Ideation workshops & a design sprint for an automotive client
The rapid prototyping phase of a multi-part innovation project.
This is the second part of a two-part case study. You can learn more about the initial research stage of this project in part one.
The captive finance division for a globally recognised automotive group. With over 20 million customers and nearly 17,000 employees, the company serves a wide variety of finance products and automotive brands.
Having helped the client to see exactly where frictions were happening across the customer journey in our previous 'friction mapping' phase, they now needed us to develop and test some solutions to those frictions.
In terms of the end-user, we focussed on customers for two different finance products. We also had a secondary remit to help up-skill our client stakeholders in rapid innovation, prototyping and user testing techniques.
I was the lead facilitator on all of the key creative workshops with the client. I then led a small, cross-disciplinary design sprint team in the creation and testing of the prototype. The team included project stakeholders from within the client's organisation too.
Having helped the client to chart key customer frictions across the customer journey in our initial 'friction mapping' project, our next task was to turn these into concrete actions to actually improve the customer experience.
To do this we used our agency's rapid prototyping framework that enabled us to hone in on a key area of focus and then to quickly ideate, prototype and test solutions for the frictions we'd uncovered. The objectives of this phase were to...
Identify a priority area
Based on the customer frictions we'd uncovered, plus our understanding of the client's core business objectives, what theme or journey stage should we focus on to make the biggest impact?
Based on our chosen priority area, to rapidly generate and evaluate potential solutions to the related frictions. Ultimately this would help us select a target for our design sprint.
Test and validate
Using our shortlisted ideas, we'd run a 5-day Google design sprint to quickly design and test low fidelity concepts to help us prove or disprove our key assumptions. We'd then decide whether to persevere with, pivot or kill the concept.
Deciding our area of focus
Following the friction mapping playback, we worked with our key client stakeholders to explore and target an initial area of development within the customer journey through an immersive 2-hour prioritisation workshop. Our goal here was to identify one specific part of the customer journey to become our focus for the next stage of design.
To do this, we considered the following...
Where were the densest clusters of customer frictions across the journey?
Where were the 'deal breaking' moments of high anxiety for the customer?
Which frictions were most closely aligned with the critical business priorities?
What 'low hanging fruit' could have the most impact for the least effort?
What factors were, and were not, within the direct control of the client?
Where could we make the biggest impact within the competitive landscape?
As a result of the workshop we collectively agreed to focus on the crucial phase towards the end of the customer journey that contained multiple frictions and high levels of anxiety. It also closely aligned to the strategic goals of the business.
Rapidly identifying opportunities and generating solutions
The challenge around this journey stage became the focus of an intensive one-day ideation workshop with five key client stakeholders and members of our agency's creative team. The purpose was to help us identify a testable concept for a design sprint and also to upskill the stakeholders in rapid innovation.
Here, I led the workshop, facilitating all of the key exercises and working with the participants. This was a highly structured, strictly time-boxed exercise that required careful facilitation to keep on track. Here's how we approached it:
1. Friction review
We started the day by collectively reviewing all of the frictions we'd identified within our chosen journey phase. We dot-voted the key themes we thought had the most potential.
2. Show and tell
For inspiration, we discussed examples where we'd seen problems like these tackled elsewhere with rival brands. We also showcased some 'wildcard' examples from other industries.
3. 'How might we...?'
We split the group into three teams. Each team took one of our prioritized themes and rapidly created dozens of 'how might we...?' (HMW) design prompts around it.
4. Rapid ideation
Each team then selected a couple of their strongest HWMs and generated a variety of top-line solutions for the prompts. Each team pitched their best ideas to the group and we dot-voted the strongest ideas to take forward.
Here our groups used a range of custom canvas tools to explore and evolve their ideas into fleshed-out concepts and to evaluate their potential impact. Each team then pitched their vision back to the group.
6. Final vote
At the end of the pitching session, we regrouped and performed one final 'dot vote' to select the one idea that would become the subject of our first design sprint.
We finished the day with a clear target for our first sprint and two follow-up sprints, plus a rich backlog of ideas to return to and explore in the future. The client stakeholders also really enjoyed the day and came away with hands-on experience of some powerful innovation techniques.
Testing a high-level concept in just 5 days
Here we took the top-voted idea from the ideation workshop into a slightly modified 5-day Google design sprint.
Working alongside a designer and project manager from our agency, plus key client stakeholders, we rapidly researched, designed and built a low-fidelity, conceptual prototype. This was then tested with 5 existing customers of the brand.
Here's how the sprint was structured:
Day 1: Framing the challenge
As the workshop facilitator, I worked collaboratively with the stakeholders to define our challenge statement for the sprint, to identify the crucial assumptions we needed to test and to map out the specific user journey.
Day 2: Research
We conducted 'ask the expert' interviews to better understand the user experience and undertook desk research to investigate the marketplace. During this time our project manager also began recruitment for our user interviews.
Day 3: Ideation and storyboarding
I worked closely with the designer and PM to generate a variety of different concepts and solutions. These were refined, sketched out and, ultimately, storyboarded to give us the basis for the user tests we were to perform on day 5.
Day 4: Asset creation
Whilst the designer worked to turn the rough sketches into a testable prototype, I wrote the copy for the designs, scripted the user interviews and began creating the playback deck for the client.
Day 5: User testing and synthesis
I lead on 5 x 45-minute user interviews, conducted remotely over Google Hangouts. The day culminated in an hour-long team synthesis session where we pulled together all of the key insights.
Reporting and playback
I created a detailed playback report in the form of a keynote deck, outlining the steps of the project and playing back the assumptions we'd validated and invalidated, along with recommended next steps.
At the end of the week, we were able to answer all of our key questions for the sprint and deliver on the challenge statement.
We were able to validate 4 of our 5 assumptions, invalidate the fifth one, and proved that there was indeed a clear customer desire for the concept. We also captured valuable user insights and reactions to further shape the project.
This enabled us to confidently recommend to the client that the project should be further advanced into the MVP stage of full product development.
The big picture
At the start of the project, the client came to us with a clear challenge to help them map out and identify frictions across their customer journey, and then to help them rapidly innovate on those frictions.
Over the course of several months' research, workshopping, design and testing, we were able to clearly deliver on that brief. Here's what we achieved:
We mapped the key customer frictions
We produced a highly detailed design artifact that showed the client exactly where the biggest frictions occurred across the user journey, and where they should focus their efforts.
We gathered extensive user insights
We captured 35+ hours of original audio and video interviews with customers and staff. We also captured valuable survey data from key audience demographics.
We documented critical internal challenges
We identified numerous internal business frictions ranging from technological issues, communications breakdowns and training needs to challenges with partners and suppliers.
We helped the client prioritise their approach
By documenting the volume and severity of customer frictions across the journey, we could clearly demonstrate where the priority areas lay.
We generated a backlog of solutions to explore
Through our ideation workshops, we generated numerous ideas and opportunities for new features, products and improvements, all of which could be further explored in future design projects.
We built and tested a prototype
Through our 5-day design sprint, we rapidly turned our concepts into tangible prototypes that were tested with real customers.
The project has been an overwhelming success and has led to a fruitful ongoing relationship with the client. Here are some of the ways our work left a lasting impact:
Our 'Friction Mapping' work has become a key element in the client's ongoing customer strategy. It is now actively being used to shape the products and services they have in development.
We helped introduce new ways of working to the business, collaborating with key stakeholders to teach them new skills around innovation and customer-centric research.
As a result of the project, we have continued to win new business with the client. We are currently moving the existing ideas through the product development process and are exploring new opportunities across the business.
Reflecting on the project
This project was a huge undertaking, spanning several months of work and resulting in huge quantities of data. The effort involved in synthesising all of that information into actionable insights taught me a lot about the importance of lean research and about the need to store and organise our research efficiently.
This was invaluable in helping us approach future research projects and was a key factor in how I helped to shape our ReOps (Research Operations) strategy going forward.