Voices from Accenture Public Service


Design Thinking is a methodology for generating innovative solutions to complex business problems.  It draws upon logic, imagination and intuition to explore the possibilities of “what could be” – and to produce desired outcomes that benefit the end user or customer. It’s action-oriented toward creating a preferred future design and it’s equally useful in addressing very specific problems or tackling big, enterprise-wide challenges.  

I’m sure you’re familiar with the term; it’s the latest and greatest way to design the ultimate customer experience…or is it?   

We’ve been using Design Thinking for some time now to help our pension clients solve business challenges by better understanding the different member types they are trying to serve. As we begin to identify those “personas”, it becomes readily apparent that their needs are highly varied and heterogeneous. By creating and exploring these different personas, it’s possible to understand how their expectations differ dramatically, driven by a range of factors including age, circumstances and where they are in their career. In turn, the type of services and support that they want and need also varies considerably.  

So how is Design Thinking different from other approaches we have used in the past to help our clients understand their pain points and map out a future direction?  

First, Design Thinking compels us to see our organization and the services we provide from the customers’ perspective. Note the plural. One of Design Thinking’s most powerful contributions is the ability to see beyond the single concept that we typically use to think about “the customer”.  

Secondly, this approach levels the playing field and provides a “safe space” for everyone in an organization to share their thoughts, ideas and concerns. It gives voice to the business and technical folks alike. As a result, you get the broadest spectrum of ideas and opinions out on the table, opening the door for even greater ideation and innovation.   

And, maybe most importantly, Design Thinking serves to mitigate some of the fears around change early on because, by nature of their inclusion, participants tend to accept the new concepts more readily.  

Now, I’ve been in the pension and technology business for many years. In that time, I’ve encountered numerous different ways to tackle these issues, each claiming to be a new and innovative, breakthrough approach. But most were simply variations on the same “brainstorming” theme that, in the end, produced remarkably similar results. So, it’s fair to say, my initial reaction to the concept of Design Thinking was somewhat skeptical. Could it really help our clients see their business through a different lens and change their services based on that view? To my surprise, yes. My initial doubt been converted to a sincere belief that design-led thinking is a highly effective new way to approach business challenges.   

In the many different client sessions in which I have participated, I’ve witnessed the powerful impact that these new perspectives deliver. Stepping into the shoes of one’s various customers leads to new thinking about how you can create and deliver the best services to meet their unique needs. And by including a cross section of the organization, you create a shared view across IT and the business – the creation of new services becomes collaborative, rooted in a common understanding of the distinct needs of each customer type.  

I’ve seen first-hand the positive impact that Design Thinking can have in helping to solve the challenges our clients face in meeting the changing needs of their members. Focusing on the “experience” first leads to faster solutions and results than simply rushing ahead to “solve the problem”. And that’s a benefit into which everyone can buy.  

I’m a convert. What about you?   

Would love to talk to you more about this. Feel free to reach out! 

Learn more at www.accenture.com/pensions.  


  1. Teri hi, thanks for the post, an interesting read. I’ve been using this method for some time but hadn’t realised someone had labelled it!

  2. Hi Teri. Interesting topic. Just to get a better understanding can you elaborate what do you mean by “Design Thinking “. How do you do it? I am interested. Thanks in advance.

    1. Hi Eduardo!

      Thanks for your question and apologies for the delay in responding! Design Thinking is the process by which we create with people, not just for them. It focuses on meeting the real needs of customers. It helps clients look at each process touchpoint from their customers’ perspective in order to better understand their customers and what they want. It enables them to re-think and create better organizational, process and system “experiences”. The approach is, also, highly effective at unifying perspectives and creating a shared vision throughout an organization. It’s a win-win for all!

      Design thinking pulls in a cross-section of the organization and, often, their customers and partners, into sessions we call “rumbles” during which we” apply human-centric design methods to solve problems, frame opportunities and innovate experiences. The approach is dynamic and highly interactive. It’s creative and playful. And, everyone who participates has a voice and is actively involved. While it may not always follow a set order, we typically go through the following stages:

      Discover – Learn about the people in the context of the problem
      Describe – Synthesize learnings from discovery and point of view
      Ideate – Iterative ideation and prototyping cycles
      Test – Test ideas and prototypes with actual users
      Implement – Deploy the chosen solution and refine it

      Collectively, the team thinks through all the tangible and intangible things that make for a “positive customer experience”, then addresses the business and technology elements needed to deliver those experiences well. Often, we utilize artists to graphically capture the key discussions and decisions that occur during the sessions. The results are highly impactful. Take a look for yourself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JbuKIvj5I3s.

      If you are interested in knowing more, just let me know. Hope to hear from you again soon!

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