Embracing an inclusive approach to innovation in finance

28 March 2017

Embracing an inclusive approach to innovation in finance

Why banking brands need to evolve to embrace an inclusive approach to innovation

Article originally posted in The Drum

Gone are the days when shiny new ideas turn up with a swagger in a fancy presentation. A group of external rabble-rousers shouting through the letterbox “…stop being so bank” will not yield the desired results at your financial services business. For change to be successful it needs to come from a shared philosophy that is inclusive, from within the business.

A new dynamic is evolving. An approach that creates new opportunities, closer collaboration and makes change visible so everyone in the business becomes invested in its success. At Else, we have learned that for a successful partnership we must nurture a positive and respectful new dynamic where designers are fully integrated as part of one larger business team. This approach is easier said than done.

For the last five years, we have worked at the frontier of this changing landscape, since our very beginning. During this time we’ve launched a new Russian bank for entrepreneurs, we’ve designed a new direct to consumer platform for the world’s leading wealth management bank, and we’ve created a better future for the financially excluded.

We have developed key points that have helped us successfully integrate design and deliver innovation within financial services.

Banking has come under scrutiny since the financial crisis

Naturally, rather than relaxing processes to be more nimble, they have instead doubled down on rigour to protect the organisation. It has forced people to become more risk-averse, afraid to fail, and to move more slowly. By contrast, the creative industries are moving faster than ever, always embracing failure through a test and learn approach. The lessons here are of empathy and patience. Accept it will take time to harmonise these two different cultures and respect what every person brings to a project. Pick your moments to be bold, and recognise when being cautious makes sense for the business.

Design is not a separate endeavour

It’s critical everyone belongs to one team; working towards a shared goal and vision for each project. The way disciplines work together, and respond to each other’s input across the business will have a significant impact on the outcome. If your business works agile, align designers to sprint teams. Ensure design is integrated into every stage of the process. That way information is shared, robust relationships will form, people will become champions of the creative process and the creatives become champions of the business.

Avoid war rooms

Creativity must be felt and seen by everyone and be everywhere. Display design progress on every inch of wall space; this invites people to ask questions and become involved in shaping ideas. Cement this collaborative approach by coordinating short and frequent workshops. There must never be the need for a big reveal at the end of a project as this means people have been left behind.

Let the design energy flow

Even if it feels a little uncomfortable at first, bring your design energy and new thinking to your new environment. Think about how to engage different disciplines within the business. Be proactive in finding better ways to integrate design approaches. If you find yourself doing a formal PowerPoint presentation, you’ve probably failed.

Craft a process that helps to gel teams and organically sell the value of a creative approach

The agile/Kanban process is a good starting point. Daily stand-ups encourage communication and a shared understanding of responsibilities. The constant need to pull together for demos motivates teams and builds a sense of achievement. If your new process is adopted, don’t be complacent. Continually reassess what does and doesn’t work to keep everyone aligned and grow your numbers of advocates for the new approach.

Change can be slow in banks. Minimum value product has become the standard

Start-ups can get away with launching something that’s rough around the edges. Banks with years of brand equity don’t have that luxury. There’s a certain expectation of quality.

Banks should aim for something better — MDP (minimum desirable product). If banks work with their design teams, they will find they bring balance to the sometimes aggressive culling of requirements. Designers should take it upon themselves to be the guardians of the value proposition and experience. They must challenge assumptions and assess the impact of business decisions to ensure good design prevails. Above all, design is messy. The process can be disruptive, disjointed and frightening to people who aren’t used to it. It evolves and shifts direction, and the end game isn’t always clear from the start.

Change often requires huge leaps of faith for it to be successful. Businesses, especially banks, need champions within their organisations to help make this happen. People who have done it before understand that it’s not just about applying a process. It starts with creating the right culture.

Natalie Curant is Principal Experience Architect at Else London

24 September 2017 / 10:47 PM
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