The Columnist speaks to Low Cheaw Hwei, Head of Product and Service Design for Philips. He shares with us his thoughts on how having a desire to include design in business can benefit organisations.
The Columnist (TC): It’s admirable that Philips is working towards design as a company culture.
Low Cheaw Hwei (LCH): Yes, this was literally seeded when design was first introduced into the company more than 80 years ago and it has since evolved and progressed from a skill to a capability, discipline, department and function. The transformation looks logical but it was sheer hardwork.
In recent years, the business community has warmed up to embracing design and within Philips, the ‘ground’ is sufficiently ready to evolve design from a function to a ubiquitous behavior as part of the company culture, this will be a significant leap.
TC: Can you share with us some of the unique practices that Philips put in place to work towards this culture?
LCH: Philips Design has developed a toolbox of creative problem solving methods and multidisciplinary based approaches such as co-creation and experience flow that we share with the wider audience in the organization.
This is done through consistent application when we are doing our design work and most recently, through design-led modules delivered as part of the Philips University program that introduces and trains employees with key company initiatives, methods and tools.
We have also adopted a setup governance that puts design as a partner to our business, represented at key decision making platforms and this lifts our influence level.
TC: How do you gather feedback from consumers for product development?
LCH: We adopt multiple channels to be close to our consumers. From the traditional consumer marketing intelligence gathering, quantitative consumer research, field ethnography to social listening. With the availability of all these information, the challenge is how to sieve out the useful bits!
TC: How do you achieve a good balance between your team’s intuition and what consumers want?
LCH: Good question and in my opinion, this will always be the healthy tension between what the consumer wants and what we want for the consumers. What we find very useful is to keep asking what consumers wants and what consumers really need.
TC: What is the Philips design philosophy?
LCH: We put people at the heart of our design activity and through technology, we strive to deliver innovation that will improve people’s lives and we do this through a consistent multidisciplinary and research based approach.
TC: How has Philips’ design philosophy moulded the way the rest of the organisation works?
LCH: It is through inspiration and influence by the concepts and ideas we bring to the table as well as through our thought process and approach in the way we observe, shape and articulate topics, issues and offer solutions.
This takes a lot of effort but we observe that it is slowly shaping the wider attitude and awareness that regardless of what we do, it should be meaningful for the user.
TC: Where should a company which wants to be more design-centered start from?
LCH: Start with courage and curiosity. Courage to question ‘this is how we always do it’ and curiosity to try out ‘something we have not tried before’.
Just a word of caution, design is not a magic pill and you do not take it only when symptoms pop. It is an exercise you need to practice every day and results will eventually show.
TC: From your point of view, what is at stake here if there is no desire for design in organisations?
LCH: I would take a ‘half-full’ view to this question. [I would ask] What are the benefits if there is desire for design in organisations?
TC: Name one organisation that you believe has this desire for design?
LCH: The good news is that there are many organisations that have this desire and what is encouraging to see, is that not only commercial organisations are fueling this desire but government institutions are increasingly showing very keen interest to adopt design into their activities. This can only be good for design.