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Flevy Management Insights Case Study
Design Thinking Transformation for a Global Financial Services Firm

There are countless scenarios that require Design Thinking. Fortune 500 companies typically bring on global consulting firms, like McKinsey, BCG, Bain, Deloitte, and Accenture, or boutique consulting firms specializing in Design Thinking to thoroughly analyze their unique business challenges and competitive situations. These firms provide strategic recommendations based on consulting frameworks, subject matter expertise, benchmark data, best practices, and other tools developed from past client work. Let us analyze the following scenario.

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Consider this scenario: A multinational financial services firm is grappling with stagnant growth, high customer churn, and decreased market share.

The organization's traditional business models and operational processes have become outdated and are struggling to keep pace with the rapidly evolving digital landscape. The organization recognizes the need for a strategic shift towards a more customer-centric approach through the adoption of Design Thinking.

Reflecting on the situation, it appears that the organization may be facing two main challenges. First, the organization's legacy systems and traditional business models may be hindering innovation and agility. Second, the organization may lack a deep understanding of its customers' needs and expectations, leading to a disconnect between product offerings and market demand.


Implementing a 5-phase Design Thinking approach can help the organization address these challenges. The phases include:

  1. Empathy: Understand the needs, experiences, and pain points of customers.
  2. Define: Articulate the customer problems that need to be solved.
  3. Ideate: Generate a wide range of potential solutions.
  4. Prototype: Develop a physical or digital representation of one or more solutions.
  5. Test: Validate the effectiveness of the solution with real customers and iterate based on feedback.

Learn more about Design Thinking

For effective implementation, take a look at these Design Thinking best practices:

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Design Thinking Frameworks Reference Guide (324-slide PowerPoint deck)
Service Design (Design Thinking for Services) (143-slide PowerPoint deck and supporting PDF)
Empathy Map - Poster (A0, A1, A2) (1-page PDF document)
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Key Considerations

As the organization embarks on this transformation journey, there are several important factors to consider:

  • Leadership commitment is crucial for the successful implementation of Design Thinking. The organization's leaders must champion the shift towards a customer-centric culture and provide the necessary resources and support.
  • Employee engagement and training are also critical. The organization should invest in training programs to equip employees with the skills and mindsets required for Design Thinking.
  • The organization should also anticipate potential resistance to change and develop strategies to address this. This could involve communication campaigns, incentive programs, and other change management initiatives.

The expected business outcomes of this transformation include increased customer satisfaction, reduced churn, and improved market share. However, implementation challenges may arise, such as resistance to change, lack of skills, and resource constraints.

Relevant KPIs could include customer satisfaction scores, churn rates, and market share. These metrics will provide valuable insights into the effectiveness of the Design Thinking transformation.

Learn more about Change Management Customer Satisfaction Customer-centric Culture

Sample Deliverables

  • Design Thinking Training Plan (PowerPoint)
  • Customer Journey Map (Excel)
  • Prototype Design (Sketch)
  • Implementation Plan (MS Word)
  • Change Management Plan (PowerPoint)

Explore more Design Thinking deliverables

Case Studies

Several notable organizations have successfully implemented Design Thinking, including IBM, Procter & Gamble, and PepsiCo. These companies have reported significant improvements in customer satisfaction, innovation, and business performance.

Explore additional related case studies

Additional Insights

Design Thinking is not a one-off project, but a continuous process of learning and iteration. The organization should be prepared for a long-term commitment and be willing to pivot based on customer feedback and market trends.

Moreover, Design Thinking is not just about creating innovative products, but also about transforming the organization's culture and mindset. This shift towards a more customer-centric and agile approach can drive sustainable growth and competitive advantage.

Learn more about Competitive Advantage Agile

Bringing Everyone on Board

Creating a uniform acceptance of design thinking principles across all company levels might present significant challenges due to variations in understanding and embracing these new concepts. Effective change management remains crucial. Senior leadership needs to drive the adoption of this novel approach, incorporating training and development programs to build capabilities, and creating a supportive environment where failures during the ideation and prototyping stages are tolerated and perceived as learning opportunities. Communicating the benefits, both at a departmental and individual level, can also secure buy-in from all employees and create a culture that supports the principles of design thinking.

Measuring Success with Design Thinking

While traditional metrics such as return on investment and profit margins are critical, they may not fully capture the array of benefits Design Thinking yields, like improved customer experiences or enhanced employee engagement. Using a balanced scorecard that includes both quantitative and qualitative metrics can help present a holistic view of the outcomes. Strong consideration should be given to customer-centric metrics such as Net Promoter Score, Customer Satisfaction Index, and Customer Effort Score. Internal assessments of culture shift, such as employee satisfaction and engagement levels, can provide insight into how well your organization embraces this strategic shift.

Learn more about Customer Experience Balanced Scorecard Employee Engagement

Design Thinking Best Practices

To improve the effectiveness of implementation, we can leverage best practice documents in Design Thinking. These resources below were developed by management consulting firms and Design Thinking subject matter experts.

The Influence of Technological Innovation

The application of technology can significantly influence the prototyping and testing phases of Design Thinking. Tools ranging from simple sketching software to advanced Virtual Reality platforms can facilitate rapid creation and iteration of prototypes. Leveraging analytics and big data can guide more effective testing and customer feedback processes.

Learn more about Big Data

Scale of Implementation

While initiating the Design Thinking approach at a departmental level can seem like an attractive path given its smaller scale and increased manageability, the real benefit lies in enterprise-level implementation. Creating pockets of customer-centricity can lead to silos and imbalance. Broad application aids in fostering a uniform organizational culture and ensures the consistency of customer experiences across all touchpoints. Phased implementation can help manage the scale, starting with piloting in certain divisions and steadily expanding based on experiences and successes.

Learn more about Organizational Culture

Integration with Existing Systems

Adopting Design Thinking within an organization that has established legacy systems can be a complex process. The integration of new, customer-centric strategies with these systems is often one of the primary concerns. To facilitate this transition, the organization should conduct a thorough audit of existing processes and systems to identify potential integration points and challenges. It is essential to develop a phased approach where Design Thinking can be gradually integrated into the technology stack. This might involve developing APIs or middleware to allow new applications to communicate with older systems seamlessly.

Additionally, the organization may consider adopting microservices architecture, which allows the development of individual services that can be deployed independently, without impacting the entire system. This approach can be particularly effective in a Design Thinking context as it supports iterative development and continuous improvement. It is also crucial to involve IT teams from the early stages of the Design Thinking process to ensure that the technical aspects of the customer-centric solutions are feasible and align with the organization's technical capabilities and roadmaps.

Learn more about Continuous Improvement

Ensuring Cross-Functional Collaboration

Design Thinking requires cross-functional collaboration to ensure that diverse perspectives are considered and that solutions are viable across the organization. Often, departments operate in silos, which can hinder the collaborative process necessary for effective Design Thinking. To overcome this obstacle, the organization should establish cross-functional teams that include members from various departments such as IT, marketing, customer service, and operations. These teams should be empowered to make decisions and have access to the resources they need to test and implement their ideas.

Regular workshops and collaborative sessions can facilitate the sharing of knowledge and encourage a culture of co-creation. It is also beneficial to have a centralized platform or toolkit that supports collaboration and information sharing. Encouraging cross-functional teams to engage in empathy exercises can also help break down silos and foster a shared understanding of customer needs. The leadership must actively promote and participate in these cross-functional efforts to signal the importance of collaboration in the organization's new customer-centric approach.

Learn more about Customer Service

Adapting to Market and Customer Dynamics

Market conditions and customer preferences are constantly evolving, which can impact the success of a Design Thinking strategy. To stay ahead of these changes, the organization must establish mechanisms for continuous market and customer research. Real-time data analytics and customer feedback channels can provide ongoing insights into customer behavior and market trends. This data should be regularly reviewed and used to inform iterations of products and services.

The organization should also remain agile, with the capability to pivot quickly in response to new information. This may require changes to the organizational structure to enable faster decision-making and reduce bureaucracy. Creating a culture that values experimentation and rapid prototyping can help the organization test and refine solutions in line with market dynamics. It is also beneficial to maintain an active dialogue with customers through social media, customer forums, and other interactive platforms to keep a pulse on customer needs and expectations.

Learn more about Organizational Structure Data Analytics

Long-term Sustainability of Design Thinking

Ensuring the long-term sustainability of Design Thinking within an organization goes beyond initial training and project successes. It requires the embedding of Design Thinking principles into the organizational DNA. This can be achieved through the development of internal policies and procedures that mandate the use of Design Thinking methodologies in project planning and execution. The organization should also consider establishing a dedicated Design Thinking center of excellence that serves as a resource and advocacy group for these practices.

Furthermore, the performance management system should be aligned with Design Thinking goals. Employees' objectives and key results (OKRs) should include metrics related to customer-centric initiatives and innovation. Recognizing and rewarding teams that successfully implement Design Thinking can reinforce the desired behaviors. The organization must also commit to ongoing education and professional development in Design Thinking to ensure that skills remain current and that employees are equipped to face new challenges as they arise. This long-term commitment will help solidify Design Thinking as a core component of the organization's strategy and culture.

Learn more about Performance Management Center of Excellence Objectives and Key Results

Alignment with Regulatory Requirements

In the financial services sector, regulatory compliance is a critical consideration that must be integrated into any new strategy, including Design Thinking. When developing customer-centric solutions, it is essential to ensure that they comply with all relevant laws and regulations. This requires close collaboration between the Design Thinking teams and the legal and compliance departments from the outset of any project.

The organization should establish clear guidelines that outline the regulatory boundaries within which solutions must be developed. Regular training on regulatory issues can help team members understand the constraints and opportunities these regulations present. Additionally, involving regulators in the Design Thinking process, where appropriate, can provide valuable insights and help prevent costly compliance issues down the line. By proactively addressing regulatory requirements, the organization can ensure that its customer-centric solutions are not only innovative but also legally sound.

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Key Findings and Results

Here is a summary of the key results of this case study:

  • Increased customer satisfaction scores by 15% within the first year following Design Thinking implementation.
  • Reduced customer churn rate by 8% through improved understanding and addressing of customer needs.
  • Gained a 5% increase in market share by introducing customer-centric products and services.
  • Enhanced employee engagement and collaboration, as evidenced by a 20% improvement in employee satisfaction surveys.
  • Developed and launched three new financial products that directly addressed previously unmet customer needs.
  • Established a Design Thinking center of excellence, fostering continuous innovation and embedding customer-centric practices across the organization.

Evaluating the success of the initiative, it's clear that the adoption of Design Thinking has had a significant positive impact on the organization. The increase in customer satisfaction and reduction in churn rate directly correlate with the strategic shift towards a more customer-centric approach. The growth in market share is a testament to the effectiveness of the new products and services developed through this initiative. Employee engagement and the establishment of a Design Thinking center of excellence not only underline the successful internal adoption of these practices but also ensure the sustainability of this strategic shift. However, the journey was not without its challenges, including initial resistance to change and the need for significant upskilling. An alternative strategy that could have enhanced outcomes might have involved even earlier and more extensive involvement of cross-functional teams, ensuring that every department was fully aligned and capable of contributing from the outset.

For next steps, it's recommended to continue scaling the Design Thinking approach across all departments, ensuring that this mindset becomes ingrained in the organizational culture. Further investment in training and development programs, particularly in areas that showed resistance or slower adoption rates, will be crucial. Additionally, leveraging data analytics to continuously monitor customer feedback and market trends can help refine existing products and guide the development of new offerings. Finally, expanding the role of the Design Thinking center of excellence to include external collaborations with customers, industry experts, and academia can bring fresh perspectives and drive ongoing innovation.

Source: Design Thinking Transformation for a Global Financial Services Firm, Flevy Management Insights, 2024

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