How to improve productivity with design thinking

Coachify case study - (part 4/5)

Image credit: | macgyverhh

Image credit: | macgyverhh

Design thinking is all the rage.  From IBM to AirBnB, to reaching the cover of Harvard Business Review last year, companies are embracing a design-based way of thinking. Design thinking is here to stay and it can improve your productivity. This 5-part series will help you understand and apply design thinking personally and in your organisation.

Whilst design thinking may seem like a new approach, in reality, it has always been there. It turns out that Coachify is a design thinking firm too. In this post I show how we used Design Thinking to give birth to and nurture Coachify.

  1. Breakthrough diagnosis

In July 2015, Lord Wei of Shoreditch suggested that we should combine coaching and wearables. We could have started Coachify with an analytical review of the market and of companies. Instead we began by empathising with users.

We realised that 2015 will be remembered as the year wearables crossed into the mainstream. Coachify felt like the perfect response – taking wearable technology and interpreting its data – not just telling you how to increase productivity but providing you with a personalised plan based on real-time observations. Knowing why you do what you do – get hungry, feel tired, perform better – is crucial to helping you become healthier and more productive.

Our insight was that just as companies use big data to transform productivity, so individuals can now use personal data to transform their productivity. So, first, breakthrough came through empathy and diagnosis.

But how did I come to realise how to build Coachify? It was during an experiment I designed and subjected myself to last summer.

  1. Using all logical modes via experimentation

In preparation for launching Coachify, we brainstormed potential solutions and I made myself the first user – how could I credibly offer Coachify to others if I hadn’t tried it myself? I tracked my diet, sleep, exercise, email habits, mood, spirituality and mental focus using a selection of wearables.

Here’s a brief summary of the impact of my experiment. Between August 2015 and April 2016:

  • My average sleep improved from 7 hours to 8 hours per night
  • My time spent intermittently checking emails (as opposed to time spent proactively checking emails and then not looking at them) more than halved
  • My BMI came down from 25.1 to 22.5 through improved vigorous exercise and reduced sugar
  • I increased the amount of time spent playing with my children by 20%
  • I maintained and increased my impact at work – revenues were up 45% and profitability 75%.

On top of all of that, I felt more alert during the working day, and I felt happier and more content with work and life (from an already good base).

This was a 4-intelligence approach. Through this process, I firmed up my belief that people flourish when they master four intelligences:

  • Physical sustainability – the extent to which you sustain peak levels of physical energy.
  • Mental focus – the ability to focus attention intently on one thing, without getting distracted.
  • Emotional intelligence – the awareness of, and management of, your own and others’ emotions.
  • Purpose – the ability to align what brings you joy with what the world needs.

Mastering these intelligences does not mean becoming the best in the world in each, but being aware of your levels and taking steps to improve. Without knowing it, I was acting as a design thinker, who in the words of novelist Saul Bellow, is “a first-class noticer.”

Together with this, we realised through analysis and intuition that the technology is here and the productivity revolution is only just beginning.

From here we broke through to an offer that is resonating strongly in the market.

  • Coachify’s mission is to redefine productivity.
  • We do this through combining proprietary software, executive coaching and predictive analytics.
  • Coachify uses wearables to harness your personal data and transform your personal productivity. 
  1. Pursing aims, not just of reliability but also of validity

Next we built a beta, which we tested with individual clients, before prototyping again. One thing we learned along the way was that people care more about impact in their work than just financial rewards. At the time of writing we are developing a full release product, and design thinking has been central in helping us get there.

I am reminded of the old quote from a billionaire who reached the top:

I spent all my life climbing the ladder but then realised it was leaning against the wrong wall.

Coachify not only helps you climb well but climb the right wall. Wearables have the potential to make the kind of transformation I’ve seen in my own life more possible for more people – that is a huge and exciting opportunity, and I could not be more excited to be at the forefront of that with Coachify.

In summary, at its most simple, design thinking is a way of framing and then solving problems based on a close observation of users or customers. It encourages companies to think broadly about user needs rather than to be purely analytical. Whilst good data analytics are like gold-dust, design thinking takes us beyond them. Data tells us what people do, and design thinking helps us understand why they do what they do.

What next?

Share your comments and questions about Coachify here.

Read on for part 5 of this series on design thinking.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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