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Executive Education

Kitty See
Kitty See

Bringing ideas to life

Kitty See

Executive Manager, CommInsure, Commonwealth Bank of Australia

Attended the Innovation by Design (now Design Thinking and Creativity for Business) Programme.

"It’s very relevant to my job. Like every toolkit, you don’t have to use it exactly as you’re taught. You have to make it your own. At an executive level, I don’t expect anything to be a cookie cutter approach. You have to apply context to it. You can take the programme’s learnings and key principles away with you, and make them as relevant as you want them to be."

Working in a service industry, is design thinking something that your organisation uses a lot?

Unlike in a product driven industry we don’t have hands-on products to look at, feel and touch when designing. The concept of starting with the customer and prototyping and iterating, like a product driven organisation would do, is relatively immature in comparison. There are pockets that do it really well but the vast majority haven’t quite understood the value it brings to table or haven’t been able to implement it well.

Coming into the programme, I knew I would get inspiration and an injection of ideas and experiences to help maybe push projects forward. To bring them to life in the absence of products to show.

How relevant do you think the programme is to your job?

It’s very relevant to my job. Like every toolkit, you don’t have to use it exactly as you’re taught. You have to make it your own. At an executive level, I don’t expect anything to be a cookie cutter approach. You have to apply context to it. You can take the programme’s learnings and key principles away with you, and make them as relevant as you want them to be.

It’s not just me, you can tell from the range of participants and hearing their experiences that the programme is applicable to any role, in any organisation, in any industry. The question then becomes how do you apply it? How do you filter it down to your team whilst applying your own personal touch? How do you lead your team?

If your organisation is mature enough, then the learnings can go much further and broader.

How experienced are you in design thinking then?

I’ve already had a bit of exposure to human centred design, however I could see there were others in the room who were far more advanced in terms of application in the real world.  

I have used the principles of design thinking for a few years and I have had some formal training. Having said that, am not at the practitioner level. 

The programme was a perfect reminder of what design thinking is, what it can do and the different ways of applying it. It was the perfect level for me.

I am always open to new tools and techniques and I like being reminded of old ones. It makes you think “Oh yeah I knew about that, but it’s not one of my top five go to techniques. Maybe I can experiment with it.”

To make the most of the experience, you have to be open-minded.

How much innovation and disruption is there in your job?

A lot. I am customer stream lead on a project. Part of the project I’m on is to develop a customer experience strategy. To do this, we have employed design thinking and have made the overall project and its deliverable very customer led and customer centric.

The kind of work I am undertaking is new to my part of the organisation. This is where I felt INSEAD was going to be quite valuable and indeed, some of the things I learned during IBD really resonated. It confirmed that everyone is at a different part of the innovation journey and everyone’s journey is unique. In terms of innovation, you need to find the right thing to do at the right point in time. If you have only just started the journey, it’s no good trying to implement the whole innovation framework all at once. It’s going to fail. You need to think about the steps that are relevant as at a point in time.

So for me, it was about identifying where we are at in our journey. Beyond working on my project, how do I get the endorsement and support? What do I need to do to make the work a success?

Designing the strategy in isolation won’t result in success. If don’t involve others, your work could be packaged up and thrown away. And if it doesn’t get implemented, what’s the point? Getting others on board and leading them is the real challenge for me. That’s why I liked the IBD. It’s “leading” innovation by design. Not just the design component.

Why did you enrol on the programme?

I enrolled because it had been a few years since I had done something solid to add to my learning and CV. So I thought I’m going to put some money towards some serious, personal development. Something that is relevant and interesting to me.

It was as worth every cent.

What did you love about the programme?

What I loved about it was that it was hands-on and very practical in nature. It appealed to the different senses, to different learning styles. Of course, there were traditional classes with theory, but the workshop and class came together to make a stimulating environment.

Bringing in EightInc was brilliant. I loved having that representation there. It was INSEAD using their network and showing what they can do - being one of the best business schools. It really showed the strength of the programme and why I paid to attend.

The other thing I absolutely loved were the ArtCentre students. They really opened up my eyes to the value good designers bring to the table. These guys were really good.

What made the ArtCentre students so good?

Having the students in the workshop with us allowed us to see ideas come to life. I’m not very creative in that way, so that was the value they added.

And they did this whilst involving everyone. They never approached it saying: “I’m a designer, let me do this.” It was more “Let’s do this together.” “That’s a good idea. That isn’t.” “This works. This doesn’t.” It was very collaborative and that is what the programme it all about: collaboration.

To bring an idea to life, you need the points of view and experiences of many. You need to work together to make things happen.

What was it like being on the programme with others who perhaps had more experience than you?

Listening to the others talk about their experiences turned into a few new gems I could add to my toolbox. With the group work, you could hear all about the different perspectives and then pick and choose which to keep with you to use later.

So really, I learned as much from listening to the other participants on the programme as you do from a case study or a lecture.

What you find is that you can all face the same problems, but because of the different industries people work in, things pan out differently. I find it fascinating learning about how others apply the same tools to same problem, but within a different context. It inspires me. 

Throughout the programme, there was a willingness to share ideas and connect. Everyone is different in terms of where they are in their journey, but if someone else had encountered a problem that I was also facing, it was interesting to hear how they overcame the problem and how they got others in their organisation engaged to help solve it.

What inspiration did you leave the programme with?

My time at INSEAD allowed me to reflect and think about the levers I need to pull to make ideas a reality in my organisation. Who do I need to go to? What are some of the key ideas I should being to the table and how should I articulate them?

I have a list of five to six points that really resonated with me. I keep coming back to these five or six points and expect I will continue to refer to them ongoing.

I’m also inspired to learn how to sketch better!

What is good design? What did the programme teach you about it?

A good design is a good translation. Almost like two languages. The designer is the translator who helps the person with the ideas. The person with the ideas can articulate them conceptually, but can’t bring the ideas to life. The designer brings them to life.

A good design would then be something that is better than the original idea. Better than what the originator had in their head. That is really hard to do.  

Were there any surprises?

I wasn’t expecting there to be designers in the room. I hadn’t read up too much on the programme beforehand so wasn’t even sure what to expect. I really came in with an open mind.

What advice would you give someone so that they got the most out of the programme?

A key criteria of coming into the programme is to be open to experiences and to what they might bring you and where they might lead you. You have to leave behind your personal biases. That is the part of the principles of design thinking. Whatever you initially think, throw that away. Throw those ideas out the door. Now we start designing. That sort of mentality is critical to getting the most out of the programme.