"Life is like a box of chocolates" Design Thinking with CBA and Rocky Bay

"Innovation is a customer-focused initiative challenging the status quo" Poppy Rouse - Innovation Manager Not-for-profits & Schools. 

This sentiment was ever present throughout the day and it all started with a briefing from the Commonwealth Bank first thing in the morning at the University Club of Western Australia.

Three Bloom volunteers joined the Design Thinking Commonwealth Bank team for the day. Our task was to facilitate a workshop with disability service provider Rocky Bay who have had substantial growth in recent years and are now one of the largest in here in Perth.

The workshop comes in light of recent changes in the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) which has been stated as "the biggest change to the industry since Medicare" by experts in the sector. Therefore making the industry primed for disruption as the sector prepares itself for a shift in how they operate internally and with their customers.

The NDIS is a market-style system where government funding will no longer go directly to disability service providers, but instead to the client, who can choose the providers they want. Now providers like Rocky Bay will have to bring customers to the heart of their design. Innovation is inherent in everyone and Bloom and The Commonwealth Bank were eager to see the big ideas that they could come up with.

The workshop saw a massive shift in mindset throughout the day. There was an openness to change and entrepreneurship. Rocky Bay was fortunate enough to have a large portion of their staff in the room an enormous 150 to be exact! This allowed them to have those who care for disability patience all the way through to the CEO. Diversity in thinking and process among the team unlocks potential. Being able to create meaningful innovations, you need to know your users and care about their lives.

Stage 1: Empathise

Empathy is the centrepiece of the human design process and the ability to explore deep and meaningfully the physical and emotional needs of your customers will save you a lot of time. Especially when your design thinking workshop only goes for one day. As a design thinker, the problems you are trying to solve are rarely your own—they are those of a particular group of people; in order to design for them, you must gain empathy for who they are and what is important to them. Each table had 10 to 12 people to explore their issues with plenty of paper and stick notes. When it came to the specific techniques used for empathising this is what went down.

1.     Observe 

As much as possible the workshop participants were asked to recount times they observed the actions of their clients. Some of the most powerful realisations come from noticing a disconnect between what someone says and what he or she does.


2.     Engage

Most people may consider engaging with customer to be ‘interviewing’ but it should really feel more like a conversation. It is important to ask “Why?” to uncover deeper meaning. Engagement can come through both short ‘intercept’ encounters and longer scheduled conversations.


3.     Watch and Listen

Certainly, you can, and should, combine observation and engagement. Ask someone to show you how they complete a task. Have them physically go through the steps, and talk you through why they are doing what they do. Ask them to vocalise as they perform tasks what is going through their mind.

All of these points can be covered in one simple map (above). What do your customers think, say, feel and do? This simple resource which was spread throughout the room for Rocky Bay employees to fill with their sticky notes and sharpies. What a beautiful sight to see a sea of colour filled with challenges waiting to be narrowed down in the next stage.

Stage 2: Define

Framing the right problem is the only way to create the right solution.

“A problem well defined is problem half solved” Charles Kettering, the famed inventor and head of research for GM. Probably one of the most important parts of tackling your problem is looking at your scope. To avoid leaving the room of 150 somethings overwhelmed Poppy conducted the helm with introducing the statement “How might we”. 

How might we give our clients an experience something they have seen before. How might we increase awareness of a particular disability service and how might we ensure that all those who require a particular service have access to it. This is where it is important to introduce focus by reaching for a goal that is going to excite and delight your customers’ needs and wants. 

For a lot of the tables the constant thing that kept coming up was simplification. Simplify how you interact with our disability clients. Simplify the user experience from start to finish. Simplify the introduction of the NDIS because this concept is going to generate a lot more noise when it comes to delivering their service.

Stage 3: Ideate

With a good handle on the How might we now the fun starts. Ideation time. Back in mid-2016 Bloom was lucky enough to host Spark Co-Lab from Stanford. SPARK Co-Lab programs provide a cost-effective model to help innovators and entrepreneurs mature their proof of concept and de-risk their ideas. Since then Bloom volunteers and members alike have had an ideation boost. 

The skills and techniques introduced and furthered enhanced our attitude to design thinking. Working with Rocky Bay in this session was probably the most rewarding there are no limits, no bad ideas and the results were awesome. One group wanted to send a person with a disability to space! More on them later.

In line with the Stanford brainstorming method, there is a particular set of rule you want to adhere to before you begin. I could list them out to you but I feel like this cheesy video summarised them pretty well. 


Stage 4: Prototype

Each table was then tasked with the designate three voting criteria “the most likely to delight,” “the most likely to succeed,” “the most breakthrough” with only 2 votes each. These ideas were then carried into the prototyping. This enabled them to carry a few ideas forward as it is likely that through the prototype and testing phase not all would survive.

Stage 5: Test

Testing is an opportunity to learn about your solution and your user.

Working in pairs with one to two prototypes per table the room was running riot. Hoping to get as much information from their peers at the company who knew first hands the viability of the venture was critical. Time was their enemy with only around an hour to gather feedback which could then be incorporated into the final deliverable the ever-critical PITCH.

After collecting feedback facilitators did their best to get to each one coaching and synthesizing their message. Articulating an idea can be very daunting especially when you have spent the whole day investing yourself in it but welcome to the world of Hackathons and Startups. All the information they needed for a 3min pitch was there they just had to bring it together. I was impressed with the creativity of Rocky Bay after such intensity. One of my favourites displayed a whole app with an end user and butches paper swiping left and right like no tomorrow. Others used theatre, humour and of course songs to provoke thought with the likes of David Bowie.

Ultimately, these were only the seeds of what could be the next best thing and it’s a great thing to come together and reflect but taking action on those sexy ideas is the hard part. The hard part is the further testing needed to scale and we really do hope Rocky Bay take the next step forward. Credit must be given to the team at Commonwealth Bank and Rocky Bay for letting us participate. 

What made our time with them ever sweeter was the chocolates at the end. I guess they were right, in design thinking and in life your never really know what you’re going to get.

Bloom Volunteers left to right: Jack Hallam, Brady Flockart and Leon Salam