Design Thinking Part 3: Why You Need a North Star

From Aquent Federal’s webcast on Design Thinking with cBrain’s Greg Godbout, we explore two popular terms that some government managers dismiss as buzzwords – Design Thinking and North Star. Greg had a lot to say on this. We share some of his thoughts below and you can hear the rest on the Aquent Federal Channel.   

“I found most government creative leaders were following the wrong north star”, says Greg Godbout about his years in government. They were unable to define the value proposition of what they were creating. And in many cases, didn’t know where to begin or who to ask for help.

Value proposition defined.

A promise of value to be delivered and acknowledged, and a belief from

the customer, that value will be delivered and experienced.

The critical component here is ‘a belief from the customer’.

Let’s share an example of a good north star, and how it impacts customers and helps guide government employees.

The state department recently did a design thinking exercise around passports, and what citizens do with them.

The department had already made numerous improvements but there were  still frustrations – customers sometimes missed trips because of government requirements (think jumping through hoops) – and government employees took the brunt of their frustrations.

As the state department began rethinking the existing process and known issues, the department set its north star.

The goal: To remove the many barriers getting in the way of delivering a passport – especially to customers who need a passport in a hurry.

Value Proposition: No Missed Trips.

What makes this a really great value proposition, is that it’s developed entirely from the citizen’s perspective – no missed trips. It also provides very clear expectations to employees, ie., do whatever it takes to make sure your customer doesn’t miss their trip.

How do you develop your north star?

When you talk with executives in government, it can be  difficult to convince them you need to practice “design thinking”.

Some will immediately dismiss the request, saying it sounds like another buzzword. What they’re not saying, but thinking, is: What’s that going to do for me? How’s it going to help us achieve XYZ or deliver ABC? Why should I commit to something I don’t understand or see value in?

This is where you ask what their value proposition is … what value their service, tool, product provides.  And to whom.

Simple question, right? And something any executive should be able to answer. However, many will struggle to define their value proposition, and that’s when you bring in design thinking as the solution:

Don’t worry. There’s a practice called design thinking that will help define your value proposition. Everything will fall into place once we determine a north star to guide you. 

Where is your north star? What’s your vision? What does success look like?

Design-thinking practices, user-centered design practices, human-centered design practices.

Always, always, always determine your value proposition and north star from the perspective of your customer.

Questions to focus on include:

What does this mean for the citizen?

What does this mean for the government worker?

What does this mean for the people who interact most with this system, this tool, this service?

Sadly, this approach is not widely used in government today. However, that means you have many great opportunities to effect change within government, as well as plenty of space to differentiate yourself and the value you bring to government.

Next, we look at strategizing your career in government design.