How Design Thinking Can Help Finance Professionals Achieve their 2018 Goals

Michael Sims's picture

At the beginning of the year we surveyed a group of 260 finance professionals from across industries and regions to find out what their priorities were for 2018. The results were at once simple and complex.  The top two finance function priorities for 2018 were:

  1. Implement new technologies and capabilities (5 words)
  2. Identify and implement best practices (5 words)

5+5. A total of 10 words are what’s keeping the world’s finance professionals up at night. That kind of brevity risks obfuscating just how hard it is to come up with something new, to innovate—never mind trying to implement that innovation.

Design thinking (two words, for those counting at home) promises to make innovation—generating and implementing new ideas—as straightforward to do as it is to pronounce.

Design thinking is a human-centric, solutions-based approach to problem solving that is particularly useful for addressing complex or ill-defined problems. Great articles have been written about design thinking, how and when to use it, but the methodology can actually be described quite simply using (a pattern emerges…) 5 words.

  1. Empathize
  2. Define
  3. Ideate
  4. Prototype
  5. Test

Those 5 steps are each important in their own way, but the first one, “empathize,” really does a lot of the heavy lifting. To empathize is to seek to understand (one of the 7 habits of highly effective people, by the way), which calls to mind “customers” or the concept of “customer-centricity.”

But what if our customers weren’t just the people paying for our organizations’ products and services? What if our customers were also our co-workers? This is the question finance professionals need to ask themselves in 2018.

Design thinking is a proven innovation tool that puts the customer’s needs first. Perhaps it’s time that finance professionals consider doing the same for each other.  

See APQC’s ongoing design thinking research in our Driving Customer-Centricity in Process Improvement with Design Thinking collection.

Follow me on Twitter @MSIMS_APQC or find me on LinkedIn.

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