Over the course of my career, I have found that there is no greater way to change the way a Creative team works and the way a company approaches problems than by using Design Thinking. My first step after joining Citi was to partner with IDEO to develop a new version of Design Thinking to develop the internal capabilities for creativity and customer-centric thinking. This work took two years to develop, pilot, and roll out the methodology to the entire company.
Key learnings from this project
Start someplace no one cares about
Most people try to roll out a new methodology on highly visible projects where there are the most resistance and problems. We started with small groups to prove the success of the approach and scaled it from there.
To scale Design Thinking, don’t say ‘Design’
The best way to scale Design or Design Thinking is to never use the word design. We create and scaled behaviors that were more palatable to the organization – when though they were 100% from Design Thinking.
Change thinking not behavior
The real reason we based all our work in Design Thinking was we had to change the way the bank thought – not just how they behaved. We needed a methodology that could be used for anything to do this.
Partnering with IDEO
We partnered with IDEO because they were the ones refined the methodology, made it famous, and had spent over 40 years working with companies to bring it to life. For the first year, we worked with the team at IDEO to develop our version of Design Thinking that would complement other learning initiatives going on inside of the company. The engagement was purposely set to last just a year because we wanted the first 3 months to develop the curriculum, the next 6 months having IDEO teaching the initial courses with key members of the Citi Design team shadowing them and then spend the final 3 months with the Citi Design team teaching the classes under IDEO supervision. This was done so that there would be ownership and empowerment for the Citi Design team, but there would be enough support that we could develop and refine the materials to be sure it was effective.
Design Thinking process we created is best thought of as a system of overlapping phases rather than a sequence of orderly steps. There are three phases to keep in mind: inspiration, ideation, and implementation. Inspiration is a means of opening up the problem or opportunity space through research activities. Ideation is the process of generating, developing, and testing ideas. Implementation is the path that leads from the project stage into people’s lives.
Changing thinking by building 5 critical behaviors.
Beyond the steps of the Citi Design Thinking methodology make sure that everyone who takes the class walks away with five key behaviors that we know will change the way they think – not just the way they behave. Some behaviors are easy to learn as they are a part of the day-to-day work at Citi but some ate counter-cultural and are the foundation of the larger change we are trying to bring to the company.
The behaviors are ‘PUT THE CUSTOMER AT THE CENTER‘ so we are creating things people want, ‘BUILD TO THINK‘ so we prototype all of our ideas as early as possible, ‘INVITE DIVERSE PERSPECTIVES‘ so we get all groups to the table to work on an idea, ‘STAY CURIOUS‘ so we always stay open to new ideas and ‘ITERATE QUICKLY‘ and frequently so we don’t fall in love with one solution and keep refining it to make it better.
MAKING IT OUR OWN
Evolving the content.
Another critical part of the process was evolving and refining the initial content we got from IDEO which had to be done for two reasons. The first was to constantly refine the content as we saw what worked teaching classes with groups from across the entire company. We also had to update the content to remove the initial IDEO work examples as the Citi Design Team quickly created their own success stories from using Design Thinking. I created all teaching decks and workbooks used in all Citi Design Thinking classes.
Focused on two audiences.
When rolling out a program of this scale, you have to look at your audience to realize that not everyone is going to need to have the same level of mastery of the methodology. Someone who is working at one of our brand branches can benefit from a more consumer-centric mindset, but they will not be using Design Thinking every day whereas anyone who is creating anything new for our consumers needs to have a mastery of the methodology.
This audience needs to have a solid understanding of Design Thinking, but they do not need a deep dive into all aspects of the methodology. This is delivered by a 2-hour online course.
This audience will be using Design Thinking in their day-to-day work as so they need to have a deeper dive and more hands-on teaching in the methodology. This is done through a 1 to 3 day course.
Creating a sustainable support system and global rollout plan.
Creating the initial Citi Design Thinking course was the easy part since it was initially piloted with just the Citi Design team which was used to work in this style of methodology. Rolling out Design Thinking to over 300k people who had little to no experience with this methodology was a much bigger challenge. We had to create a timetable support system that would allow for the content to scale across an organization of this size but also worked in a way where each team that took the class could get individualize and ongoing support. I created a structure that started with a steering committee that is comprised of representatives from all key departments including design, HR, learning, and more to oversee the big picture of how Design Thinking was being rolled out at Citi. I then created a program team which a group of people who reported to me and were dedicated to the logistics and training of Citi Design Thinking instructors. Lead champions then reported to the program team and were responsible for teaching most of the Citi Design Thinking classes and then supporting the teams they trained. Finally, Champions were key people who were chosen from the team who came in for training and were their day to day Design Thinking advisors and mentors. This tiered system kept the overhead low on the org structure while creating a tierable support system that gave each team the help they needed to be successful.
Meets quarterly with representation from all lines of business involved in Citi Design Thinking. They set the supportive conditions to grow Citi Design Thinking through leadership support, intervention as needed, and consult with external agencies like IDEO on best practices.
Meets monthly to refine and evolve the Citi Design Thinking curriculum and organize training events. They select, recruit, and manage the community of Champions and Lead Champions, providing them with resources and support to serve as effective teachers and leaders.
Lead Champions are visible leaders for Citi Design Thinking who help multiple team Champions apply Design Thinking behaviors to their team’s day-to-day jobs. They also help the Program Team teach new Design Thinking classes.
Champions are team-based Citi Design Thinking leaders who help Citi employees apply Design Thinking behaviors to their day-to-day jobs.
Brainstorming a baby shower.
Sometimes you find a success story in the most unlikely of places. After teaching Citi Design Thinking for about year, a walked into a conference room on another floor of our building to find “How Might We have a baby shower’ written on the whiteboard with evidence of an entire brainstorm that had taken place around this topic. It may seem like a small thing, but I thought it was huge. It meant that the methodology had changed the way people thought and the way they solved problems to a point where they weren’t using it to just solving work problems. It meant that they had taken this way of working to heart and had found enough success in it that they were using for everything. As a teacher, I don’t think you could ever ask for more.
CREATING A MOVEMENT
We concentrated on 4 areas to make Citi Design Thinking sustainable.
After all the testing, learning, and refining I had to institutionalize how we were going to roll out and then sustain Citi Design Thinking across the entire company. To do this I realized that we needed to focus on 4 key areas if we were going to be successful.
Helping Citi organize for new ways of working through new processes, protocols, tools, and people
Developing and delivering custom learning modules for new ways of working
Sharing stories and prompting a conversation about the impact of Design Thinking at Citi
Modeling new ways of working in dedicated projects