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Unraveling the Layers of Design Thinking

Pradnya Salvekar

Design thinking is getting its popularity and internalizing this approach will gradually blend technology with human behavior, making it far more relevant for people in general. As the COVID-19 pandemic prompted companies to embrace digital transformation, we, at Extentia have been increasingly using design thinking for adding usefulness and meaning to our processes and approach to our projects. In conversation with Pradnya Salvekar, VP Delivery at Extentia who leads our Experience Studio – we learn more about design thinking, processes, and our esteemed experience design studio.

How would you define design thinking?

Design thinking is a broad term, popularly defined as the process for solving problems by prioritizing the end user's needs above all. It relies on observing, with empathy, how people interact in various situations and employs an iterative, hands-on approach to creating innovative solutions. A methodology and culture within an organization, design thinking defines the difference between coming up with an idea and coming up with the right idea that matches a user’s needs. It presents itself with an opportunity to keep the existing knowledge aside and derive several possibilities to look at a specific need. Creative brainstorming is a prerequisite for developing suitable solutions during the design thinking process. Plus, it is critical to engage in modeling, analysis, prototyping, testing, and learning various ways to approach a solution with design thinking in the background.

Thus, the design thinking approach is not limited to building an application but is essentially a creative and collaborative approach to solving problems.

Why does a business need design thinking?

Design thinking helps businesses better identify, understand, and address business problems and design a solution using innovation and creativity. The process brings user-centricity, technical feasibility, and visual creativity to the idea and its solution unlike the traditional approach towards application development. It inspires teams to create solutions beyond the client brief and the competitor's way of work. It is a non-linear and iterative process that focuses on understanding the users, challenging assumptions, redefining the business problem, and creating innovative solutions to build prototypes and tests. It also ensures that the solutions are technically feasible to be implemented seamlessly.

How would you describe the evolution of design into the experience?

Design at any circumstance is not limited to problem-solving anymore. It is now about providing meaningful experiences – aiming at adding value to the life of the users. These experiences could be anything from ordering a coffee online or setting up a doctor's appointment or searching for animal shelters nearby or an interactive display at a clothing line store. Companies now realize the importance of engaging their customers in experiences they find valuable. The successful ones agree that this ultimate goal can be fulfilled with design thinking and UX when coupled with creative innovation, technology expertise, the brand's mission, and customer experience. Adapting to this approach has been a game-changer for companies across different industries to rethink their product offerings and processes, offer excellent value to customers, innovate with the changing times, and stay relevant. Eventually, companies will go beyond using design thinking to address today's problems and look at strategic foresight and future casting to create and deliver the most appropriate solutions.

Everyone is talking about inclusive design and designing for diversity, what's your take on this concept?

Inclusive design or designing for diversity is designing for people from different age groups, genders, and disabilities. What we make, should be accessible to and accessed by all. Nowadays, there are multiple mediums for accessing an application – mobile, desktop, and from different places – offices, hospitals, homes, malls, and many more. So, it becomes imperative to keep in mind the variety of users of a design as well as the space where it is expected to be used.

What's the idea behind Extentia’s experience centric transformation approach?

Having an experience-centric process is a massive differentiator for Extentia. We believe that building any application should be experience-focused, and technology should support that experience. The approach is well received by our customers as they understand the value of providing a superior experience to their end customers. Using the divergence to convergence approach to ideate, create, and deliver – we work with customers, end to end – conceptualizing a solution, conducting user surveys, planning a solution, designing, and developing the user interface.

Tell us a little bit about Extentia's acclaimed Experience Studio.

Our Experience Studio offerings are diverse and one of a kind. Here, we take care of user experience design for mobile and web applications, VR and AR apps, branding and identity design, infographics, videos, and illustrations, among others. We work in tandem with our development teams while translating and creating designs that make a difference. Operating globally gives us the edge and helps us stay abreast of the diverse cultural requirements and design guidelines that work on specific technologies. Including project managers, user researchers, UX and UI designers, videographers, and illustrators – we are a thriving team of extremely talented 80+ people.

We are also keen on getting enthusiastic and creative designers on board – if you're looking to join a team that drives energy from its creativity and positivity, Extentia Experience Studio is your place to be!

According to you, what are some critical aspects of design thinking? How do you, at Extentia, work around it?

There are three critical aspects to design thinking – People, Process, and Place.

People – A team of design thinking coaches, trained and experienced designers, user researchers, business analysts, solution architects are required to run design thinking workshops, follow-up discussions, and the solutioning as the outcome.

Process – Process is never a linear way of solving a problem; hence, there's a need for a 360-degree view and study of the application/requirement that is being conceptualized and developed.

Place – We have a dedicated creative place, XEN LAB – a sanctimonious space that makes people roll up their sleeves and get creative. The aura of this space allows users to think creatively and innovatively.

Extentia’s XEN LAB PNQ became a member of the prestigious SAP AppHaus Network within a few months of its inception! How would you describe this journey?

The SAP AppHaus team is a design thinking community within SAP that works with SAP partners and their internal teams to solve business problems. SAP AppHaus partners with companies like Extentia (focused on the human-centered design approach) in different countries as AppHaus Network members to extend the design thinking services to SAP customers. In India, Extentia was the first company to be certified as a member of the SAP AppHaus Network, making the journey even more fascinating and unconventional for us.

What's next for Extentia with respect to design and experience?

Oh! There's a bunch of exciting stuff! Currently, we are working on next-generation/three-dimensional user interfaces, micro-animations for a delightful customer experience. We are also creating voice-enabled user interfaces as conversational AI or chatbots are in demand. We know the technology is still evolving, and we are also constantly trying to experiment and keep up with futuristic advancements.

How did the COVID-19 pandemic influence Extentia’s design thinking workshops?

The business models across the world have changed because of the pandemic. Earlier, we used to conduct physical workshops at XEN LAB, but as the pandemic hit the world, we adapted to the change – by conducting workshops online and transitioning our methods of functioning. We also modified the structure of our discovery/Ideation workshops in order to deliver a similar engaging experience virtually. With XEN UNWIRED, our online workshop space - we have been delivering the workshop experience successfully using various virtual collaboration tools including Mural and Miro. I’d say it's been an excellent opportunity for us to alter and grow as for many others.

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