Despite places like Australia being bathed in sun, the cost of traditional silicon-based solar cells hasn’t inspired people to buy, buy, buy.

But what if you could make the technology cheaper and produce it at a higher scale? Some believe that printed solar is the way forward.


Leading the charge is Paul Dastoor from the University of Newcastle in Australia and his team of researchers, who are in the final stage of testing his printed solar solution.

read more here.

HBR: Use Design Thinking to Build Commitment to a New Idea

A great read:

HBR: Use Design Thinking to Build Commitment to a New Idea

Roger L. Martin
JANUARY 03, 2017


The logic we use to understand the world as it is can hinder us when we seek to understand the world as it could be. Anyone who comes up with new ideas for a living will recognize the challenges this truism presents. It means that to get organizational support for something new, the designer needs to pay as close attention to how the new idea is created, shared, and brought to life as to the new idea itself.

The Normal Way of Generating Commitment…

Normally, we commit to an idea when we are rationally compelled by the logic of the idea and we feel emotionally comfortable with it. In the modern world, we focus disproportionately on the logic, assuming that the feelings will naturally follow. Analysis has become the primary tool in this regard. A logically plausible proposition, combined with supporting data, is presented to produce a cognitive “sense of proof.” Hence the modern equation is: logic plus data provides proof, which generates emotional comfort, which leads directly to commitment.

More here.

Daily Design Inspirations 33: Abraham Wald and the Missing Planes (#dailydesigninspirations)

During World War II, the UK and U.S. focused their air warfare plans on the use of strategic bombing, employing long- and short-range aircraft to lead the way and provide ground infantry with an upper hand. Much of the industrial war complexes of both these nations were focused on producing planes, and ensuring the safe return of an expensive, slow-to-produce bomber was a priority. After all, a plane that can make five or perhaps ten runs was worth much more than one which failed to return after a mission or two.

And many planes were being shot down by German fire, and the casualties were huge. In some years of World War II, the chances of a member of a bomber crew making it through a tour of duty were about the same as calling heads in a coin toss and winning. As a member of a World War II bomber crew, you flew for hours above an entire nation that was hoping to murder you while you were suspended in the air, huge, visible from far away, and vulnerable from every direction above and below as bullets and flak streamed out to puncture you. “Ghosts already,” that’s how historian Kevin Wilson described World War II airmen.

Where to Armour?

So here was the question. You don’t want your planes to get shot down by enemy fighters, so you armour them. But armour makes the plane heavier, and heavier planes are less manoeuvrable and use more fuel. Armouring the planes too much is a problem; armouring the planes too little is a problem. Somewhere in between there’s an optimum.

The Statistical Research Group (SRG) was a classified program that yoked “the assembled might of American statisticians to the war effort—something like the Manhattan Project, except the weapons being developed were equations, not explosives. The military came to the SRG with some data they thought might be useful. When American planes came back from engagements over Europe, they were covered in bullet holes. But the damage wasn’t uniformly distributed across the aircraft. There were more bullet holes in the fuselage, not so many in the engines.


The officers saw an opportunity for efficiency; you can get “the same protection with less armour if you concentrate the armour on the places with the greatest need, where the planes are getting hit the most. But exactly how much more armour belonged on those parts of the plane?

220px-abraham_wald_in_his_youthEnter Abraham Wald, who was working at SRG at that time. Born in Hungary in 1902, the son of a Jewish baker, Wald spent his childhood studying equations, eventually working his way up through academia to become a graduate student at the University of Vienna where the great mathematician Karl Menger mentored him. As he advanced the science of probability and statistics, Wald’s name became familiar to mathematicians in the United States where he eventually fled in 1938, reluctantly, as the Nazi threat grew. His family, all but a single brother, would later die in the extermination camp known as Auschwitz.

And Wald came up with an interesting idea to the question of how much armour, and where.

The armour, said Wald, doesn’t go where the bullet holes are. It goes where the bullet holes aren’t: on the engines.

Wald’s insight was simply to ask: where are the missing holes? The ones that would have been all over the engine casing, if the damage had been spread equally all over the plane? Wald was pretty sure he knew.

The Missing Planes

The missing bullet holes were on the missing planes. The reason planes were coming back with fewer hits to the engine is that planes that got hit in the engine weren’t coming back. Whereas the large number of planes returning to base with a thoroughly Swiss-cheesed fuselage is pretty strong evidence that hits to the fuselage can (and therefore should) be tolerated. If you go the recovery room at the hospital, you’ll see a lot more people with bullet holes in their legs than “than people with bullet holes in their chests. But that’s not because people don’t get shot in the chest; it’s because the people who get shot in the chest don’t recover.

Wald put together a crude before-and-after diagram. The “after” image — the plane on the right — showed where the majority of the damage was, as indicated by the shaded regions. Wald determined that most of the plane — the wings, nose, and fuselage — had taken the worst beating, while the cockpit and tail were generally unharmed.



Wald theorized that the fact that the planes lacked damage in the cockpit and tail was more telling. Certainly, the Axis’ targeting of Allies’ planes was both indiscriminate and imprecise; there was little reason to believe that the Axis forces were aiming for, say, the nose, and intentionally avoiding striking the tail. Some planes had to have taken significant damage to the tail and cockpit, and all of those planes had something in common: they, unlike the ones in Wald’s data set, did not return back to base.

On Wald’s advice, the U.S. military leadership reinforced the cockpits and tails on its planes. The number of planes (and lives) saved during the World War and Korean and viet Nam wars are difficult to estimate, but the impact of this idea was huge.


Daily Design Inspirations 32: 13 inspiring examples of design thinking from Japan (#dailydesigninspirations)

Great piece I read today.

As digital technology becomes more sophisticated and penetrates more parts of our lives, the importance of design thinking increases, too.

Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to spend a week or so in Japan and there were several bits of everyday and unassuming design that struck me.

Read on. 

Daily Design Inspirations 31: DNA: Lessons from Italy, designs from India (#DailyDesignInspirations)

Great read today in DNA, about two Indian designers who are pushing the envelope on “sustainable” design. 

With such diverse inspirations as textile waste and kitchen utensils, designers Sahil Bagga and Sarthak Sengupta’s creations show that ancient craft techniques are not alien to contemporary lifestyle, writes Marisha Karwa in DNA

Read on:

pic: homworlddesign.com

For most of us, the internet slang ASAP stands for ‘as soon as possible’. Not so for designer duo Sahil Bagga and Sarthak Sengupta, whose assigned meaning for the acronym is ‘as sustainable as possible’. The philosophy forms the genesis of every project the Delhi-based partners of multi-disciplinary studio Sarthak Sahil Design Co undertake.

“We want to define our identity as contemporary Indian designers in the international design scene. We therefore design products that are global in appeal but local in spirit,” says Sengupta. “Our core design philosophy is to capture the human story behind every craft that we reinterpret and re-contextualise for a contemporary audience.”

The 36-year-old alumni of the National Institute of Fashion Technology (NIFT) met College of Art graduate Bagga at the Politecnico di Milano, Italy, where they were pursuing a master’s degree. Following the course, they were selected by the furniture-maker, the Poltrona Frau Group, for a project under the mentorship of master designer Guilio Cappelini.

“Working at the design firm Cappelini was a significant milestone in our careers,” observes Bagga. “We were introduced to the state-of-the-art when it came to furniture design and manufacturing. The sheer scale of their operations was intimidating and at the same time, attention to every minute detail was very inspiring.”

The stint with the century-old furniture group and the experience of life in Italy led to the pair’s most significant learning. “The Italians are very proud of their traditional materials and craftsmanship, yet they are the market leaders in the contemporary luxury market,” notes Bagga. “They know how to synergise their craftsmanship with modern technology, keeping abreast with social and market trends. They also respect human labour and understand the importance of innovation even in mass production.”

Milan, Manipur and back again

Since going into business together in 2009, Sengupta and Bagga have “indulged in a wide diversity of projects”, including gift items, product and furniture design, installations and interiors — all inspired by traditional craft techniques. They first reinterpreted Manipur’s longpi pottery for their Magia Nera (black magic) collection, creating table top accessories such as coasters, vases, lamps and more from the black-hued clay using traditional moulds of the artisans. Another collection, called Kerala Sutra, uses the state’s many art forms, including theyyam, kathakali, leather shadow puppetry, mural painting, metal casting, etc., as motifs for lamps and light installations. Yet another lamp collection is inspired by the kamandal — a vessel used by ascetics to carry water in.

The medley of work, says Sengupta, “keeps us happy from a creative sense and allows us to master new skills”. Bagga explains that new collections are either based on briefs by clients or are works of self-indulgence. Bagga describes the latter as a “bottom-up process” for which their travels and exposure to culture are the biggest “inspiration pools”. “We travel extensively, and we can’t help getting inspired by what we see along the way,” says the 37-year-old. “There is so much diversity in our nation, there is no end to rediscovering age-old practices. For example, we chose the crafts and culture of Kerala for our light installation collection for Somany Ceramics earlier this year. And last year, we choose Gujarat as our inspiration state for creating a range of stainless steel furniture for Jindal Steel.”

Sarthak Sahil Design Co’s collections have been exhibited across the world, including at the world’s largest furniture fair, the Salone del Mobile Milan, at London’s Alchemy Festival and most recently, at the International Furniture Fair in Singapore.

Staying rooted

The studio’s commitment to traditional arts is evident not only in their collections, but also from their overseas projects. Last year, when the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), London, approached the designers for an installation to mark Diwali and Christmas for the extensive ‘The Fabric of India’ exhibition, they chose to juxtapose the rituals and symbolisms of the two festivals. “We proposed the Kalpataru — the wishing tree. The structure of this installation was handcrafted by silversmiths from north India, adorned by hand-painted murals from Kerala, depicting a foliage of trees and plants, and having ritualistic importance in Indian culture,” points out Sengupta.

Among their many works that have earned them laurels is the Katran collection. Katran, the term for the leftover pieces of colourful cloth from textile and cloth mills, is traditionally spun into ropes that are then used to make khatiyas. In the Katran collection, the ropes are used for chairs, loungers, lampshades, tabletops and more — the vivid colours adding to the quirky and tactile reuse of textile waste. “The Katran collection is true to our hearts as it is a manifestation of all our brand values — ethics, ethnicity, ecology, sustainability and meaningful design,” says Sengupta. Such is the appeal of the Katran chairs that they’ve become a part of the designers’ everyday life. “‘Love chair’ is good for sitting and working in, and our ‘Pelican chair’ is more like a lounger to relax and take a power nap in,” says Bagga.

Quick takes

Favourite architects: Antoni Gaudi, Laurie Baker, Zaha Hadid

Favourite designers: Oki Sato of Japanese design studio Nendo, Fabio Novembre, Jasper Morrison

Favourite design products: Muji stationary and Flos lamp

Pet peeves: Plagiarism, tardiness

Design News: Engineering as a Driving Force Behind the Design-Thinking Movement


It’s wonderful that design thinking is now applied to so many different problems: designing better experiences for hospital patients, designing and implementing better client experiences at social-service agencies, starting new companies, teaching leadership, inventing new radio shows, changing organizational structures, and developing new products and services for people at the bottom of economic pyramid — to name just a few. Design thinking focuses on uncovering human needs, and doing so by not just relying on what people say, but by watching what they do as well. It entails developing a point of view about what needs to address, generating quick and rough solutions, prototyping like crazy and testing ideas with the users, customers, patients, employees or whomever the solutions are intended to help — and doing it all very quickly and not being overly attached to ideas.

There is, however, a part of the story that seems to be slipping away — especially in the business press and in business schools, as well as in areas such as education and healthcare where design thinking is being used. Many executives, students and journalists don’t seem to realize that engineers and engineering schools were among the main driving forces behind the start of this movement. David Kelley, the main founder of the innovation firm IDEO and the Stanford d.school, has been teaching mechanical engineering at the university for over 35 years(he is pictured above, with the Apple mouse that IDEO designed); and Bernie Roth, our academic director at the d.school has been teaching mechanical engineering at Stanford since 1962 (he is a pioneer in the field of robotics).

And consider two of the most revered design thinkers and teachers I know:Diego Rodriguez at IDEO and Perry Klebahn at the d.school (officially, the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford). When I first met Diego, some 20 years years ago, he had just graduated from Stanford, where he earned a degree in mechanical engineering and was working at IDEO. Diego did get increasingly interested in business, got a Harvard MBA, and now — back at IDEO for years as a partner — has become one of the most imaginative business thinkers I know (check out his blog and tweets). Yet, when I talk to Diego, listen to his ideas, and watch his masterful teaching and coaching, I can always see how the magnificent engineering designer inside him remains the strongest guiding force. His relentless advice to do things like get out and talk to and watch some real human beings, to develop a sharp point of view, to brainstorm, to “prototype until your puke,” and to view ideas as easy to get, important to throw away, and ultimately best to be judged by users and the market (rather than experts) all go back to his product-design roots. This really struck me when, a few years back, Diego was designing a new organizational structure for a client that, many years before, he had designed a product for when working as a young IDEO designer. He remarked to me, “The end product is a lot different, but the process I am using is remarkably similar.”

I see the same thing in how Perry approaches problems. Perry has always been a product guy, as he invented the modern snowshoe as a Stanford product-design student and then went on to grow a company that sold and spread the product called Atlas (the above grainy picture is of Perry on CNN with his invention back in 1997). Then Perry was a senior executive at Patagonia, and most recently was CEO of Timbuk2. Perry has also taught numerous product-design classes at Stanford over the past 25 years, and in the last decade, taught over a dozen classes for students and executives at the Stanford d.school. In fact, Perry has taught more d.school classes than any other faculty member since the d.school was founded in 2004 (even though he was CEO of Timbuk2 for five of those years, he kept teaching).

Over the years, I have watched Perry move beyond and expand his engineering-design skills to an ever broader set of problems, like helping software executives gain empathy for what millennials want and rethinking the strategy of a Fortune 500 company. Lately, Perry’s students in his d.school classes — which he teaches with others including Kathryn Segovia,Jeremy Utley and me — tackle problems ranging from finding ways for the San Francisco Opera to attract younger customers to improving the experience of buying a bra for women who have had mastectomies.

Yet Perry’s engineering roots are always evident. I remember watching Perry use his product-engineering background to guide a class exercise aimed at improving employee selection, recruitment and socialization practices for our d.school fellows program. He pressed the students to look for unmet needs, to identify the problem they were trying to solve, to brainstorm ideas for prototypes quickly, and then to test the emerging ideas with users — even though those ideas were unfinished and crude approximations of organizational practices. This process, although modified by Perry and many others to fit problems of all kinds, is simply a variation of the design process that Perry used as a Stanford engineering school student years ago to invent the modern snowshoe — and then to grow the company and customer base required to make the product succeed.

Yes, I am a tenured professor in the Stanford School of Engineering, but I am not an engineer. The core of what we do at the d.school, and of much of what they do so well at IDEO, is rooted most strongly in product-design engineering — especially the flavor taught at the engineering school. That is why, frankly, I feel better when I work with “real” engineering product designers like Diego and Perry in the d.school classes I help to teach — even though I recognize that there are master design thinkers from all kinds of backgrounds, including lawyers, journalists, computer scientists and psychologists. The aforementioned Kathryn Segovia has a Ph.D. in communication (she did her thesis on the psychology of avatars), and Jeremy Utley is a Stanford MBA and former management consultant). Both have developed into two of the most skilled design-thinking practitioners, teachers and coaches I know.

Like many people at the d.school, I get in regular arguments about what design thinking is, how it ought to be applied, and the times when it isn’t right to use it. It’s healthy for all of us to question what we do and how to do it better. But one thing we all share at Stanford, whether our students and faculty realize it or not (and some don’t, as the history is fading a bit), is that the brand of design thinking that we teach is a mindset and set of methods that was developed and refined at Stanford’s engineering school for decades — especially by product designers — before design thinking was ever a hot topic in business, entrepreneurship, education, healthcare and so many other places.

Original Post here

 Go to the profile of Bob Sutton
Bob Sutton
Stanford Professor who studies organizations. Books include bestsellers Good Boss Bad Boss, The No Asshole Rule, The Knowing-Doing Gap and Scaling Up Excellence. He first wrote this post about five years ago and update it every now then. The iteration before this one appeared a couple weeks back at the Stanford Technology Ventures Program eCorner site.

Daily Design Inspirations 29: Elon Musk recounts the Secret History of Tesla Motors (#DailyDesignInspirations)


USA Today, May 31, 2016

Tesla CEO Elon Musk is talking to shareholders, starting with a history of the company. Soon, shareholders will talk to Musk.

Here’s how it is going:

5:21 p.m. — At the beginning, Musk and his fellow Tesla creators didn’t know what they were doing. “Completely clueless” when it came to figuring out how to make a car, he says. Plus, many wouldn’t give a startup the time of day. “At times, we couldn’t get suppliers to call us back.” Musk adds. “That was the usual response.”

5:23 p.m. — Musk gives a shout out to a California company called AC Propulsion that pioneered electric cars more than a decade ago.

5:29 p.m. — “Electric airplanes. Still dying to do that,” Musk jokes as he recalls the conversation that originally got him to thinking about electric cars. Tesla Chief Technical Officer JB Straubel says he brought up the airplane idea initially with Musk. But both turned their thinking to cars. In 2003 and 2004, everyone was telling them there would be no interest in electric cars. Musk says he got a test ride in AC Propulsion’s car and he told them “you’ve got to show the world this is real.”

5:32 p.m. — After being told that AC wouldn’t make an electric car just for him, Musk says he asked if he could make one himself. That’s what led him to the consortium that would launch Tesla. It was never. “this is a great way to make money.” Rather, “When I told my friends about this, they said ‘You’re crazy.'” Creating a car company would be dumb enough, but launching an electric car company was considered “stupidity squared.” Musk put the company’s odds of success at 10%. He said he put in lots of his own money — he made one of his fortunes from PayPal — because he didn’t want to risk his friends’ money on the Tesla venture.

5:37 p.m. — He blasts General Motors for killing its electric car program, which had such devoted fans that they were holding candlelight vigils as their cars, the Saturn EV1, were being crushed.

5:40 p.m. — Big mistake: Thinking that he could take a Lotus Elise and add an electric powertrain to create the Tesla Roadster. In fact, everything changed. “In the end, only 6% or 7% of the Tesla roadster” had anything else in common with another car.

5:48 p.m. — Musk says he gave early test drives to Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page. The prototype developed a bug so it only went 10 miles per hour. Musk says he had to reassure them the car goes a lot faster — and they became investors. The lesson for people creating their own company: Adapt quickly, recognize and correct your mistakes. The sooner that happens, so much the better.

5:54 p.m. — Musk says he “was basically the chief designer of the body” of the original Tesla roadster. And he adds: “I don’t think I’m a good designer.” His inspirations: The Ferrari and Porsche.

5:56 p.m. — The team got 100 orders after giving test rides of two prototypes, which were barely hanging together, says Chief Technical Officer JB Straubel. Musk says “huge challenges” with the roadster including a transmission that “didn’t work.” The problem was eventually solved and Roadster deliveries began in 2008. Though it passed all required safety tests, Musk quips that the car was “completely unsafe” and “broke down all the time.” It required redesign and new suppliers. Straubel says Tesla had to move factories from overseas to California, including the battery pack manufacturer from Thailand. He says a lot of what’s special and underappreciated about Tesla is its manufacturing processes. “How important it is to build the machine that builds the machine,” is how Musk puts it.

6:15 p.m. — “I don’t know anyone who likes the current car buying experience,” Musk says. Tesla vowed to fix that, too, by not having conventional dealers. Most important thing: “Make sure that when people visit our store, they look forward to coming again.”

6:20 p.m. — Musk says designing a sexy sports car is relatively easy, but a sedan is hard. That led him to former General Motors and Mazda designer Franz von Holzhausen. “I realize it was the future,” von Holzhausen says.

6:25 p.m. — The design studio was a tent pitched in a corner of the SpaceX rocket factory. Musk told von Holzhausen he wanted the Model S to have seven seats — a very tough challenge in a sedan.

6:29 p.m. — In October, 2008, Musk says he met with head of R&D with Daimler in hopes of keeping Tesla alive. He says he was told they were thinking about an electric Smart car. He says he called and told Straubel that they had three months to have a working electric Smart car. At the time, Smart wasn’t sold in the U.S. So they sent an engineer to Mexico with $20,000, who came back with one. In a day, they had torn the whole car apart. It was the fastest Smart car ever. “You could do wheelies in the parking lot,” Musk says. The Daimler team arrived grumpy, but perked up when they drove the prototype — and they got a development contract. “If we hadn’t done that, Tesla would have died,” Musk says. It helped with credibility and Tesla needed the dough. Musk says he was tapped out and was borrowing money from friends at the time. It was early 2009, a time when the auto industry was hitting bottom and Chrysler and GM would be filing for bankruptcy reorganization.

6:35 p.m. — Tesla was losing money on every Roadster it built before the third quarter of 2009. But the Daimler investment was a turning point. “We were bailed out — by Daimler, not the government,” Musk says. Tesla had received and paid back an Energy Department loan. The loan was received in March, 2010.

6:47 p.m. — When it came to shopping the initial public offering, Musk says he found out Tesla could be polarizing. “Tesla is a company that seems to inspire love or hate,” he says. Investors were “rarely indifferent.” After the IPO, Musk says Tesla became one of the most shorted stocks on the Nasdaq — right up there with Skullcandy, Coinstar and Travelzoo. He hailed Toyota for joining with Tesla on the RAV4 electric and parting with its Fremont, Calif., factory that it operated jointly with GM. Today, it is Tesla’s factory.

6:55 p.m. — How Tesla created its Supercharger network, its high-speed chargers. Musk says it had been hoping another company would step up and install a network of high-speed electric-car chargers, but none did. Tesla was sending out teams of interns to scout locations at travel rest stops.

7:01 p.m. — The Gigafactory came about when Musk and his team realized there just wasn’t enough industry capacity to make the batteries that Tesla will need. Plus, most lithium-ion battery factories were aimed at supplying the electronics industry, not tailored to electric-car production. He says the Gigafactory will be capable of triple of the volume of what was expected. The party to celebrate its opening will come in July.

7:15 p.m.– The Model X crossover has been “challenging,” Musk says. “I need to fault myself for hubris in putting too much technology all at once into a product,” he says. He says he should have saved some of its most cool features for a version II or version III. The big problem at the moment: Making its signature feature, the gullwing doors over the second row, work correctly. “It’s a software problem. It’s figuring out how to interpret all the data from the sensors” and writing in the software in a way that knows how to open the doors under different circumstances. “Digging ourselves out of the hole” on that has been quite hard, he says. Two more software releases, which are usually sent wireless to the vehicles, are expected in the next month. “We will be at point where the doors are better than normal doors, as opposed to worse.” He added that anyone considering a Model X purchase should go ahead. “If you buy one now or soon, you will love the doors because the software will be right.”

7:23 p.m. — Musk says Nevada has put in $20 million so far for the battery Gigafactory, compared to $2 billion in investment so far by Tesla and its partners. “They are giving away nothing. It was basically bushes and desert,” he says. “It’s basically a 1% discount.”

7:39 p.m. — Musk closes the more than two hour history of Tesla by talking about how the real improvements in the future will come at the manufacturing level. “The true problem and difficulty is building the machine that makes the machine,” he says.

7:46 p.m. — A Nevada union representative criticizes Tesla for labor practices in building the Gigafactory. Musk says if Tesla had wanted to save money, it never would have built cars in California. And he noted other automakers not only build cars in states with cheaper labor costs, but other countries.

7:51 p.m. — Musk says Superchargers won’t be free for Model 3, its mass-market electric car next year, unless people buy an optional package that includes it. He says people should charge their cars where they charge their phones — not at a gas station. They need to value their time.

7:54 p.m. — Musk won’t rule out the possibility that someday Tesla made find a way to make electric aircraft, but not now. For one, he says he wants the company to stay focused. For the other, the energy density of batteries isn’t where it needs to be yet.

8:08 p.m. — Musk says no worries about the supply of lithum, used in Tesla batteries. “The nice thing about lithium is it’s extremely abundant on earth,” he says. In the next few years, Straubel says that Tesla is trying to find ways to reduce costs of lithium, but there have been no problems with supply.

8:18 p.m. — Eventually, Musk says he expects Tesla’s battery storage business, Tesla Energy, to have “roughly similar” revenue as the vehicle side.

8:40 p.m. — Musk says he’s already overdue to a board of directors meeting in closing the session.

Design Thinking News: Infosys Continues to Drive Design Thinking. Even Upwards.

The Economic Times, May 25, 2016

Infosys on ‘design thinking’ treadmill to get its top gear acclimatised with latest technology

It’s not just the 194,000-odd employees at India’s second largest software exporter who are being put through the paces.

In what would mark the first such instance in India’s $160-billion IT industry, board members at Infosys are now being trained and brought up to speed with “design thinking” -an industry parlance that refers to the practice of solving traditional tech problems using newer, different and innovative methods.

Board members at top companies across the world, especially in the technology industry, routinely go through training sessions to help them keep pace with the rapid changes across the technology landscape.

However, this would mark the first known instance in India’s tech industry where a company is proactively aligning the board with the vision of the company’s top management, as part of a broader strategy to bring about a cultural shift at a traditional outsourcing company where coders and engineers have been content with following orders of customers, without asking questions. The design thinking exercise is one of the cornerstones of CEO Vishal Sikka’s broader strategy for the company and he has actively pushed executives and employees at the company to embrace the exercise. To execute this strategy, Sikka has even sought help from external mentors such as computer science pioneer and legend Alan Kay, who over the past two years has held sessions with company executives and employees.

Infosys chairman R Seshasayee said the decision to train the board on design thinking was taken recently during the last financial year.

“The adoption of Design Thinking at Infosys has been very encouraging, and we can see the enthusiasm and energy with which employees are adopting this philosophy. The Infosys board was keen to embrace this approach that is getting deeply ingrained into the company’s DNA. We introduced the entire board to these concepts during the year and I have found the application of its principles in our course of business very refreshing and impactful,” said Infosys chairman R Seshasayee in an email to ET.

According to Infosys’ latest annual report, at least six board members including chairman R Seshasayee, board veteran and former Cornell University professor Jeffrey S Lehman, Biocon chief Kiran Mazumdar Shaw and Bank of Baroda chairman Ravi Venkatesan have all gone through what the company calls “immersion sessions” where they have been trained on design thinking. Each of these board members have gone through ex tensive sessions on design thinking that lasted for at least 3.5 hours, according to the annual report.

A person directly familiar with Sikka’s thinking said that the board has also been put through immersive sessions on areas such as Artificial Intelligence and that Sikka is actively trying to “acquaint the board with concepts around design thinking as he looks to unleash newer, more executable ideas at the board level.”

Infosys has already trained over 80,000 employees on design thinking and hopes to cover the entire company in the near term, according to its latest annual report.

The design thinking exercise comes at a time when Infosys is starting to show signs of a major turnaround in its fortunes and increasingly resembling its former bellwether self, having trumped top-tier rivals such as Tata Consultancy Services and Wipro for four consecutive quarters.

“Putting the board through design thinking is a must. Design thinking is the equivalent of Six Sigma for this generation. Until the boards understand what’s required to build for empathy and to understand the innovation process, they can not relate to the work required to deliver on innovation,” said Ray Wang, founder of enterprise research firm Constellation Research.

“Training the entire company including the leadership team on design thinking represents more than anything else a change in mindset for Infosys.However, Infosys needs to push change management in equal measure as training alone only gets you so far,” said Tom Reuner, managing director at HfS Research.

Daily Design Inspirations 28: Jeanne Liedtka on How to Think Like a Designer (#DailyDesignInspirations)

I learned Design Thinking from her. And she remains one of the stalwarts in the space of Design Thinking, as a teacher and a practitioner.

Jeanne has been involved in the corporate strategy field for over 30 years. She is a professor at the Darden Graduate School of Business at the University of Virginia, where she teaches both MBAs and executives and consults on innovation, organic growth and design thinking. Beginning her career as a strategy consultant for the Boston Consulting Group, she has served as Associate Dean of the MBA Program at Darden, Executive Director of the Batten Institute for Entrepreneurship and Corporate Innovation, and Chief Learning Officer at United Technologies Corporation.

Jeanne Liedtka’s model

Here she argues that learning to approach problems the way Designers do can be a useful way to spark innovation. (Original link from Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business)

HBR: How IDEO Designers Persuade Companies to Accept Change

May 17, 2016may16-17-hbr-012-culture-1200x675

Every design project extends beyond the brief. No matter how straightforward and discrete a project seems at first, it will unfold in the context of a complicated, networked, and messily human organization. That means that part of a designer’s job must be to design tools, conversations, experiences, and environments that help the organization embrace innovation and change. At IDEO, we think of this as designing interventions.

We approach intervention design in a variety of ways, depending on the shape and scale of the organization and the innovation we are working to enable. But every intervention involves designing experiences for a project’s stakeholders that go beyond logic and engage the emotions inherent in the question “Why should we change?”

Here are the three main tools we use:

Transformative empathy

When stakeholders are having trouble imagining things being different than they are, or when they are extremely removed from (and even judgmental of) their customers, the experience of being wholly immersed in somebody else’s perspective can free up their thinking. The desired outcome is that stakeholders come away from the experience in agreement about the challenge we are solving and with a felt understanding of why things need to change.

More than any organization I’ve worked with, Weight Watchers employees are in tune with their customers’ needs and feelings. That’s because so many of them are members. But even for them, over time, it’s easy to lose touch with the intimidation and anxiety new members feel the first time they cross the threshold of a Weight Watchers meeting.

A few years ago, Weight Watchers engaged IDEO to create a vision for the future, ­which often implies a digital future. However, our early research pointed to some real value in taking a hard look at the meeting, the central feature of the Weight Watchers experience. With that in mind, we designed an intervention for our client team: a visit to a mega­church in Dallas, TX. A mega­church shares qualities with a meeting – convening people with a shared goal, while also triggering similar insecurities: “Do I belong? How should I behave?” We hoped it would remind our team of New Yorkers what it feels like to arrive at a Weight Watchers meeting for the first time.

Our hypothesis proved correct. The IDEO and client teams looked for every excuse possible to get out of attending the service at the mega­church. “There’s so much traffic, is it really worth it?” “We can just stream it on our phones!” We all but turned around on our way there. But we made it, and were surprised by how embraced we felt as we crossed the threshold. Even though we were late, parishioners greeted us at the door, provided us programs for the service, and guided us to an available pew – with no questioning looks, which was our unspoken fear. We all left with a new perspective, and without saying anything to each other, we knew we had to redesign the experience of showing up at a Weight Watchers meeting.

The transformative empathy intervention shifted the focus of the design challenge to not only include Weight Watchers’ digital future, but also the meeting room.


When stakeholders don’t feel capable of changing the way things work today, and when there are naysayers among them, we involve them throughout the design process — in questions, prototypes, and iterations along the way. The process of co-design should make everyone responsible for approving and implementing the new vision feel invested and confident in the design.

Interbank, a Peruvian retail bank, engaged IDEO to design a more accessible banking experience for the emerging middle class in Peru. One pivotal moment of co­design occurred during a day of live prototyping in a retail branch.

Our prototype was based on a question: Will customers trust a line­free experience of waiting? In other words: if I’m not physically in line, do I trust the line? To answer this question, we worked closely with Interbank staff, including senior leaders and tellers, to transform the bank from a room full of stanchions and queues to a lounge area with soft seating and a digital queuing system. We then watched the day unfold together, testing our hypothesis that people would welcome a break from standing in line.

Customers not only appreciated the new experience, but also used the time to talk to each other and to look at the educational materials on the coffee tables. They were less agitated and even friendly to tellers once it was their turn. At the end of the day, Interbank leaders, our core team, and the bank staff debriefed about the day.

Shared vision

When we need the support of a large and disparate group of stakeholders – perhaps more than we can involve in a transformative empathy experience or in co-design – we create a vision of the future that brings stakeholders together around where they are going and helps them imagine what it might look like. A compelling shared vision fosters a sense of belonging and inspires a group of people to create change together.

Connecticut Public Broadcasting Network (CPBN) came to IDEO in early 2014 to create a future vision for their organization. As they approached their 50-year anniversary, they looked out at the next 50 years and knew they needed to make some big changes – but what, and how?

While CPBN is a relatively small organization, they sit within the national web of public media, and have multiple businesses from radio to education, each with a complex funding model. This makes it easy to get lost in the logic of what it will take for CPBN to embrace a future vision ­ but also all the more important. A shared vision is key to building a more resilient organization, one that’s primed to keep pace with an increasing rate of change.

During our project, we turned an open space at CPBN headquarters into a gallery that displayed work-in-progress components of the vision, including quotes from Connecticut residents, a draft purpose statement, and an audience promise. We invited everyone in the organization as well as board members and outside partners to walk through the gallery and participate in creating the vision. This led to a healthy dose of debate and discussion, enabling the organization to arrive at a strong and shared stance for its future: to be the bravest public media organization, exploring topics in ways no private organization can, and empowering its audience to make the world a more extraordinary place.

As you try out these approaches, remember that no single intervention is likely to change a system. You’ll need to employ different approaches at different stages of any project, depending on the stakeholders and the challenges involved. And don’t forget that intervention design is about emotion as much as logic; when we are creating something new to the world, by definition there isn’t enough evidence to get us where we want to go. Successful interventions are felt experiences, above all, so identify the emotional outcomes you hope to achieve, and then design a way to reach them.

Ashlea Powell is a Senior Director at IDEO New York with a background in writing and design research.