Creativity under constraints







Service Design

Jun, 2018


To enable creativity under standard project management constraints (of time, quality, budget) for a retail store set up a team comprising of architects, designers, draftsmen, project managers, sourcing managers, and admin folks.


A team that knew design fundamentals like user research, ideation, and iterative prototyping (in a store design context) found an orientation for their skills in ‘non-design’ challenges like operations, supply chain etc.


Experiential Workshop

Raymond is rapidly proliferating its retail stores across the country. In this endeavour, just as important is the task of designing the stores, is the task of setting these stores up with impeccable quality, tight budget, and radically reduced turn-around time. Sudhir Soundalgekar, director of projects, had over the last two years, adopted multiple best practices and pushed the boundaries on all fronts. From an average of 90 days, his team had managed to achieve an average of 30 days turn around time with no compromise on quality and cost incurred. Now he wanted his team to regularly find creative solutions to their problems but within the constraints!

TinkerLabs approach- just show them they know it!

From our preparation meetings with some team members before the workshop, we realized that concepts of design thinking like user research, ideation, and iterative prototyping etc. were known to most participants from a ‘store design’ perspective; only that they had not previously imagined the design approach being conducive in ‘non-design’ challenges like vendor management, sourcing quality, multi-stakeholder interaction et al. We saw an opportunity to leverage their expertise and help them use similar skills for finding creative alternatives in project management and operations.

What happened on ground:

Setting the stage
Understanding the peculiar nature of this project, we chose to have one business strategist and one architect co-facilitate the workshop.

We started with in-depth qualitative interviews with select members of the Raymond team, to understand their workflows, their challenges, and their skills and experiences that could be leveraged to drive the desired change.

Basis this, we crafted some practical challenges for the workshop with two objectives- a) the challenges should be modeled around the organization’s context, and b) they should allow for live user interaction and end-to-end experience of developing solutions. We chose the food court at a nearby shopping mall as our arena, and posed the following challenges to the workshop participants:

  • Increase customer throughput at the food court, without increasing the resources or impacting the customers’ experience

  • Reduce queueing up of visitors at the security gate, in high footfall hours

  • Motivate the sales staff at multi-brand apparel stores to be more creative in handling the customers

Inside The Workshop

We started with a few case studies on the application of design thinking to business functions like marketing, operations, supply chain etc. Through these, we explained the design thinking approach and established its cross-applicability. Participants were then split into teams of complementary personalities using a quick MBTI evaluation. With the workshop challenges on board, the teams developed research plans using methods like contextual inquiry, shadowing, fly-on-the-wall observation etc. With some food in their stomachs, the teams boarded their shuttle vehicles and got to Viviana Mall, Thane. They stumbled through their initial user interactions but quickly found confidence (and excitement!) as they started discovering new insights.

They engaged various customer profiles, mall staff like security, house-keeping, sales personnel etc. in detailed interviews, and shot videos of people in action- a family standing in a queue at McDonalds’s trying to decide their order, a salesperson at Pantaloons feeling tired standing for hours at stretch, house-keeping team struggling to stack up and clean the food trays at the food court!

Backed by these insights, they regrouped inside the workshop and a) (re)defined their opportunity zones, and b) created multiple solutions in each zone. Solutions ranged from simple operational hacks for managing tables, new mobile apps and kiosks for ordering food, and interestingly, shifting the onus of better interaction from sales staff to the buyers!

They put their solutions to some ruthless testing, where they were encouraged to fail and revise their ideas, and finally pitch their solutions.

What did we achieve:

Backed by this understanding, we entered the final session of the workshop (adopting Design Thinking in their project work) with a slogan #MakeToSolve! This was inspired by the participants’ excitement about building stuff. Previously they had looked at ‘managerial or administrative’ problems as dampeners, and now they could visualize how tangible interventions can improve business environments! The teams ended with clear actionable plans-of-action for applying Design Thinking on current challenges in their project work- like vendor quality in tier-3 cities, ensuring similar timelines in franchise owned and company-owned stores etc.

Highlight of the project:

One highlight indeed was the insight that this team understood the fundamentals of design, and just needed some orientation to use their skills for business problem-solving! To assess the on-ground impact in terms of behavior change, we did pre and post engagement assessment using Kirk Patrick’s model (at L3 level). On the one hand, it was encouraging for us to see demonstrated positive impact; and on the other- well we learned to implement the Kirk Patrick assessment approach!

Creativity Under Constraints

We unapologetically push boundaries for wow results