December 30th – I didn’t think too much about the implication or the impact of start date in any company until last December as I quietly celebrated my two years at Visa. For one, starting a new job in December consciously motivated me to spend more time refreshing and recharging myself (thanks to less than 20 emails per day vs. 200+ emails per day). Another advantage of starting a new job in December is that I actually had a time to watch podcasts, movies, YouTube videos, or just browsing the sea of Pinterest boards without being distracted or interrupted.
One of videos I’ve watched [again] was the year-end team portfolio video (our team has a tradition of celebrating accomplishments at the year-end offsite by reviewing our own portfolio and we’ve decided to pull it together in video format). Then, I realized how much of our journey to bring design thinking into Visa two years ago (I call this ‘Design Thinking Program’) has been already embraced by key people and quietly but quickly embedded into organizations and the Visa’s playbook….just in two years!
While the Design Thinking Program is still shaping up and will continue to evolve and grow with us, I realized we’ve graduated from being the design thinking company and have been working on a few tactical and strategic design-driven frameworks to become the next design-driven company. And here are five key examples of what we already have in place.
1. Design team culture that designers are spending less time talking and more time designing.
One thing that separates design thinking and design driven company is how much time is being spent by designers on talking vs. designing, building, and experimenting new ideas. This is often true when there is a complacency by stakeholders who are focused on ‘quick wins’ or there is less clarity on requirements from business or product side, where designers start spending more time chasing after what I call ‘mission impossible’ tasks. At Visa, our designers are instead investing more time incubating MVP design ideas by constantly sketching on every wall to get people embrace sketching as a part of common language in meetings, quickly designing wireframes to communicate the design details, and rapidly building highly functional prototypes to test but also to provide an immersive environment to experience the experience of product design intent, empathy of end users, and excitement around alignment by bringing together cross-functional teams. Designers can’t influence when they aren’t designing.
2. Designers are closely integrated into client co-creation workshops through Innovation Centers.
We have several Innovation Centers that our clients around the world come in and experience what Visa’s product and technology can help achieving their goals. What we have done is that we have infused and integrated the human-centered design and design thinking as a core part of co-creation practice in each of our Innovation Centers where designers are not just participating but facilitating, designing, and building concepts with our clients. The scale of each engagement varies as each client’s need is different but that’s where designers are working closely with each Innovation Center team to demonstrate our expandable design practices!
3. Design hacking is now a part of design process, not design event.
Since Visa’s first Design-a-Thon event last year, with a few additional Design-a-Thon events we did, although these were widely successful and helped demonstrating the value of design to internal organizations, we realized the design practice cannot be only remembered as an event or eventful memory in the mind of non-designers.
4. Design + Human-Centered Design courses for all employees.
As a part of revamping the Visa University curriculum for internal employees, we are now offering two design related courses – design thinking and design crash course to all employees! The design thinking course focuses on how to make creative design decisions by using a problem-solving methodology that encourages deep empathy of the user, creative ideation and rapid prototyping. The design crash course, on the other hand, provides an overview of principles of human-centered design and co-development with partners, delivering through APIs and an overview of product suite. Over time, we will continue to expand the design curriculum by adding other courses to help employees to become more capable of solving the right problems with right [design] tools for our clients, partners, and consumers.
5. Diversity of design, product, technology talent pools at Visa.
Probably the ultimate evidence of how we have transitioned to become a design-driven company at Visa is by looking at how we are becoming a talent magnet in FinTech industry. Over the past year, we hired talents from Google, Paypal, eBay, Yahoo, Zynga, Sony, Microsoft, Samsung, Amazon/Zappos Labs, EA, VMware, Citrix, as well as premier design agencies like Frog, Fjord and Digitas where ‘design’ has been a part of the company’s culture. What’s interesting about this fact is that many of these talents were passive candidates when we started the conversation! We are certainly not done yet but I am confident that we at Visa are on the right track as any cultural and innovative transformation always begins with people.
The Design Thinking Program is quickly maturing at Visa. I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of the momentum and help developing design-driven capabilities in others to build a culture of innovation. Here goes 2016!