Strategic Consulting: Design Thinking for Innovation

When providing strategic consulting for our clients, we utilise design thinking to pursue innovative solutions for what seems to be hard, top-down problems.

One of the core services offered by Chemistry Team is strategic consulting. We make it our business to understand how people live, work, and play. Consequently, this allows us to help clients view their challenges through a user-centric lens and build strategic roadmaps to solutions. When designing strategy, one of the innovation tools we advocate for is design thinking.

Chemistry, Service Design Agency in Singapore, CEO, John Chan providing strategic consulting and training in design thinking

Utilising design thinking in strategic consulting

There is a clear distinction between the aesthetic-driven act of ‘designing’ and thinking like a designer. Coined by Tim Brown, design thinking is a tool that utilises the sensibilities and methodologies of a designer. Businesses have adopted the mindset of a designer in order to marry user needs with technological feasibility and business viability. As a result, this leads to valued products or services primed for the market. While ‘designing’ involves the beautifying of a finished product, design thinking is the overarching thought process behind the creative process. When providing strategic consulting, we help businesspeople adopt this mindset when approaching their problems. As a result, this allows them to address hard, top-down challenges with an open and creative outlook.


Human-centered innovation does not concern itself with the problem. The ability to unpack and truly understand the problem is incredibly valuable. However, designers are driven by the solution. When developing a strategy for our clients, our main goal as a designers is to somehow improve the quality of life of the end-user. This is why the design thinking process makes so much sense. By jumping back and forth between research, prototyping, and reiteration, we are fine tuning an end-product that would ultimately serve the user as well as possible. As a result, companies are utilising design thinking to not just solve their problems, but to find new problems to solve. Thinking like a designer allows companies to inform their R&D decisions by identifying gaps in the market for disruptive innovation.

Making business sense

In addition to the largely customer-centric, meaning-generating part of design thinking, the process makes business sense as well. A large part of the reason we advise design thinking when providing strategic consulting is the fact that the reiterative portion minimises risk. Preciously, companies invented, created, and rolled out products in an almost linear manner. As a result, these services or products do not serve the needs of the users and fail remarkably. That means that a ton of resource had been wasted on absolutely nothing. Thinking like a designer means only creating products that users want and need. Design thinking accomplishes this. The fact that the service or product is 1. Advised by empathetic, qualitative research, and 2. Goes through several rounds of testing and prototyping allows for the mitigation of risk and cost.

NNgroup's designthinking 101 process map

A Strategic Consulting Tool

At Chemistry Team, we are firm believers of co-creation and collaboration. When engaged to develop a service or product, a large portion of our process is to work in tandem with the relevant teams. Of course, one of the best innovation tools in our arsenal is design thinking. We firmly believe that leveraging on all stakeholders of the project at hand will help us develop the best, most holistic solution. Bringing out the deep domain of knowledge of relevant stakeholders at key points of the design thinking process helps us shape prototypes and inform research. Through our work with Singtel, Singapore’s largest telecommunications provider, we were able to see our clients from problem to solution using design thinking.

Streamlining Singtel’s support channels

In an effort to improve their customer support channels and streamline their customer’s experience, Singtel rolled out several new features to work in tandem with their support hotline.  They engaged us to help find out how customers would perceive these changes.  We saw this an excellent opportunity to utilise a user-centric approach. This meant that we had to uncover the Singtel user’s perception of what exactly a great customer support experience entails.  

Our user research plan involved detailed conversations with 15 established Singtel customers that varied in demography. Through user interviews, observations, and a customer service audit, we were able to chalk up a wealth of insights. In addition, we facilitated a workshop with the relevant Singtel teams in order to leverage on their knowledge of their systems, processes, and customers. We synthesised these findings to build key personas and a causal feedback loop that helped identify areas of opportunity for behavioural change. As a result of this, we designed initial recommendations and provided a roadmap of ideas for the client’s consideration.

Singtel's new support page has a visual hierarchy that highlights self-serve treatments and deprioritises the hotline

As per our recommendations, Singtel tasked us to work on their website’s support page. Utilising a content-first approach, we conducted a content mapping exercise to identify gaps in the website’s content. Based on these findings, we were able to generate ideas that would help solve these issues.  Subsequently, we designed a lo-fi prototype in the form of sketches and click-thru wireframes. Utilising these prototypes, we then conducted usability testing in our UT Lab. The lab permitted for the Singtel team to observe their customer’s interact with our prototypes in real time. After a few iterations through user feedback, we designed the final User Interface Design. Through content strategy and usable interfaces, Singtel customers are now able to resolve their issues independently without having to resort to hotline support.

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