Decoding an Innovation Culture

When AI and all the technology have become parts of our daily lives, the questions strategic leaders should ask are “What’s here to stay?” and “How might their organizations stay resilient and relevant?” The answer is any organizations that hone their people’s skills to emulate machine learning will be more competitive.

Design Thinking by now has been perceived as the ‘secret sauce’ of any innovative organizations for its benefits in getting team aligned, equipping them with creative problem solving, customer-centric and collaboration skills.

Techcombank is one of the notable banks in Vietnam that created and implemented a culture of being “innovative” , “experimental” and “customer-centric” with the application of Design Thinking.  

What does an “innovative, experimental and customer-centric” culture look like?

Techcombank understands that to innovate, it needs to start from the most fundamental asset, its customers. But getting close to customers and knowing them alone is not enough. Teams must know how to draw insights and knowledge to create new exciting ideas. An innovative culture empowers their people to feel safe to create foolish or genius ideas that benefit the organizations and the end-customers while deploying proven principles and methods to select ideas to arrive at desirable outcomes. There are three critical factors that drive innovation culture

Leadership’s commitment to drive undisrupted change

The role of leadership in the innovation culture transformation is no doubt one of the most important success factors. And their roles are not easy. They should show enough involvement to not take-away the safe space the teams need to innovate but need to show up at the critical moments to point the team to the right directions. 

Techcombank’s sponsorship on Design Thinking program starts from the top and their visibility is seen throughout the journey, at the right appropriate time. 

During the “learning journey”, leadership’s messages are delivered loud and clear at every phase. To assure alignment, Techcombank created the “Design Thinking Pitstop” to allow leadership to join in the journey, encourage and award innovative ideas. On top of that, the Learning and Development team plays a superb role to bridge the gap between the leadership’s vision, purpose and direction to the idea development and execution stages.

It is worth noting too that innovation is not one time effort only but a journey.  It is an investment of time, patience and leadership’s role is to keep this momentum going without disruption. This discipline is proven to be the core success factor to make the company unleash the full benefits of Design Thinking.

Equip the team with right mindsets to unleash their creative confidence

As part of the transformation program, Doodle and Techcombank Learning and Development team spend significant time to prepare the teams with the “why” we are doing this Innovation led culture transformation and what to expect during the journey ahead.

Throughout the journey,  we also repeatedly remind the team of the key mindsets of an innovator. This is really important to assure the teams are not “caught by surprise” and “not to give up’ early. 

For instance, before getting into solving the real practice challenge, the team needs to learn and showcase the top 6 innovators’ mindset: Visual, Imaginative, Empathetic, Iterative, Collaborative, and Questioning.

Without a doubt, these mindsets are not just to be told but to be experienced, over and over again as Thomas Edison’s infamous quote has pointed out- “Innovation is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.”. 

Going beyond ‘super star team” or ‘product building”

We know and want to avoid that ‘innovation is only for the upstairs people and for genius’. Techcombank is one of the rare banks in Vietnam that has demonstrated an immense commitment to scale the Design Thinking ways across the entire organization, from sales staff, back office, to product-centric teams or all the way up to senior management. This has resulted in the training of over 1000 Techcombank team members, key challenge and opportunity areas identified, thousands of ideas generated, and hundreds of desirable outcomes implemented, and inspired by learning journey experiences.  

The Design Thinking Learning Journey Doodle Design created happens across 3 distinct phases, “Learn, Do, Lead”, to guide all individuals from a new learner, to a facilitator or instructor at scale, enabled by Doodle A, Design Thinking Academy. Those who are new can jump to this online experience anytime, anywhere prior to the real immersion with Doodle’s experts. 

In fact, Design Thinking can be for everyone. Collected through thousands sessions with Vietnam’s leading organizations, we have identified key soft skills that immerse from our in-depth training, beyond the perception that Design Thinking is only for the specialists.

How to implement an innovation led culture?

The innovation-led culture Journey is a 2-way street. Through our hundreds of learning sessions for thousands of people,  3 important takeaways immersed that companies can take into consideration

Form a community of Design Thinking “sponsors and mentors”: The Design Thinking led transformation needs to be a top-down initiative. Without this, it will fail. Having sponsors initiated from key departments or stakeholders, either CEO, CTO, CMO, CXOs, will assure 100% ownership, commitment and investment. Mentorship is very important to spread the energy across. Creating a network of coaches, mentors or ‘learning buddies’ will help accelerate a much stronger impact.

In for a long haul. When Design Thinking has become a buzzword in today’s business landscape, we must remember to define clearly the purpose of why we are doing this. Bringing Design Thinking into your organizations out of fear of missing out sounds good in the short term but it will cause expensive costs. 

We can start small. Not every implementation of Design Thinking should be dramatic. There are many routes to take this superpower into your organization. We can get everyone’s buy-in through an organized deployment from top leadership’s key notes or by planting the Design Thinking seeds step by step, starting from ‘advocate’ learners, extending to ‘enthusiasts’.  In some cases, we don’t even need to tell others we are doing Design Thinking.  This is what we can call “Spring it on” to demonstrate by examples, by stories and by results. Start small, celebrate milestones of success, recognize contributions.  The road to Design Thinking can be as straightforward and simple.    

The fact that Techcombank has invigorated their entire organization with a new innovation culture is a testament to their desire to grow faster than the surrounding volatile world.  Recently awarded 33th as the world’s most valuable global banks in 2023,  the bank’s success ties in with its strong culture of change and continuous experimentation, putting customers at the heart. How does the Design Thinking program play a part in this success? A big part. 

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