02 Dec

Pictured above is a fine group of senior executives, business owners, technologists and marketing professionals all gathered to discuss data journeys, and our ability to make sense of what being digital means. With such a far reaching topic, there was the need for some sort of frame or anchor to get people motivated to get out of chairs, open their hearts and most importantly, grab a Post-IT pad and pen!

In search of this frame I did what most of us do in this situation. I reached for Google, went searching for ideas, and came across Susie Lu.

Susie Lu is a Senior Data Visualisation Engineer. She works for Netflix.

I have never met or spoken to Susie but from the brief story that stared up at me from my screen that morning I felt an immediate sense of empathy with what she was doing. (At this point my naivety kicked in when I questioned what is Netflix doing employing data visualisation engineers' given what I thought they did for a business? But this thought can be held over for another day).

Back to Susie. I picked up on the story where she had decided to apply her data creativity skills to improving the consumer experience when faced with that most humble of pieces of data. The RECEIPT.

Read about Susie and her brilliant idea (https://www.fastcompany.com/90347782/the-humble-receipt-gets-a-brilliant-redesign)

On it's own a receipt is not an amazing human experience. It represent a record of transaction. Proof of an event. Proof of purchase. It exist to help us claim expenses. They haunt our wallets until clear out time, and pretty much represent something of limited value.

Reading the article I pictured Susie putting on the shoes of the consumer and how they looked at the information in their hand. She probably reasoned that there was a great data visualisation challenge. After all - how many receipts are printed out each day around the world? Is this just not a super simple human issue around information and its value?

Of course I am totally in the dark on Susie's motivation to tackle this interesting information challenge, but I found myself immersed in what a wonderfully simple yet elegant story she was telling.

I hope that Susie was thinking of a way to make the largest impact for the human (the consumer) from information held already (the retailer) to give the human (the consumer) a better way to view the information, and to make them think. To think such things as - "Did I really spend so much on meat & seafood, what is my trend for buying snacks, and really, do I buy so little diary produce?". All gleaned from something that already existed - data.

Susie had given me the metaphor I was looking for.

Forcing ourselves out of our comfort zone of thinking we understand is not an easy place to get out of. Why? Because our judgement of intrinsic and extrinsic value can cloud minds and decision making when confronted with data. We have to be up for the challenge, to be challenged by others, allowing us to question beliefs in what the data is suggesting, leaving egos and preconceptions at the door. When this happens we free up space. Space to apply design thinking to solving problems or creating value from the data that is all around us.

Space to think like a human. Space to think like Susie.

You see every organisation at some point will about design. Products they make, services they offer, marketing campaigns they run, branding initiatives that commence , business processes that change and so on. Fewer however, have a conscious rhythm to design thinking. Conscious in the way they approach challenging the status quo and biases, and rhythm in terms of encouraging not just ideas, but also empathy, listening and being curious.

Design thinking challenges the human bias towards assuming we know what people want. It makes us stop and imagine the other person in ways not previously considered. Yes design thinking is a real thing. You can become a practitioner in fact. It exists as a framework of processes to help get the most out of solving a problem or finding an opportunity.

But for me it is more about how an organisation, a leader or we as individuals consider design. Design not in the grand sense of the word, but more in the practical and here today bumps in the road we all face.

So my point is this.

Successful companies' all have a Susie Lu. Someone that is often not the person you originally thought it would be.

In fact, It may be you.

“We spend a lot time designing the bridge, but not enough time thinking about the people who are crossing it.” -Dr. Prabhjot Singh

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