MADISON, Wis. (6/7/13)--Using design thinking when planning new products to help the underserved banking population is the subject of a new Filene Research Institute report.
Design thinking refers to a set of methods and a mindset that create empathy by putting people at the center of the design and development process, according to "Using Design Thinking to Serve the Underserved," authored by design researcher and strategist Julie Norvaisas.
Rather than designing a product that responded to the planners' assumptions about the underserved, Filene's young professionals network workshop participants--members of the Cooperative Trust--met the underserved, talked to them--and perhaps most importantly--learned how to listen and understand their stories without judgment, said the report. From there, creating a product designed around their members' real needs and wishes came naturally.
The process is a highly collaborative, human-centered approach that yields innovative solutions through a flexible but standardized process, the paper said. Design thinking can be applied to any business, but it is particularly critical for credit unions to understand members more deeply for a few reasons:
The knowledge gap: The distance between how credit unions think about financial services and how most consumers understand and experience the financial realm is likely vast, said the paper.
The emotional gap: While it all seems quite rational to some, managing finances can be emotionally charged and confusing for most people. As a result, many consumers do a poor job managing their finances.
The credit union mission: Credit unions are different from other financial institutions--a difference manifested by standing with consumers rather than against them, the paper said. In that light, adopting a design-thinking mindset is an emerging capability credit unions need to develop to remain competitive and relevant, it said.
The paper outlines design-thinking methods, tells the story of how the Cooperative Trust employed design thinking to spark innovation, and introduces the resulting Tru Account product currently in development as a result of participants' efforts.
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