Opher, innovation, design thinking and business

Opher Yom-Tov, Customer Centered Design & Innovation, BT Financial Group, Australia from Creativeinnovation on Vimeo.

While I was at home in Sydney for a week, I had the honour of chatting with Opher Yom-Tov, the ex-manager of IDEO Shanghai who now works for Westpac’s wealth management arm, BT as the customer centred design and innovation manager. We spoke about all sorts of things, from the weather to . Some of Opher’s insights that made the greatest impressions were:

  • Design thinking needs room in a business in order to work. It needs the support of the powers that be (i.e. have the blessings of the CEO, or someone on the board of directors) in order to be given the time, money and other resources to flourish. It is harder to get design thinking in the door if the only person in favour of it is not being given any permission or resources to work on it.
  • Failure teaches you something important. Opher said this after I had been talking about how I had to get my major project exactly right as it was my offering to potential employees and a summary of four years of work. He explained that in the relatively new space of design thinking, if you try something and it fails, share this knowledge and it will help the whole community narrow down what works and what doesn’t, as…
  • No-one, not even IDEO has nailed the concept of design thinking (despite the CEO, Tim Brown, writing a whole book about it). We are all feeling our way, learning through trial and error, and it’s a slow process. Therefore…
  • Be your own design thinker. Have your own theories on the topic. There are no real experts in the field because it is so young, and because the point of design thinking is that everyone’s input is just as valuable.
  • Think of many alternatives, then iterate and refine. You can only see what works by putting it into practice. Be quick and dirty, come up with lots of ideas and see how they behave when put to the test (talk to people, make mock-ups, ask for feedback, then do it all again with the next version).

Opher’s top three tips for innovative projects are:

  1. Journey together. Have  a team that starts from the start and ends at the end, together. That means a multi-disciplinary team and no outsourcing.
  2. Experiment and iterate. Try, fail and try again.
  3. It’s all about the users! Take a look at IDEO’s HCD (Human Centred Design) toolkit. Opher believes that most businesses focus too much on their business purpose and technology opportunities in order to be financially successful. If they focus on their customers, not only are they shown to have higher returns, but their customers are happy too!

As you can see from the video, Opher is a very switched on guy and he is able to put the fairly abstract concepts of design thinking and innovation in business into plain language, something that I have always struggled with. He is also a people person; he’s easy to talk too and he knows the innovation sector like the back of his hand. He has given me some great leads in Sydney and Melbourne. I have many phone calls to make and emails to write. Thank you Opher!


Government support of design in business

‘The Premier’s Design Awards’ competition is now open!

“The Premier’s Design Awards have a unique and prestigious position in Victoria. They illustrate the latest in design thinking both from Victorian designers and Victorian businesses that use design, demonstrating excellence and innovation.

The Premier’s Design Awards recognise and reward excellence and leadership in the use of design, where design has been used effectively, sustainably and strategically to innovate, increase market share, boost productivity and/or boost competiveness and exports.”

If you fulfill the criteria, please enter and tell us how you go.

Socially Sustainable Design

This year I will be looking at socially sustainable design (SSD) and it’s applications. I define SSD as:

Socially sustainable design empowers individuals and groups to advocate, facilitate, catalyse and realise positive change in the present and future of their community. It provides long-term solutions to problems, not quick fixes, and does not sacrifice environmental or financial sustainability in order to do so.

Socially sustainable designers consider as many stakeholders as possible, and have an in depth understanding of the people most affected. Innovators work collaboratively and creatively across disciplines, with humility and lack of prejudice. They use this knowledge and understanding to find a solution that is relevant to the main stakeholders and one that will work for them over time. 

I will be investigating the idea that SSD and financial stability can go hand in hand. Or maybe I’m just trying to convince myself that it can!

I want to look at the relationship between social sustainability, industrial design and business (whether for profit or not).

You could say social enterprise currently sits between social sustainability and business. How could design jump on board? Likewise, how could social sustainability be applied to your average design consultancy or team? Is there anything existing that goes into all three spheres?