Design thinking and digital transformation are terms that have been growing in prominence and importance in Singapore. Despite hearing the words being thrown about, it can still be difficult to get a precise hold on what they mean and how to apply them in business.

However, at the rate that technology and the work environment are evolving, lagging behind is not an option for your business. According to John Chambers, Executive chairman at Cisco System, ‘At least 40% of all businesses will die in the next 10 years if they don’t figure out how to change their entire company to accommodate new technologies.’.



Source: GIFER


At the ‘Accelerating Digital Transformation with Design Thinking’ event by Spectrum Global, this crucial subject was exactly what formed the topic of discussion. Experts from varied backgrounds came together to share their experiences, ideas and insights on using design thinking to bring about digital transformation, and one of the guests was none other than ZomWork’s General Manager, Hu Yinghan. The other guests included Delane Foo, curator from KPMG Ignition Centre, Sebastian Mueller, COO from MING Labs and Collin Ng, Head of Special Projects at Golden Equator Consulting as the moderator.




From Design Thinking to Design Doing

The event began with each guest giving a short presentation. Delane started with a talk on going from design thinking to design doing. She noted that while there are many ideas and workshops on design thinking, these ideas usually do not make it out of the workshops and the lessons do not end up being applied. These could be a result of the expectations that businesses have on design thinking.

When organisations want to apply design thinking, it is almost akin to ‘swimming in rough open waters’ where they have to take the plunge and be prepared for challenges. However, applying design thinking does not always work as businesses often face a confidence gap in practice. Furthermore, the teaching approach to design thinking is usually deductive where the concept is taught and then utilised. Instead of that, the inductive method should be adopted where an example is given and facilitation is used to guide businesses on what to do.


To further boost the application and success of design thinking, help and support from leadership is required. Commitment to the team has to be shown, and they will have to be protected from other priorities to carry out the design thinking process. Floats and safety boats are also needed, with the leaders providing confidence and assurance to the team.



Source: GIFER


Building Solutions for Customers

Next up came Sebastian, whose presentation revolved around thinking for the customer and building solutions for their needs. If a business is not able to solutionise their offering for their user or customer, then the solution may not work for their specific problem. In addition, clients and users have constraints, so businesses will have to ensure that their solutions can work within their constraints. Also, businesses should keep in mind that they are there to solve the problems of their users and not the problems of the entire corporation. To help their users, businesses should think of the entire customer experience, from omni-channel and to online and offline as well.

However Sebastian emphasised that if your business cannot be changed, then you will not be able to apply design thinking. Only when the entire organisation is aligned to the needs of the customer will you then be able to solve the needs of the customer, as redesigning your organisation will then determine the business model, customer journey and the touchpoints.

From his first-hand experience of helping businesses at MING Labs, Sebastian sees the importance of considering the terrain and network that businesses are operating in, as well as their business values to understand their touchpoints. In designing a solution, the entire system has to be studied and not just one object.



Source: GIFER


The 5 Stages of the Design Thinking Process

Yinghan capped off the presentation segment by reiterating the design thinking process, which consists of 5 stages: empathise, define, ideate, prototype, test. With these 5 stages, Yinghan then proceeded to bring the audience through how this was employed for a client in a ZomWork project.

First, ZomWork held meetings with the client to better understand them, their business and their needs. This in-depth understanding then enabled ZomWork to define the precise problem that the client needed help with solving. With a clear definition, ZomWork could proceed to think about the solutions as well as what actions to take. Next, ZomWork went ahead to question and test the response in different markets, tapping on what they had brainstormed in the ideate stage to further expand the ground covered and to assess which area would be attractive for the client.



Despite there being various groups of stakeholders to manage and cooperate with in ZomWork’s structure, focusing on the customer and their needs enabled ZomWork to find a solution for them.

The 3 presenters were then brought back on stage for the panel session to take on questions on digital transformation and design thinking, with some interesting discussion points summarised here:


Bringing About Organisational Change

Q: With the processes of digital transformation and design thinking involving breaking down walls and bringing about change in organisations, how can businesses then be convinced that they need to change?

A: This starts with making leaders aware of this need for change, and just like how it is done for your customers, the team can find out the touchpoints of their business leaders and earn their trust one step at a time through small and quick wins. It will also be useful to get the lay of the company and to have collaborators to work with you to bring about the change as it will need 1%of the company to transform it.


Q: Bringing about organisational change is already an uphill task, so how should one go about implementing design thinking when there are many different stakeholders with different levels of commitment in the company?

A: Alignment of everyone in the company towards a single goal, including the various stakeholders, will be crucial. Constantly remind everyone of the purpose of the single goal and keep them focused to achieve it.


Measuring the Success of Design Thinking

Q: What about cost-conscious companies that are only focused on immediate returns from the design thinking process?

A: Having such a view is the wrong way to go about the design thinking process. The price point is not what counts as the quality and result from a lower cost project may not be what you want and may not get you to where you want to go. Additionally, there are three important factors to consider in a project: the scope, cost and time. If there is a cap on any of these factors, the business and the client can shift these factors around and talk about what is realistic together.



Q: Was there any scenario where design thinking was not the solution to the problem?

A: Design thinking is a tool which is a means to an end, not just a one-stop solution. Businesses will have to combine parts of design thinking to a waterfall framework to solve problems. Furthermore, it is about how individual businesses engage with design thinking as each business may use it differently from others.

Q: What are the metrics used to measure the success of design thinking?

A: Design thinking is to be used as a tool to navigate, with success being defined by the organisation itself. The metrics are then defined from the decided success, by outlining the problem properly, and through inspired application.


Wrapping up the entire session was, fittingly, an outlook by the 3 presenters on the current and future state of design thinking in Singapore. While design thinking is a topic being taught in workshops today, the application of the process is still lacking. Despite this, design thinking is becoming a known term which is top of mind, thus helping to move the needle to the point where businesses are aware of it and can take action.


In addition to these processes, your business can also explore more opportunities with ZomWork through market expansion to foreign markets. ZomWork’s cross-border team of experts in Singapore and China helps you with your business expansion to China, from assessing the opportunities in the market for you to executing a sales and business development process. Talk to our experts and let them help you through the process today!

 Let Our Cross-border Experts Help


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Topics: Entrepreneur, Business, Productivity, Start-ups & SMEs, Business Growth

Jing Rong Chang

Written by Jing Rong Chang

Integrated and Digital Marketing | Content Creation. Also, either eating (too much) desserts or dreaming about snow.