on solving very meaningful problems before we come up with the solutions.
So that’s what we’re gonna be chatting about today.
There’s a little bit about my background here, but I have been, it’s hard to believe I’ve been in this field for over 20 years, years now and I’ve worked with startups as well and then with a lot of large companies and organizations also.
So I finished up a project with NASA a little while ago.
I’m doing some stuff with Microsoft Oracle accenture, et cetera over the last many, many years.
So before I get into what I’m gonna talk about, I also want to ask a question and you all can answer this in the chat.
What does he need when you look at this picture and you see what’s going on here?
What do you think he needs any guesses?
General Lee, you might be understanding, he might need a ladder.
I’m seeing a couple of responses coming through in the chat and the reason why he might need a ladder could be because of what General Lee said because he needs to reach that book.
Why does he need to reach the book?
I don’t know.
Maybe he wants to buy that book for himself.
Maybe he wants it as a present.
Maybe he just wants the knowledge that’s contained in that book.
There might be a lot of things going on in this picture that we can’t tell for sure unless we had an opportunity to really go talk to him and find out why is he reaching up there today?
What is he trying to accomplish?
But as humans, we are natural problem solvers and it’s not a bad thing.
It means when we see somebody who’s struggling with something or needs a little bit of help, we wanna help them, right?
We want to give them a ladder.
But organizations do this same thing as well.
And that can be a bit of a pitfall because what I have seen in all these years of working with companies and organizations is that they have this tendency to do this to identify a problem and say, ok, clearly that’s a problem and we need to solve that problem and they spend pretty much all of their time moving from a problem to a solution, solving problems.
And of course, we need to solve problems as companies, right?
We we deliver value by providing solutions to customers.
So at some point, we do need to solve problems.
but that’s not all we should be doing.
And some companies that I see who are very focused on getting from problems to solutions do take the time to explore a couple of possible different solutions.
So they might branch out a little bit, do some A B testing some Multivariate testing those kinds of things to see which solution is the best.
But they still tend to be very focused on moving from problems to solutions.
And in the framework that I’m gonna be talking about today.
This is called the solution space.
So that’s why I’ve labeled it underneath.
That’s the solution space.
What organizations tend to not be quite as good at is asking why, why are we solving that problem?
Why is he reaching out to try to grab that book?
And this is what design thinking is extremely powerful at helping us with filling in those gaps and really understanding what is going on before the problem occurs, that might help us understand more about the context of somebody’s experience.
So in design thinking, we spend a lot of time over here in the problem space because we really want to understand what is going on.
What is somebody’s experience like, how can we empathize with other people, understand what they’re going through so that we can fully understand all of the possible problems that we might be solving rather than jumping straight to that first one that we assumed was the problem that we need to solve.
And what you’re looking at here is this framework that N 08 didn’t design this.
I didn’t come up with this.
This was created by the UK Design Council and it’s called the Double Diamond.
And they created this because they wanted to find a standard way of talking about design thinking or the design process.
And as we all know, everybody’s moving from waterfall to agile, everybody is tackling more and more complex problems.
These days and nothing is a linear process.
So this is not intended to represent a linear process either.
But this is just to show that we want to spend time exploring problems before we spend time on solving them.
And what this double diamond is really created to do is to show us that it’s possible to have a great landing at the wrong airport if we don’t spend time understanding the problems that are meaningful to the people that really help them with significant things that are going on in their lives.
It doesn’t matter how amazing that landing is or how amazing the technology is that we have developed.
If there’s a disconnect between what people need and the solutions that we’re delivering, we will not succeed.
So the double diamond really helps us figure out have we spent enough time understanding and exploring these problems before we start solving them?
I have a few examples here.
A couple of these will be familiar to you and some may not.
But here is an example of a great landing.
This is the Microsoft Zoom.
I don’t know if anybody remembers this and it was fantastic from a technology perspective back in its day, people were thrilled with what this zoom could do.
I don’t know if I was as thrilled about the color of it.
It’s a questionable design decision there to, to make it brown, but it was a great piece of technology and it did a really good job of solving for the problem of being a good mp3 player.
But if Microsoft had taken the time to explore the problem space a little bit before focusing on this solution and then iterating on different versions of MP3 players, they might have realized that there is a bigger question here, which is more about how people enjoy music.
How do people want to listen to music?
How do we travel around and listen to things and how do we listen to albums versus individual songs or how might we want to do that?
They didn’t ask this question and Apple did and of course, we know what happened itunes found the right airport and itunes opened up all of these possibilities for other services like Spotify that we all use now.
And it’s about asking the right question, finding the right problem to solve.
Here’s another one.
This is a great landing.
I loved going to Blockbuster on Friday nights picking out the videos I was gonna watch for the weekend.
I think we all really enjoyed that.
But Blockbuster was so focused on that solution.
That landing, which is the physical experience of a retail video rental location that they weren’t asking themselves how they might be reimagining that what is going on in people’s lives.
Now, what’s internet like in people’s houses as people were getting faster internet speeds and different devices and wanting to stay home and watch things.
Blockbuster was focused on landing the plane at their stores.
And we all know that Netflix was reimagining how people want to even find content to watch.
So Netflix had a great landing at this airport, but because they had reframed and were focusing on the right problem.
This same question allows us to get to streaming on all of our devices.
This is another way to reimagine how people want to find content to watch.
And Netflix can keep going back to this same question because this is about human behavior and human needs and those don’t change over time, technology changes.
So Netflix can keep focusing on this key question and keep developing new technology and new services to address that question.
This is why Netflix is now developing their own content that we’re all watching as well.
So Netflix found the right airport and I have one more example for you here before we start talking more specifically about what the double diamond is.
this one is not specifically a software solution, but it’s one of my favorites because I think it just illustrates how important spending time in the problem space really is.
Some of you may be familiar with this story, but there is a designer, industrial designer named Doug Diez who had designed some new MRI machines for hospitals.
He was extremely proud of his designs for G E health care and he went to a hospital to watch these MRI machines being used and he was really excited to see his amazing technology in a hospital setting.
And what he actually saw was a family with a little kid that needed an MRI scan.
And that child did not see this as an exciting piece of technology.
That child was terrified by this machine.
And in the other examples that I’ve shown you so far, those were examples of where someone wasn’t asking the right questions and they were disrupted by a competitor.
Doug disrupted himself.
He thought about this.
He said I didn’t solve the right problem.
I need to think about what am I actually trying to do here?
MRI machines are not just technology, they’re devices that people need to interact with and people need to go inside.
So he asked himself, how might we make this experience less scary for Children?
And then he actually challenged himself to make it not just less scary but fun.
That seems like a tough problem to solve.
But that’s a great question to be asking because you know, if you can solve that problem, you will definitely be landing at the right airport.
So what Doug did is spent some time exploring the problem space.
He went out and met with kids and their families.
He actually hosted workshops with kindergarten teachers to understand what kinds of things are fun for kids.
What kinds of environments do they enjoy being in?
What could be fun for them?
And he took all of that knowledge back to this challenge of designing MRI machines.
And this is what he came up with this adventure series of MRI machines.
And not only were they fun kids when they started using these machines wanted to go again, like it was a ride, they loved these machines.
It turned something that had been scary into a big adventure.
And this didn’t only solve that important problem for the kids.
This also had a huge amount of business value because when Doug changed the design and by the way, this wasn’t a huge expensive change.
At first, it was just some stickers on the walls, repainting the rooms, making it look like an immersive fun environment.
When he started doing that, the rate of childhood cations plummeted in hospitals, they weren’t having to submit it to sedate Children anymore to get them to go through this procedure.
And adults like this too, the MRI S are not fun for anybody.
So by designing something that made it fun for kids.
Doug actually hit on a solution that made this whole process more enjoyable for everyone who needs to use this technology.
And it’s all about asking that right problem.
So this is what the double diamond helps us with.
And I’m gonna walk us through just one phase at a time quickly.
So you can understand how it works.
Again, it’s not linear.
You might bounce from one part of the double diamond to another when you’re working on a on a project that’s agile or a project that’s kind of in flux.
But if you were to start at the beginning of the double diamond, this is the problem space where we’re discovering things.
And you can see from the shape of this double diamond, it’s almost this, this rhythm like breathing where we expand and contract, we expand and contract again.
And when we’re expanding, that’s what we call diverging.
So it’s this divergent and convergent behavior that we follow.
And when we’re diverging in the problem space, this means we’re discovering what we don’t even know.
We’re going out looking at the world doing some ethnographic research and other activities to help us understand what are all the possibilities that even exist?
What are people’s lives like?
What are the things that we need to know in order to fully understand this problem space that we’re considering doing something about?
And when you’re diverging and discovering things in the problem space, this includes activities like research.
So interviewing, contextual inquiries are one of my favorites where you go out and observe people in their own environment and watch them do their tasks.
So you can really understand what their lives are like.
So all these ethnographic research methods to empathize with people and understand their needs, that’s really key in this phase.
You also might do some things like stakeholder mapping where you’re mapping out the network of all of the humans who are involved in a given situation, how they relate to each other and who might be impacted by some of the decisions that you might ultimately make.
So you’re uncovering a lot here and that’s why it’s divergent, opening up lots of possibilities.
We’re acknowledging all of the things that we didn’t even realize.
We didn’t know.
And this can feel a little bit overwhelming for people.
This feels like sometimes we’re moving farther away from the solution.
And what I like about the double diamond is that it shows us we’re heading toward the solution, but we’re opening up some possibilities first so that we can make smarter decisions about which problems we want to solve.
And that’s the next step in the double diamond is to start converging by defining what do we, what did we just learn and how can that help us articulate some problems that might be worth solving?
So when we’re converging in the problem space, this is where we’re synthesizing our research, making sense of all that research that we just did looking for insights, finding opportunities that we could capitalize on that could lead to some really exciting innovations.
So when we converge, we start to narrow things back down, define the sorts of problems that we think we’re gonna solve for.
Then we’re back where we started at the beginning slide today.
But now it’s a much more informed framed problem.
So now we can say we know with confidence, this is a problem that’s worth solving.
And we want to move forward into some solutions.
And in design thinking, we use this phrase, how might we?
And that’s kind of a magic phrase for design thinkers because this lets us know our next step is gonna be to create some ideas, generate ideas for how we might solve this problem.
But we’re not committing to anything yet.
We’re just asking for some broad exploration, some really creative ideas and thoughts about how we might solve this problem.
Not saying yet we’re gonna do it, but just how might we and then that sets us up for the next time.
And you can see we’re gonna diverge and converge again.
But this time it’s in the solution space.
So when we diverge in the solution space, this is where we’re developing possible solutions.
So coming up with lots of ideas, brainstorming is a key part of this phase, really imagining all the possibilities, all the potential things that we could do to solve that problem that we now feel confident is worth solving.
And one of the pitfalls that I see with a lot of organizations is that when they’re in this solution space, which is most organizations comfort zone solving problems, they try to diverge and converge at the same time and it can feel really confusing.
And what I mean by that is it’s really common for companies to start generating cool ideas and immediately shooting them back down.
So that one’s too expensive, that one will never work.
We don’t have the technology for this one and those things might be true and we do need to talk about feasibility at some point, but we don’t want to do it quite yet because when we’re in this ideation process and we’re thinking of ideas and what might be, we really want to give ideas space to breathe.
We wanna come up with moonshots and some wild ideas and really think about what could we do if we’re gonna solve this problem?
What are all the ways that we might do it?
And again, we’re not committing to anything yet because in the convergent phase here, this is where we decide what we’re gonna deliver.
So we start to make decisions based on how hard are these things to do.
We can talk about feasibility and viability here.
We can compare ideas to each other and set some priorities.
But what we can also do here if we’ve come up with some really wild and cool ideas in the divergent phase, maybe some of those are interesting enough that we could find ways to make them more feasible.
So we might have a Moonshot and we might all be sitting there saying, wow, it would be amazing if we could do that and we can have some conversations about.
Is there a phase one that we could try?
Is there a smaller version of that idea that still has some of the benefits and some of the amazing aspects of the idea that we could start doing now that’s smaller, so it’s more feasible.
So those are the kinds of conversations you have at this point in the solution space, when you’re converging, you’re deciding ultimately, what kinds of solutions are you gonna deliver?
This is also where you’ll do things like creating prototypes, testing prototypes, getting feedback to make sure that you’re moving towards solutions that are going to resonate with people and be really impactful.
So this is the double diamond in a nutshell.
And there are a few things that I wanna say about this one.
There’s actually another diagram underneath the double diamond here, it’s called the design squiggle.
There’s a whole website dedicated to the design squiggle.
And what this tells us is why the design process sometimes feels messy to people is because when we’re in that problem space, we’re dealing with so much ambiguity I mentioned earlier, we’re opening up a lot of possibilities and acknowledging all the things that we didn’t even know when we go out and do research and learn more.
We’re learning how much we didn’t know.
And for some people that feels very uncomfortable because it feels like we’re moving farther away from solutions.
We’re not, we’re learning important information that allows us to reframe and define really critical problems to solve, but it feels messy because it’s so ambiguous and some, some people feel that it’s chaotic.
So one thing I love about the double diamond is it helps us understand why do certain parts of the design process feel messier than others.
And once we get to pro problems as I talked about earlier and are moving on to solutions that feels much comfortable, much more comfortable for most people.
That’s most people’s comfort zone.
So I love to use just this simple two diamond visual to show people.
Hey, it feels a little confusing right now because we’re opening up all these possibilities and we still haven’t decided what problem we’re gonna solve, but we will define a problem.
We will get on to building solutions and things will feel much more comfortable at that point.
So it’s just a really nice visual reference for helping people understand there is kind of a method to what might seem like madness in the design process sometimes.
And there is a reason why exploring problems feels messier and less comfortable than building solutions.
One of the questions that I get most often is what if, what if we don’t have time?
We’ve got deadlines, we’ve got to deliver this thing.
It takes too long to go backwards into the discovery space into problem finding.
We just need to start building solutions.
The first thing I would say to that is the problem space isn’t moving backwards.
It’s something you should be doing on every project.
It should be part of your process.
But to some companies who are accustomed to starting with this problem and moving to solutions, exploring problems, opening up possibilities for other problems.
Feels like moving backwards.
It’s not.
But if you really feel you don’t have time and you wanna just move forward with your existing process, what happens is you still have the design squiggle but it’s like this.
So you start out over here feeling confident on the left side that you know the problem you’re gonna solve.
You, feel confident in your technology, you build a solution that you think is great.
This is the zoo and then once it gets out into the marketplace, oh my gosh, we didn’t anticipate any of that.
We didn’t see that coming.
So hopefully you can see you want that messiness, you want that uncertainty before you’ve released your products, not after.
And that’s why the double diamond model and design thinking is so important.
The other thing I’ll add here is there’s immense business value in working this way.
So if you don’t believe me that it doesn’t take longer Forrester at I B M actually did a study here that shows that design thinking actually helps you get to market much faster and it reduces your development time as well.
Jeff, I know this is something that’s really important to you right now and something that, that our customers are are focusing on.
Yeah, that’s why I loved it when you and you know, I saw that you had included this slide because, it immediately connected with me and, and, and sort of recognize this is the, these kinds of conversations are coming up a lot right now because it just sort of what’s going on with the uncertainty in the economy and everyone trying to look ahead into 2023 understand what things look like and, and, you know, certain parts of the economy that seemed indestructible not too long ago are, are looking, you know, not a little bit more vulnerable today.
So especially in tech, right?
And so I’m, I’m talking to clients and I’m hearing that budgets are getting cut.
They’re still getting asked to move digital innovation forward and to still innovate.
But they’re having to be a a lot more calculated about how they do that.
And so when I saw this, I was like, we have to make sure we talk about this.
So because I really do the double diamond and design thinking as being a great mechanism to help make sure that when you’re taking your shots, you’re making them count a much greater amount of time, right?
And so yeah, yeah, this is, I thought this was excellent information and it definitely makes sense.
And I know we were chatting about this earlier today and there is a, a slide and image I don’t, don’t usually show, but you made me realize I probably should start showing it again.
It’s a slightly dated study which is why I don’t, I don’t normally show this one, but it does show something really interesting about the recession that we might want to keep in mind if there’s another recession coming.
So this was created by the Design Management Institute.
What they did is they created what they call the design value index, which is a portfolio of companies that are design led companies and they tracked their performance over time over a 10 year period.
So again, a little bit, a little bit dated now.
but they compared it to the S and P over that same 10 year period.
The design driven companies outperformed the S&P by over 200% over that time.
But what’s even more interesting to me is if you look at 2009, the design driven companies took a smaller hit and immediately rebounded.
And you can see the companies that were working in more traditional way, it’s really lagged behind.
So this is because these companies, the design led ones know how to focus on problems that are meaningful to people that doesn’t change when the economy changes, people still have the same human needs over time.
And if you’re focusing on those and if you’re already asking the right questions, then when some catastrophe hits pandemic, recession, whatever it might be, you’re in a much better position to keep moving forward faster.
Yeah, this sort of makes me think about this slide I think it was two ago where you talked about the squiggly line.
And, you know, a lot of times when I talk about this, it’s you, you either you either invest in it now or you invest in it later, right?
But later, it’s very painful and expensive and it could cost you success potentially, right?
And so I love this concept of being willing to not jump to solutions, but let’s let’s take some extra time to be clear about the problem and explore the problem.
And, you know, I think, you know, it’s one of the things that’s really neat about the design thinking workshops is you sort of create that space where that’s what we’re here for.
Let’s not, let’s not jump ahead and feel like we’ve already got this thing solved.
And the how might we statement is so simple, but it’s such a, it’s such a clever way of sort of unlocking possibility, I think.
Yeah, absolutely.
And Albert Einstein obviously a lot smarter than I am, but there’s a quote from him that I love and I think it means he would have loved the double diamond as well.
I, I always tell people if you can spend just a little time in the problem space, it’s better than none.
But Einstein actually said if he had an hour on this, he would spend 55 minutes in that problem space and five minutes in the solution space so just underscores how important it really is to find that right problem.
I think Jeff, I think you have some information to share about sign ups and things like that.
Yes, when we talk about this and then if there’s time at the end, we can take a couple of questions if anybody has them.
So before I jump into this, if you guys just a reminder, if you have questions, comments, drop them in, would love to, to chat about those here as we wrap up.
First off Emily, thank you that like really awesome information.
I love this stuff and I know you do too and I think we just really have seen it make really tremendous impacts all over the place, companies large and small at varying points through about the process.
And you know, the the other thing that’s kind of neat about looking at your information today is through a reminder that design thinking we use it a lot sort of in the digital space.
But it very much works for solving problems in general, right?
And so, no, I I I it’s, it’s easy to forget that it can be applied pretty widely.
But while we’re waiting to see if any questions come in, just a reminder that if you have any other thoughts or recommendations on future topics or just questions, feel free to email us at info at N 08 dot com.
or direct message me on linkedin.
I’m pretty active out there.
also too, if you’d like a recording of this, we could probably make that available for you guys.
if you wanna share that with somebody from your team and then, just a reminder also, we’ve, we’ve got a pretty great weekly, email that we send out.
It’s not a real sales email.
We’ve been getting great feedback on it.
It’s just little nuggets of information based on conversations that we have and things that come up throughout, you know, working with clients and, and different speaking and presenting opportunities.
So, let us know if you’d like to get added to that again, you can email us or direct messages, we’ll get you added to that.
And then we have a monthly newsletter that’s also got some really great information in it.
Just a reminder, you know, this is, this is what we do.
So, if you’re thinking that design thinking or digital innovation is something that, that you could potentially use some guidance on or help our innovation lab is our way of doing that and helping our clients.
It’s generally a six week process and depending on sort of what problem you tackling or what products you’re trying to create.
we sort of have a, a version of our Innovation lab that meets most needs, but we can tend to adjust that a little bit for specific, scenarios.
So, if you like it more, check out our website there too.
N A dot com slash innovation dash lab.
there’s some great stuff out there on, on how we actually do that.
looks like we got some folks asking for the recording.
Amy, we’ll get you, we’ll get you that link.
Thanks for asking.
And, I guess last chance on any questions we don’t have any, we’ll go ahead and start wrapping up.
But, again, Emily, I appreciate your time today.
as always love chatting with you about this stuff and I thought, give us some really great stuff to think about today.
Thanks for having me and thanks to everybody who joined the call.
It was great to have you here.
Thanks, everyone.
Have a great weekend.

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