“Innovation is a long-term thing. In six months you don’t even have time to plant the seed.”

Meet Eduardo Lacal, Lead Business Designer at Designit Madrid.

My first fika talk was with Eduardo Lacal, Lead Business Designer at Designit Madrid. Here is what we talked about around some black coffee:


What is your role at Designit Madrid?

I started working at Designit Madrid as service designer, after studying at H2i. That was four years ago and It’s been a year that I’ve been working as Lead Business Designer, with more and more presence in Latin America.

And how is to work as business designer here?

It is something that evolves and changes constantly, not just along the years but also depending on the time of the year. Sometimes you are involved in selling, sometimes you are developing projects or maybe you are closing things that needed to be closed. It is mainly about contributing with a business point of view in any project that we are doing at Designit, which are projects always focused in the user. The business designer role comes from what, historically, was a strategist in this office. It is about giving a realistic point of view and introducing business components in the processes and methodologies that we apply along the project, and it is also about translating our client’s business needs into design challenges.

This way of seeing the business designer role is different from other companies?

Despite there are business designers in other companies, their role along the process is different, and sometimes it is constrained to concrete moments within the project. In Designit we are present along the whole process, which, despite I understand that it is something that makes the project more expensive, I think that it gives a very good transversality to it.

Do you think that this has to do with the approach that Designit has to the projects?

Yes, I do. One of the things that Designit brings in the projects is a multidisciplinary approach within the teams and, specially, that the people that build the hypothesis at the beginning are the ones that work in the project until the end of it, falling in love with them and making the client fall in love with another way of working. Sometimes we are like a balm for the companies, because maybe they don’t know what to do and neither do we, but together we can build something in a different way. We encourage the client to see that it is possible. We bring to the companies eagerness and a completely new approach that we try to keep along the project. That is our main value.

And do you think that this approach, together with this user-center perspective or methodologies such as design thinking are going to permeate inside the companies? Are we walking towards another way of working?

That is the trend. Companies don’t want to make the same mistakes than other bigger companies made when they tried to introduce innovation within the company as another six month’s regular project. In six months you don’t even have time to plant the seed. Companies are increasingly asking us for planting that seed by starting with a small project, together with a team from the company dedicated to us. We train them so they can learn by doing, and that makes them see that there is a way to innovate within the company. They want to be present when the magic happens, so they can do it by themselves. Although there is still a time problem. Now they are starting to think in new terms, between two or three years, but it is still short. Innovation is a long-term thing. To change a company in that way you need to change its culture, the values that everyone brings in the company, the image that you show outside, change processes, technologies frequently, even business models sometimes. It is very complicated.

My hypothesis is that, in a term between nine and eleven years, a company can furbish up itself and change its perception outside because it is the company the one that has changed inside. It sees itself in a different way, it has different capacities and that is what it is shown outside. You can spend 50% of your budget as a company trying to innovate in two years while before you were just spending the 5% and that can be money thrown away, as you are making noise in a very small circle that maybe you have created and nobody notices it. Anyway, that is the way! What we need to help the companies with is to identify in a clear and realistic way where can they be in two years. They can be innovating but in very small steps that will make the company change little by little, and in eight years the company will start to show something different.

Then Designit acts here as facilitator?

I would say it does. We try to identify what the problem is, what are the possible answers and how are we going to get to those answers. And, for that, we need to create long-term relations with our clients.

So, when we talk about innovation, thinking just in digital is not enough?

Yes. Innovation is not digitization. There are several levers. Innovation is made by three pillars: the enablers -that some times are technologies-, the context -a new reality, new values, and then innovation gives answers to those values- and the innovation model -how are you innovating. You can bring innovation by doing new things, but you can also do what you used to do much better-. Digital is a double lever: in one hand is an enable technology, and in the other hand it has contributed to create a new paradigm, where society values and users have changed. It affects to two of the three pillars, so it is very important, but it never has to be the goal or end. It is the way. Companies, historically, have misunderstood this, speeding-up digital transformation,which is something not very scalable. The banking sector is an example of this.

But Designit is a company within the digital industry, right?

Yes. I would say that if three business opportunities pop up for us we will take the digital one, because the market is moving in that direction and we can bring in a big value to the companies in that sense, as the volume of designers within the companies is very small. But, even digital is something that is always present, is not always part of the final result of the project. We are not going to force it more than is needed, as it depends on the user’s needs. Designit’s main vision and approach is focused in user over digital.

And what global trends, from a business or society perspective, do you think can make impact in the digital industry or in a company like Designit?

From a macro perspective, new opportunities are opening up in relation to users’ behavior. Big data and devices are going to bring in more personalized offers and it is going to be much easier to match needs and answers for those needs, since understanding behaviors and adapting your offer and experience to them is getting easier.

And then, talking about concrete sectors, insurance market is going to live a global revolution. They have the money, and despite is a very immobile market, there are new players that are changing the game rules, offering very powerful niche solutions that are feed by this change in the macro perspective related to behavior.

There is also something changing in relation to users’ perception: their values, judgements, what they think is wrong or right. For example, users can value now as positive that the company has been created recently, while before they were looking for classic companies. or maybe they look for companies for a just one year relation with them while before they were looking for companies that can give them service for all their lives. The paradigms change and many opportunities are opening up.

In relation to the banking market, banking is going to disappear as we know it. Banks will need to change. If we make separated dystopias, banks will need to choose between doing front-banking, focused in the contact with the users but externalizing processes and back -a bank as a platform-, or, the other way around, doing back-banking by providing the technology and processes to other companies, those niche companies that are popping up in the insurance and bank markets. And all this have to do to with what we were talking about before: new enable technologies, a new context with new perceptions, values and needs and the possibility of choosing an different innovation model, depending on if you want to go for technology or experience.

Coming back to Designit, what do you like the most from the way of working here?

Several things. I like the freedom that teams have to decide and relate with the clients. And the thing that I like the most is that, when we work, hierarchies are quite invisible. It is something that influences the very day for good, specially if in this process we get to involve the client in working and co-creation sessions.

And what skills or knowledge do you think a business designer needs?

I think that being able to analyze and synthesize. Be able to have a macro perspective and make conclusions very fast. A big amount of flexibility. Being able of feed yourself with knowledge that maybe is not directly useful with the project, and also being able to swing, giving a step back and adjusting the strategy. You have to be able to react, as schedule, client needs, team needs change and you need to take fast decisions without compromising the final result. In addition to this, you need to have a deep knowledge of the market context where the project is framed. You need to learn and you end up doing it in your free time and sometimes falling in love with it. If it is something that you are passionated about, like, for example in my case wellbeing, then you take it personal and that is super cool.

What advise would you give to a student that wants to do an internship or end up working in Designit?

In Designit, at least in Madrid’s office, we value the capacity of imagine, of analysis, of giving an opinion without value judgment, in addition to all the methodological training that you can have, because that is something that you learn very fast here. The skills and knowledge are taken for granted.

Team work is also very important for us. 60–70% is about personality and how do you work as team member, rather than the skills that you have. If we have a great culture and good vibes it is because of this way of hiring, where we value different aptitudes.

What is your favorite moment in the office?

The cocido meet up in Autumn (Cocido is a traditional chickpea-based stew from Madrid). When I arrived to the office half of the relation between colleagues was made outside. We had a strong culture of improvised after work mingles. Everything that happens outside the office is cool, and new people have to push for keeping that alive with the help of the ones that have been working here for longer time.

Designit in one word.

Human-shaped.

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