The importance of design-led thinking

Working in digital people talk to me a lot about technology. They assume I’m into gadgets and such like, burying myself in code and circuit boards into the wee small hours. In fact I’m no technologist. I’m actually a psychologist and I’m much more interested in understanding people, their needs and behaviours than I am in the latest mobile phone or home gaming console.

Technology is fundamental to what digital people like me do, but only as a servant of the people who use it. perhaps even more important than technology or psychology is what glues the two together – design-led thinking, a way of identifying and solving people’s problems which is central to a digital way of working.

The design profession is relatively new to insurance and, for the most part, its remit has been superficial. The traditional approach to insurance tends to be insurer-centric, focusing on tried-and-tested pricing and underwriting models. As a result, design often comes at the end of the process. Its brief is therefore focused on making things pretty and ensuring sufficient usability for a customer to get a quote.

In constraining design in this way we are missing a trick. When given proper support, design-led thinking can influence things in fundamental ways, with much more effective, sometimes game-changing results.

Take the iPad as an example. If Apple’s designers had simply taken the technology it had always been given and made it pretty we would have ended up with, at best, an attractive laptop computer. By putting design-led thinking at the heart of their process, they were able to step back from traditional notions of what a computer is to understand user problems within real world contexts, getting to prototypes early, using feedback to iterate, refine and improve their approach. The outcome was a game-changing device that feels incredibly natural to use.

We need to do the same in insurance. The same old products and ways of doing things won’t work for ever. By giving power to designers and the users of our products rather than starting with off the shelf underwriting models we can make digital technologies work for us to solve real world problems in ways we have not yet imagined.

Give design-led thinking a try. It might just work.

Dr. Stuart Booth is UK Director of Digital at RSA.Digital