Chapter 8 of Remote Design Thinking
Design thinking is a problem-solving mindset that businesses have successfully adopted to obtain social innovation in the creative industry and beyond. As companies redesign their structures, cultures and workspaces in response to the growing number of remote workers, they may consider integrating design thinking in their practice to improve the value of their work. This study examines how design thinking can help such companies and their employees to co-create solutions with other stakeholders from anywhere in the world.
Using cloud-based platforms which replicate tangible walls and whiteboards, remote teamwork can be strengthened with visual thinking and enhanced synchronous communication.
Although the process is complex, the transition from face-to-face participation to online collaboration is achievable if virtual teams have access to the necessary information, reliable technology and adequate tools and work processes set up. Having these will enable them to collaborate with clients and their users in order to create better human-centred solutions.
The findings of this project are the result of various stages that were iterated and improved on over time using a non-linear design thinking approach. Consequently, the recommendations delivered represent an initial proposal which requires further research, testing and validating from other remote teams to refine the structure. Since technology is considered the main barrier to optimal remote collaboration, teams will have to focus on adapting their workflows until internet connections improve and better online tools are available. In the meantime, future investigations may need to define how distributed teams and their clients can be trained to do design thinking remotely and determine how to create more tangible experiences during remote user testing procedures.
The research for this project was carried out during a period of 13 weeks, between January and April 2015. The majority of the study is based on one company and does not aim to represent a reality for all remote companies operating in the digital sector of the creative industry. Although various interviews were made with both remote and non-remote workers who are familiar with the design thinking process, the data and opinions collected merely give a broad overview on the chosen topic.
At the time that this project was written, no academic sources were found on design thinking in remote teams due to the novelty of the subject. Many remote workers may use the same tools and design thinking mindset but not define it as such, either because they are not aware of the terminology or they do not feel an inclination to align their practice to this concept. This has led to most learnings being made during my action research through participation and observations of Hanno’s team employing design thinking methods. As a result of being personally involved in the process, it is possible that some degree of impartiality has influenced the outcome of this report.
Tash Willcocks, my supervisor, for being available at all times (and time zones) and for always believing in me and pushing me forward when I insisted the deadline was ‘mission impossible’.
Hanno for welcoming me onboard during this intense journey and giving me all the space and support I needed. I am lucky to have met such an inspiring team to work with.
Emilia Åström & MURAL for your generosity and advice. This would have been much harder without your help.
Thibault Duchemin & Pieter Doevendans for the opportunity to work on such an admirable project. I hope our paths will cross again.
Tan Shu Hiong, Jonas Altman & Pieter Levels for sharing your experiences and encouraging me to complete this project.
All the interview participants for your contributions and my friends who hosted me in Manchester, London, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro while I explored the digital nomad lifestyle.
Hyper Island & Crew 5 for pushing me out of my comfort zone, being our own best cheerleaders and making me laugh. A lot.
My father & Gianni Martinelli who made it possible for me to have a life-changing experience and to whom I am immensely grateful.