A Design Thinking Experience

June 3, 2016 | By kgabel
The Maintenance, Material and Management System Tactical Advancements for the Next Generation, the Navy’s most recent Design Thinking event.
3M TANG Logo
The Maintenance, Material and Management System Tactical Advancements for the Next Generation, the Navy’s most recent Design Thinking event.
VIRIN: 160603-N-ZZ219-3958
The Maintenance, Material and Management System Tactical Advancements for the Next Generation, the Navy’s most recent Design Thinking event. Can you imagine coming aboard a Virginia-class submarine and finding a Sailor using an Xbox 360 controller to operate one of the submarine’s periscopes? It’s not just a futuristic idea – it’s being tested at sea now. It’s the result of an innovative Navy workshop where warfighters are taught to apply Design Thinking principles, and are given the tools to go from forming ideas to prototyping inventive solutions. This workshop is known as Tactical Advancements for the Next Generation, TANG for short. During the first TANG in 2011, a broad spectrum of concepts was produced, including the idea to replace a bulky control system (costing $128,000) with an Xbox 360 controller (retail price, approximately $28). Could there be a similar Design Thinking discovery within the Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) Enterprise? In June 2015, I was able to participate in a TANG workshop focused on the Maintenance, Material and Management System (3M). The workshop, held at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, California, included hand-picked Sailors, across many paygrades from around the world, to help create ideas, concepts and solutions for improving the Navy’s 3M systems, hardware, policy and procedures. TANG workshops can be traced back to Chief of Naval Operations John M. Richardson, (then Vice Adm. Commander, Submarine Forces), who challenged Program Executive Office Integrated Warfare Systems 5 and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) to make submarine combat system software more intuitive; their response was TANG. To complete the core team, APL sought out an industrial design firm that takes a human-centered, design-based approach to helping public and private organizations innovate and grow. Five Phases of Design Thinking as identified by Stanford University’s Institute of Design:
1. Empathy 2. Define 3. Ideate 4. Prototype 5. Test
I have been part of other brainstorming workshops and a strategic studies group during my career, and could immediately tell 3M TANG was going to be very different. My experience with TANG started on a Monday evening with a Technical Expo. I was like a kid walking into a toy store. All around me I saw high tech gadgets, the latest cool gizmos, and cutting edge technology being demonstrated for TANG workshop participants. We were shown just a small sample of the art of the possible and then asked to think about how these technologies could be used to improve how the Navy conducts maintenance. Later, during the main event, it was clear to me that the group that was able to identify actionable results incredibly fast, an asset I had not experienced in the past.TANG not only created an environment for sailors to create solutions, it brought decision makers and leadership to help push them forward. Empathy [caption id="attachment_3961" align="alignright" width="300"]
VIRIN: 160603-N-ZZ219-3961
Vice Adm. Thomas S. Rowden and Capt. Timothy B. Spratto observe cutting edge systems during the technology exposition. Right from the start, it felt like the TANG team had a really good handle on the issues facing 3M; and as I found out later, they had gotten there the hard way by walking in our shoes. The planning for the workshop had started several months earlier when APL and the company awarded the contract, IDEO, began to conduct immersive research across the 3M enterprise. The Design Thinking process starts with a phase designed to observe end users in their environment, engage those users as they do their tasks, and become immersed in the user’s environment to develop empathy. Engaging with people in their environment reveals so much about the way they think and what they value, that it allows the team to develop insights the user may not even realize. The workshop facilitators had spent a tremendous number of hours working with Sailors during this Empathy Phase as Sailors completed various kinds of preventative maintenance tasks actions across the fleet. Define The TANG facilitators synthesized all of their findings into compelling needs and insights. They worked to develop a deep understanding of the users, their environment and their conscious and unconscious interactions while completing maintenance tasks. The Define Phase results in an actionable problem statement based on the point of view of the end user. This phase guides  workshop participants to focus on specific insights found during the Empathy Phase. Ideate [caption id="attachment_3962" align="alignleft" width="300"]
VIRIN: 160603-N-ZZ219-3962
Workshop participants review, discuss and provide feedback on several “How Might We” questions during the Define Phase. At the start of day two of the workshop, I could see several insights now posted around the walls of our workshop. From listening to Sailors during the immersive research in the Empathy Phase, the APL and IDEO team discovered 14 possible solutions to known 3M issues that were posted on sheets of plywood-sized foam core boards around the workshop. We were asked to provide feedback on those initial solutions. Sticky notes of all colors and markers were handed out for everyone to write one idea on each sticky note. We were asked to review each concept and answer with “I like” and “I wish” statements, along with listing questions and concerns. The room erupted in conversation and sticky notes began to fly in every direction. Welcome to the Ideate Phase! We divided into smaller groups and began brainstorming. This was a semi-structured team-based approach to rapid idea generation. The goal of ideation is to explore a wide solution space with a large quantity of ideas and great diversity among those ideas. From this vast collection of thoughts the team voted on the idea and combinations of ideas that held the most promise to solve the insights identified earlier. Prototype The teams took the concepts they were most excited about and built prototypes to communicate and test the idea. They were supplied with foam core boards, markers, glue, tape, popsicle sticks, sticky notes, pipe cleaners, almost anything you would find in an elementary school art classroom, and the creativity began. One team was making a tablet demonstration with various screens drawn on flip chart pages. They would use the flip chart as if it was an oversized tablet, but would demonstrate the tablet functionality by touching a hand drawn box, representing a button on the screen, and then they would flip the chart to the next page to show how the tablet might function. Another team was building angel and devil costumes to show a concept to exorcise the information technology demons that Sailors have to deal with when working within 3M computer systems. A third team was building a Candy Land® game board to illustrate how a 3M career path could be developed to include a robust screening process, and increase 3M level of knowledge. [caption id="attachment_3965" align="alignright" width="300"]
VIRIN: 160603-N-ZZ219-3965
Sticky notes capture concept feedback using “I like” and “I wish” statements along with listing questions and concerns during the Ideate Phase. The 7 Rules of Effective Brainstorming
1. Defer judgment 2. Encourage wild ideas 3. Build on the ideas of others 4. Stay focused on the topic 5. One conversation at a time 6. Be visual 7. Go for quantity
The Prototype Phase forced us to get our great ideas out of our heads and into the physical world. Early prototyping is supposed to be rough, rapid and cheap. By using foam core board, glue and popsicle sticks, end users can work out design issues quickly and cheaply, as opposed to paying a developer to spend several months building a model that costs several hundred thousand dollars, only to find that it had fundamental flaws. This low-resolution prototyping method allows workshop participants to learn quickly, investigate many possibilities, and – most importantly – encourage discussion across a larger group of users and subject matter experts, who then can contribute suggestions or incorporate changes in other prototypes. Test [caption id="attachment_3967" align="alignright" width="300"]
VIRIN: 160603-N-ZZ219-3967
Workshop participants demonstrate a 3M “YouTube” tablet functionality during the Prototype Phase. The final phase of Design Thinking is testing and sharing. Testing is the chance to refine solutions, get immediate user feedback and make those solutions even better. For example, the oversized tablet made from a flip chart worked out user-identified flaws very quickly by sketching new pages, as opposed to the time and effort required for a programmer to write code to get a functioning application. I saw the workshop room shift from adults doing arts and crafts into a stage with lighting and cameras for homegrown theatric presentations. The sharing session was designed to receive feedback and refine concepts. After each presentation or demonstration the entire workshop provided more feedback, again using “I like” and “I wish” statements, and listing any questions or concerns. All of these comments were written on sticky notes, so they could be captured, reviewed, rearranged and discussed. Testing informs the next iterations of prototypes, and sometimes it means going back to the drawing board. That is exactly what we did. Over the next couple days, we went through the process a few more times with each new version improving our ideas and solutions! By the end of the workshop, I had learned some incredible lessons on a new approach to problem solving. Being immersed in Design Thinking and engaging with the TANG Team, I saw how our incredibly talented Sailors can and should be encouraged to resolve complex challenges. NAVSUP and Commander, Navy Installations Command are co-sponsoring a Food Service TANG workshop which is scheduled for Spring 2016.
Do you know of a motivated and open-minded culinary specialist who should be nominated to participate in the Food Service TANG? If so, contact a NAVSUP Logistics Innovation Cell coordinator.
November/December 2015