Review: Digital Transformation using Design Thinking

Review: Digital Transformation using Design Thinking

Lunch and Launch Event

A progressive group of Regina technology movers and shakers came together to further explore Design Thinking. Hosted by zu, via our “Launch your Digital Transformation using Design Thinking” event CEO Ryan Lejbak sought to introduce new faces and old friends to our expanded strategy team and to help Regina organizations embrace digital transformation. The team – Albert, Chelsey and Zach – briefly covered the why, how and what all followed up with an interview of Krystal Kolodziejak, Director Innovation at FCC. Here’s a recap of their talks. 

Intro to Design Thinking - Albert Jame

The presentations were led off by Director of Strategy at zu, Albert Jame. Albert described the state of Design Thinking in the world. Albert looked at why the Design Thinking approach is so powerful, and how it has led to the disruption of many industries. He pointed out how this often involves defining the “magic moment”, which is encourages companies to find the key pain point in the customer journey. The Uber disruption example was explored as being focused on reimagining those crucial few moments around ordering, paying and tipping, while essentially delivering the same car ride and price.

The Evolution of Digital and the Role of Design - Zach Perkins

Zach, a UX Lead at zu, looked back over the changes he has experienced in his long career in design, and where things are going. He explains, “digital products and services have become more complex and occupy an increasingly important role in the lives of people. As a result design has had to adapt and evolve the way it works.” And one of the biggest evolution is, disappointingly for some experts out there, that “it's no longer effective or appropriate to simply "design for users" in prescriptive and assumption based ways.”

Zach goes on to describe the methods of designers are now deeply human centred, collaborative, holistic and experimental. “Human centred means doing research, learning about people's’ needs, motivations and challenges”, he says. Collaboration requires bringing people with different backgrounds together, but then going past old methods of meeting to achieve new new levels of actual cooperation and communication. These new levels are achieved by way of the methods in the Design Thinking arsenal. “These unfamiliar exercises are often resisted by a few participants at the start of a session, but are then embraced as results become apparent”. 

Additionally, Zach claims “we need to zoom out and see how a product, touchpoint, or screen fits into a broader context and journey; to see how hidden people and systems play a role in delivering experiences – this is what we mean when we say “Holistic””.

Zach also discussed the need to for both prototypes and the need to “test solutions before we commit and execute a final product or service to ensure that it does, in fact, address the challenge it hopes to”. Confirmation at this stage also improves the economics of the project, by building the right thing with the allowed budget, instead of seeking additional resources to get on the right track.

He observes that the work is never really done. “As designers move to working on experiences and systems there continues to be the need for execution. Even new, innovative, and tested ideas require excellent follow through to be successful.”

Case Study: Smart Cities Challenge - Chelsey Schaffel

Chelsey Schaffel, a UX Lead at zu, provided an example of the real-world application of Design Thinking concepts working with the Ontario/Quebec/US based Mohawk community of Akwesasne. They are finalists in the Federal Smart Cities Challenge and together we are designing a multi-faceted, digital and non-digital program to decrease the incidence of diabetes in their community.

Given the broad nature of this health challenge and the far-flung nature of the physical community, the Smart Cities project has involved a high degree of user engagement:

  • Interviews with community members
  • Workshops to learn about the community and ideate with them to problem-solve
  • Getting feedback about potential solutions through 1:1 user testing and public events where people could interact with prototypes.

Research and engagement is often an underutilized activity in many projects rushing towards solutions.


After explaining the 5 main phases of the Design Thinking methodology, as well as zu’s simplified terminology, Chelsey explained, “Design Thinking is ingredients, not a recipe. There are many different methods you can use within each of the traditional five phases.” Turning to the timeline of the last three months on the Smart Cities project, Chelsey showed how the team started out going through the five phases in a pretty standard order, “then we mixed things up based on project needs and what we were learning. Design Thinking is flexible.”


And most importantly, it’s human-centered. “It involves the user at every stage. We get users to interact with the prototype to find out if the solution will actually meet their needs. This is also research. From the feedback, you can identify new insights and move through some or all of the phases again”, Chelsey explained. Together with the community of Akwesasne, zu is developing the plan and prototypes to make the final push to achieve the $5 million in program funding, and to bring about improved health outcomes.

Client Spotlight - Farm Credit Canada

The program concluded with an interview with Krystal Kolodziejak, Director, Innovation currently tasked with driving innovation at Farm Credit Canada (FCC). Laurence Nixon (Director of Accounts at zu) asked Krystal to explain how FCC is applying Design Thinking. 

We learned how FCC sees value in these methods, both for use in the face of problem identification and prototyping potential solutions but also as a basic skill for their people to use. To these ends, zu has facilitated sprints to address specific challenges as well as training sessions, seeking to propagate skills to various departments. Overall, the response to Design Thinking has been positive.

Krystal also spoke about how critical it's been to bring customers in to the process so they can come up with truly user-centered solutions. “It's scary and vulnerable to let customers come see the imperfections of the organization, but it results in better solutions”.

The key takeaway from the whole event from Chelsey: “In Design Thinking, we design with the user, not for the user”. 

Thanks for all who attended.

Please contact us to explore learning more or have a challenge or question at your organization on which you'd like to make progress.