Service Design 2012

Blended design teams: from clients and consultants to co-workers

Harriet Wakelam, Owen Hodda and Zaana Howard

The problems design teams are being asked to tackle are becoming increasingly complex. In this environment it is unlikely one agency, team or consultancy holds all of the breadth or depth of skills required to solve these problems alone.
As a result, design is increasingly being carried out in ‘blended’ teams where clients and consultants become co-workers. Our presentation tells the story of a blended design team comprising a National Australia Bank (NAB) internal design team, product team, architects and more, working with an external consultancy, Deloitte; brought together to evaluate the customer experience of the new NAB retail stores.

To work effectively in a multi-channel environment, team members needed to rapidly develop a cohesive approach that blended the strengths of their combined skills to understand design intent, experience, style, corporate requirements and artefacts. Challenges included:

  • developing shared meanings,a common language and a shared culture
  • negotiating roles and trust
  • developing a consistent approach
  • deciding on methodology and tools that met all parties’ required outcomes
  • overcoming initial issues of professional pride between organisations of ‘who does it best?’

By utilising the combined strengths of the blended team a standard testing engagement was transformed into a strategic design process which delivered a holistic view of a new service and product proposal. From the context of this project, the realities of what worked, what didn’t and the opportunities for blending design teams will be discussed. In addition, the impact on the project, individual design teams, and their respective organisations for this co-working arrangement will be presented. The project provided tangible evidence of the power of design thinking; given credibility not through the expertise of an internal or external design team but through both high performing organisations supporting new approaches to design innovation in the form of a blended design team.


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