With so much being said and written about Design Thinking, have you ever wondered how it really works, and what comes out of it? Especially in the Indian context. In this edition of our quarterly newsletter, TinkerLabs is delighted to share some live stories of our work in the Design Thinking space. Over the last 3 months, TinkerLabs has used Design Thinking to build a sales strategy for Microsoft Surface, developed solutions for human trafficking prevention with Save The Children India, built capabilities for digital transformation at Mindtree, helped family business owners to innovate at SP Jain, re-imagined architecture of the future with Kapadia associates and helped students from IIM Indore and IIM Sambhalpur crack complex business problems through an immersive Design Thinking workshop

Microsoft was looking for a market entry strategy for its Surface series of devices in a niche market of engineering institutes in India.
Even though Microsoft Surface offered combined functionality of a laptop and a tablet, it left many customers confused, with no clear distinction from the two.
Also, given its premium pricing, it was not a natural choice for the Indian academic sector.
TinkerLabs' approach-Understand the user: 
We started by building in-depth understanding of an engineering professor's work life- the various activities they are involved in, emerging trends in their work styles, any latent/un-expressed needs or expectations.
How did we do it?
We sat through lectures, lab sessions, and tutorial sessions of multiple professors at IITs and regional institutes. We conducted in-depth qualitative interviews, and shadowed them in their pre and post class work.
What did we learn?
We learned that the engineering education system in India is shifting towards a learner centric approach as opposed to a teaching centric approach. With an imperative to equip the students with new age problem solving skills, leading institutes are trying to adopt the Flipped Classroom method. While the approach is promising, it comes with its unique pedagogical and logistical challenges. For example, creating multimedia content like videos, whiteboard animations etc., ensuring consumption of this content, and managing scale in mentored problem shooting sessions.
What did we do?
We worked with the Microsoft applications team to identify use-cases and scenarios in the flipped classroom methodology which could be enabled by the hardware and software capabilities of Microsoft Surface like wireless projection, digital pen for hand written annotations, screencasting etc.
We curated these into a 2 hour hands-on workshops for engineering faculty members. These workshops were conducted by at IIT Roorkee, IIT Chennai, IIT Guwahati, IIT Kharagpur, IIT Indore and MNIT Bhopal.
The content and conduct was refined iteratively over these workshops to fit the faculty members' requirements. Once stable, we passed on the workshop kit to the Microsoft sales team, which is now successfully conducting these sessions all over India. They are receiving positive reviews from the attendees, followed by large orders for institutional sales of Surface devices.
The Design Thinking Edge!
By focusing on the end user first, Microsoft was able to find an appropriate value proposition and positioning for the new technology. They earned the customers' trust, and the early adopters are now their brand ambassadors.

In Jan 2017, Tech Mahindra assumed a new brand identity "Connected World Connected Experiences". The marketing team wanted to explore how this new identity should manifest across their marketing channel.
Business models focused on customer experience (CX) are gaining prominence across sectors. So much so that the phenomenon has given rise to a new term 'experience economy'. And Information Technology has been a leading proponent of the same. Keeping pace with the trend, Tech Mahindra re-branded itself from an efficiency enabler to an experience enabler.
TinkerLabs approach- build a common vision 
We curated a workshop for senior members from different sub-divisions of marketing- client relationships, influencer marketing, competency marketing and digital/social marketing. Agenda was threefold:

1) Build a shared understanding of 'Why CX, Why Design Thinking'
2) Create a journey map of clients' engagement with Tech M
3) Build ideas to showcase Tech M's focus on experience across touch points
What happened on ground?
We started by painting a broad business landscape for Tech M- how their client organizations are trying to adapt to evolving customer needs, and how design thinking is an enabler in this. (TinkerLabs has been working with Pre-Sales, Consulting, and Delivery teams of Tech Mahindra for over a year to build internal capabilities to support the clients in this endeavor)
Then the participants mapped their clients’ experience journeys and identified numerous opportunities to
1) Fix their clients’ concerns
2) Wow them with connected digital experience
Creativity techniques like 'assume superpowers' and 'think like a child' were sued to build creative ideas across channels like digital/social, on-ground events, industry knowledge reports etc. Using an integrated approach, they were able to identify a clear strategy for consistent messaging of their new identity.
What did we achieve?
Using an integrated approach, they were able to identify a clear strategy for consistent messaging of their new identity.
The Design Thinking Edge!
By placing the end user in the center, we were able to build a common excitement among the marketing team to deliver joyful experiences to their clients. We believe this shared excitement is even more powerful than the shared understanding!
  • Author

    I know many design agencies who are great at product design, but making sense of design thinking in the business context is not everyone's cup of tea. And that's where I think TinkerLabs did a great job. We could clearly see the evolving business landscape, and figure out how our brand as an experience focused IT company needs to evolve with that!

    Indraneel Ganguli, Global Head Marketing, Tech Mahindra

  • Author

    TinkerLabs simplified the whole Design Thinking philosophy for us with relevant examples and exercises; and helped the team to clearly define how it should manifest across our marketing channels. In a span of 2.5 hours, that was a lot achieved!

    Meenu Bagla, Vice President Marketing, Tech Mahindra


How to equip and support future leadership for an IT services organization to deliver digital transformation for their clients


As part of the ‘Digital Water Walkers’ program, next generation leaders of Mindtree were being upskilled on their journey to assuming senior leadership positions in their organisation. Digital transformation being a key agenda, design thinking was identified as an enabler philosophy.

TinkerLabs approach- let them dive right in

These were experienced professionals we were supposed to be working with. From our past experience, we knew that (wo)men of action like action. Also, that they appreciate concepts, but itch to go beyond concepts and see things, in action. They are keen to draw contrasts and parallels between new concepts and their existing work styles. So, a Design Thinking experience for them, had to be ‘real’. We curated a 2-day hands-on workshop for them, where they would apply design thinking on live challenges proposed by clients.


What happened on ground?

We started with a series of introductory webinars, followed by a 2-day experiential workshop, and wrapped it up with a webinar series on best practices, and success & failure case studies on Design Thinking in the IT space. The workshop’s key focus was design thinking for IT applications and not just a generic introduction to the design thinking process. To gain deeper insight into the application of design thinking, two projects with P&G and BigBasket were taken up as part of the workshop. With live involvement from clients, the workshop experience became richer and more real for the participants.

Participants were pushed out of their classroom environment and into the field. They interacted with actual customers and end users. They judiciously followed the steps of the design thinking framework and arrived at innovative solutions which were then presented to the clients directly.

What did we achieve?

A Leadership team well equipped with the design thinking mantra to navigate Mindtree through the upcoming challenges.

The Design Thinking Edge!

It’s not just about what someone CAN do, but what he/she is EXCITED about doing. By the end of the workshop, having experienced the high of user-centred design innovation, the team was raring to put it ‘in action’.

  • I appreciated the hands-on exercise during the workshop, going through the process, doing it ourselves and getting a chance to present it to the end business partner. The way I look at a problem after the workshop has changed. If I could think of X number of solutions earlier, I can think of X+5 solutions now. I now try and get to the bottom of the problem using the 5 Why’s framework.

    Ravinder Kumar | Mindtree


How to increase the impact and scale of programs for human trafficking prevention, by building innovation capabilities in the team.


Save The Children India (STCI)  is a non-profit organization established in 1988, which envisions India as a Child-Friendly Nation. It has been working towards the empowerment of the underprivileged women and children through its many health, vocational training and education programs. We engaged and worked with the internal team at STCI, towards understanding and redefining the organizational work flow.

TinkerLabs Approach- understand the user  

While the STCI team was introduced to the Design Thinking framework, we at TinkerLabs were trying to understand STCI’s organizational functioning from their experiences while working at STCI. A thorough understanding of their system and the stakeholders involved, helped us identify four major work areas- urban prevention, rural prevention, prosecution and advocacy. We divided the team into groups, ensuring a dynamic mix of members from different departments within the organization. Every team owned one problem area and worked towards the final solution.

What happened on ground?

We kick started with well-planned research activities spread across Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune and Sangli (STCI majorly operates from these major centres). Building upon the research insights, brainstorming sessions were structured leading to large buckets of ideas. These ideas were then prioritized based on the overall impact on the system at large and taken ahead to prototype. Every prototype was tested with the stakeholders and their feedbacks were recorded. Prototypes were in the form of posters, campaigns, videos, meetings which could be built and tested quickly. There were clear directions towards implementation of ideas that worked well. Presently, the STCI team is working on scaling these solutions to the real scenarios.

What did we achieve?

Guided the internal team at the organization in identifying and prototyping the quick fixes as well as the larger strategic directional changes. Built a strong understanding of the organization within the team. Every member now knows and understands each other’s role in the organization. Through this project, we are the first design thinking company in India to create design thinking content and collaterals in Hindi.

The Design Thinking edge!

By empathizing with the end user, STCI as an organization has developed clarity on the value and experience that they wish to deliver. A successful mapping of the user’s experience in terms of before-during-after the service; had led to a realization of change in the internal planning and approach by the organization. Having lived this process, every member of the organization is now, inherently connected to the end user that each one of them is working towards. The STCI team as a whole is working towards delivering a continuous support towards empowering women to dream and achieve.

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Testimonial by Jyoti Nale, Program Head

Kapadia 2

A blindfold navigation experience was designed by the members of TinkerLabs to enhance the architect’s sensitivity towards a blind person.

Kapadia Associates, a 25 year old award winning architecture firm, was looking for answers to questions related to company's future vision:
What should they do differently in the next 25 years?
How can grow into a dominant player in their industry?
Kiran Kapadia, the head architect of Kapadia Associates, decided to give his team an unconventional gift on the firm’s 25th Anniversary- a Design Thinking workshop! The leadership team of this multi-award winning firm has innovation integrated at the heart of their activities. In their quest for sustained innovation, they stumbled upon Design Thinking and reached out to TinkerLabs to share the principles and trends of design thinking with their entire team.
TinkerLabs Approach: make end user the hero again!
For us at TinkerLabs, Design Thinking is all about understanding the various layers of the end user's behavior, personality, surroundings, and expectations, followed by exploring and refining ideas; till the time we are able to deliver a joyful experience to the user. However, we have seen that even with the right intentions, teams across disciplines like technology, marketing, architecture, often tend to get so absorbed in the technicalities of their work that the end user perspective begins to get lost. We decided to fix just that, and build/revive a user-centered culture at Kapadia Associates.
What happened on ground?
We curated a simple hands-on exercise where these experienced architects were to design a seamless navigation experience of their office premise for a blind person. As expected, the experts took to it with ease, and started developing concepts using braille and protruding corners. As they were settling into their comfort (technical expertise) zone, we suddenly arrested the exercise mid-way. We blindfolded a fraction of them and asked them to walk around, and got the others to play guides, quickly followed by a role swap.
When the architects were asked to reflect on their brief 'blind' experience, they seemed to emote a real blind person's feelings. They spoke about issues beyond functional needs, like the need to feel independent, the need to not feel like being treated differently. With this underpinning, when the architects started ideating again, the theme of multi-sensorial design picked up steam. Soon, they had developed unique solutions based on fragrances and sounds.
What did we achieve?
Developed a clear understanding of “What is Design Thinking” and “Why is it relevant for us” among the architecture team. We also helped the senior leadership identify upcoming projects where they could use different principles and techniques design thinking.
The Design Thinking Edge! 
By experiencing the vulnerability of a blind person, and then building creative ideas to solve for their needs, they discovered two distinct answers for their company's innovation needs- 1) build advanced capabilities for sensing unsaid-unmet user needs and insights; and 2) leveraging multi-sensorial design to deliver unique and joyful experiences!


How to equip MBA students, the future business leaders, with skills of creative problem solving and innovation management?


Business education in India is largely analytical in nature. This gives students the confidence to handle diverse information and take logical decisions. However, business problems in the real world also need us to be intuitive at times, be able to try new things and figure out solutions with informed trial and error. This is the realm of Innovation. And in today’s economy, where customer expectations and business trends evolve so rapidly, the industry is increasingly looking for that ability.

TinkerLabs approach- let managers be designers 

Design as a discipline puts an interesting mix of methods and tools in MBA students’ hands, which allows them to build creative solutions to ill-defined and complex business situations. So that's what we did- crafted hands-on experiences for MBA students to think and work like designers on live challenges, build innovative solutions, and develop their own creative confidence.

What happened on ground?

It started with the TinkerLabs team introducing the concepts and framework of design thinking through interactive and fun activities. The flavour of the workshop then quickly turned from learning to doing with the commencement of the Inspiration Hunt, for which the students were divided into groups and assigned challenges. These challenges were modeled around their live experiences as MBA students- like how to re-imagine the library of future, how to maximize peer-to-peer learning in extra-curricular space, how to enable low-income families on campus to save more, and so on.

The workshop spanned for two weeks, allowing the students to immerse themselves in the process completely. The teams were allocated mentors, who guided them through the design thinking journey. They were familiarized with various research methodologies in order to develop insights about the challenges.

Having interacted with the stakeholder, defined the problem and narrowed down various influential parameters, the teams had come up with a variety of innovative solutions to solve the challenges. Feasibility and viability of the solutions were then tested and finally, the prototypes were presented to the mentors.

What did we achieve?

Future Managers equipped with the tools of design thinking capable of tackling complex business challenges with innovative solutions.

The Design Thinking edge!

As we read reflection stories of various students after the workshop, we saw how they had drawn connections between design, innovation, and their lives. It was heart warming to see students kicked about managing professional as well as personal aspirations with a 'design thinking' approach.

How to develop a capacity to drive and manage innovation, in second and third generation entrepreneurs of family run businesses in India?
SP Jain, a leading business school in India, runs a special management program for family run businesses- PGPFMB. Students typically attend classes for one week in a month, and for the rest of the month go back to work in their family businesses. Apart from conventional management courses like marketing, finance, operations and HR, SP Jain wanted to run a course on innovation for this unique audience.
TinkerLabs Approach- relate it to their dreams
As a starting point, we tried to build an understanding of these students' dreams and ambitions- why do they join this MBA program, what are the realities of their family run businesses, what are they trying to achieve there?
From our interviews with faculty and students, and our secondary research on their admissions forms, we identified some broad themes in their ambitions- 1) build process level efficiencies in order to scale, 2) build their own brands instead of generic trade, and 3) diversification by launching new products and services.
Based on this understanding, we crafted for them three hands-on Design Thinking exercises, each focusing on one of the above themes.
What happened on ground?
For each theme, we identified a design challenge for the participants to work on, related to their on-campus experience at SP Jain.
1) For process optimization, we took the challenge of optimizing assignment gradation and grievance redressal system of PGPFMB
2) For the new product/service development challenge, we asked them to focus on the cafeteria experience on campus.
3) For the branding exercise, we modeled the challenge around building a new tea brand for millennials.
Participants followed a similar design process for all the three challenges- starting with end user empathy, followed by opportunity spotting and ideation, and finally iterative prototyping of solutions. In less than 2 days of rigorous hands-on exercise, they came up with powerful solutions- a software dashboard system integrating LMS and emails for speedy interaction between students and faculty (challenge 1), a new token system for service improvement at the cafeteria, and a new mixer jar for quicker turn around of milk shakes (challenge 2), and three different tea brand concepts inspired by the millennials' need for inspiration and self-connect in their busy lives.
What did we achieve?
We established a clear message in the participants' minds- design thinking as a methodology can enable and hasten innovation, irrespective of the kind of business challenge. Also, because the design challenges were crafted keeping in mind their real business scenarios, it was simple for them to relate their learnings from the exercise with their real life work.
The Design Thinking Edge! 
By keeping our design thinking exercises focused on tangible outcomes, we were able to leave the students with not just a conceptual understanding, but excitement and confidence in the methodology. Here is what a participant had to say:
  • As students of SP Jain's Family Business program, we are always looking for clear practical learnings that we can go back and apply in our business. And TinkerLabs' workshop on Design Thinking was definitely one. I feel like I have a simple mantra for innovation now, be it branding or process improvement or diversification, anything!

    Keyur Mehta, Savvy Care and Cosmetics Pvt Ltd

Chitkara University, a leading non-profit private university in Chandigarh was looking to create awareness about their newly launched School of Art & Design. The key challenges were:
- How do they create excitement about Design as a field of study

- How do they generate interest in new age design courses like Visual Design and New Media, over conventional design courses like fashion and product

Chitkara University was established in 2010 and in less than a decade the University has emerged as one of the top private universities in North India. The University has 15+departments with  School of Planning and Architecture being one of the most popular faculty. Leading to this success the University launched the School of Art and Design in 2016. Though the Programs are running successfully they were looking to increase the quality of future applicants through a better informed and well aware applicant pool who understand the Chitkara approach to design as a problem solving methodology.

TinkerLabs' approach: Redefine Design
Design as a field is about doing things and being hands on, therefore we created awareness about the courses offered at Chitkara through a learning experience which was action oriented. Instead of telling the students directly about the programs at Chitkara and forcing information we instilled a sense of discovery and curiosity in the students towards Design as a problem-solving technique.

The students were first shown some examples of everyday scenarios where effective design intervention was done beyond the normal fields of fashion and products. The conventional myths were first broken for the students to look at design beyond just aesthetics. After this a design challenge was conducted where students created concepts on ‘A play activity for animals’. Connections were then drawn between the concepts that they created to the applied design courses they can pursue at Chitkara University.


What did we achieve
The experience driven approach left the students more confident about pursuing new fields of design courses which Chitkara was offering because now they were able to actually envision themselves as professionals in these fields.

The Design Thinking Edge!
It was not just a pool of well informed applicants for Chitkara Design School that we created, but kindled the spirit in 500 students about becoming future design innovation leaders in the country!

Want to learn how to play the guitar?

  Hey! Did you make these?

Why didn’t you tell you could paint like that!

I wanted to learn to code.

Everyone wishes to learn something. You have always wanted to join that class but were either short of money or time. Now here is what you didn’t know. Your neighbour is that guitar guru who has his/her own YouTube channel or your casual friend at the mess just won a code challenge worth Rs.1Lakh. You already know that person you want to learn from. Infinity is an informal club, which brings together such people. This was one of the ideas born out of the Design Thinking Community based challenge that was given to the students of IIM Sambhalpur.


Another tangible solution that emerged from this workshop was that of the team challenging the odds of empowering low-income families. The solution emphasized on increasing their time utilization and solving the money crunch faced by these families.

A little car in a far-off campus.                        

A student with some time, money & a wish to travel  

A guard with time & willingness to learn driving.

That is all they needed to put together a Design Thinking Solution. The students educated these people during their spare time. Once equipped with the required driving skills, their services could be used by students to travel. All this problem solving was accompanied by the intention of fulfilling their dream which is to learn driving.

What we achieved?

Many tangible solutions to the given challenges were obtained by the students by following the design thinking process diligently. TinkerLabs thus equipped the problem solvers of tomorrow with the tools of design thinking.

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