March 6, 2020 Driving Innovation through Design-Thinking & Crowdsourced Execution

From Harvard and Princeton classrooms to boardrooms at Google and Apple, design-thinking has wormed its way into the business space. Larger organizations are trying to act more like startups, but new ideas can have a hard time gaining traction in our execution and outcomes-obsessed world.

Recently, Clinton Bonner (VP of Marketing at Topcoder) and Adam Morehead (VP of Digital at Topcoder) sat down with Sam Marrazzo (CIO at BNMC) to discuss how Topcoder helps companies execute on the design-thinking process through crowdsourcing.

What is Design-Thinking?

Design-thinking is a human-centric method of innovation incubation. Instead of focusing directly on outcomes, design-thinking involves taking a step back and thinking about customers and their needs, desires, and wants. This typically happens in 3 stages (with many unique micro-stages in-between):

  1. Empathy: Through user research and problem identification, you seek to establish a hypothesis based on assumptions of user needs. What are my users’ problems? What do they need? And what are their pain points?
  2. Ideation: In the ideation stage, you’re brainstorming outside-the-box solutions to problems defined in the empathy stage. A commonly used anecdote for this stage is the truck conundrum. A truck is stuck under a bridge. While rescue workers argue whether they should remove parts of the bridge or dismantle the truck, a child notices the commotion and stops to see what’s happening. The child asks, “why not just let some air out of the tires?” In the ideation stage of design-thinking, you’re trying to think of the solutions that you normally wouldn’t summon due to preconceived notions of how the product or service works.
  3. Experimentation (or Development): In this stage, you pick the best solutions from your brainstorming session, and (ideally) you develop or build those solutions out.

Design-thinking is a disruptor for organizations that want to flex their innovation muscles.

Sam Marrazzo, BNMC

How the Crowd Can Help Execute

One of the biggest hurdles in the design-thinking process is execution. Once your team has used empathy-based thinking and brainstorming to come up with fresh new ideas, the design-thinking process hits a wall. Now, you have to execute those projects. But how do you do it? In traditional settings, each project would be broken down, sent to a development queue, and pushed into the SDLC at some future point. Given that 14% of IT projects outright fail and a further 49% of them are late, finding ways to work these fresh new ideas into your pipeline can be frustrating.

This is where the crowd comes in. Sam Marrazzo from BNMC takes his team’s outputs from design-thinking and inputs them into the Topcoder community. Instead of a workshop ending with a wall full of mind-maps that never go any further, Sam adds in the crowdsourcing challenge and actually gets concepts canvased out in design. In this case, the crowd handles the third step (implementation) — giving teams the freedom to design-think in a semi-siloed environment.

We use the Topcoder community to take ideas and deliver an actual, tangible outcome for organizations.

Sam Marrazzo, BNMC


But there are benefits beyond reducing development frictions. Speed is a key one. As dev teams struggle to meet deadlines, the crowd can be a serious boon for leadership. You can take the output from the design-thinking process (i.e., the great ideas), and you can deliver those outputs to the crowd the very same day. Within a day or two, you’ll have a 3-dimensional creative view of an outcome.

And we’re not talking about a design. Topcoder challenges can deliver a wide variety of designs from industry-rated talent. This gives you a wide breadth of options to explore and prototype. You can take the best options and use them to create even better ideas through iterative decision-making. Overall, the crowd can hack your design-thinking process. You get a variety of accelerated design concepts on those great ideas you’ve been storming up in the boardroom.

Are You Ready to Rethink Design-Thinking?

Topcoder can help you disrupt your current design-think model. If you’re ready to innovate and iterate faster, Contact us to learn more.

VP, Marketing

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