Six weeks with IDEO.org

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Since September 2013, the ‘Amader Daktar’ team at mPower has been using the Human Centered Design toolkit by IDEO.org. This year, between August and September, we worked closely with a team from IDEO.org to co-design the next round of iteration for the Amader Daktar model. Don’t know Amader Daktar or IDEO.org? We’ll you should, and you can check out more about them here and here.

In early August, Behrouz Hariri and Danny Alexander joined us in Dhaka to conduct the IDEO brand of human centered research. Over three intensive days of interviews, card sorts, and storytelling exercises, (interview and survey forms don’t work we’ll with the HCD process) they confirmed our research findings from over a year back. With the findings fresh in every one’s minds and a strong sense of intuition, we dove into the most unbelievable brainstorming session I have ever had- between the six of us, we came up with 350 ideas over 6 hours!

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the IDEO process, it’s a series of expansions and convergences. Yeah, I didn’t really understand it at first either. Simply put, the process requires you to come up with a large number of findings and then focus on the most important; it requires you to generate tons of ideas, but focus on the most likely to succeed; it requires you to think big, but start small.

So that’s what we did- focused on the ideas that popped up again and again and seemed most likely to succeed. Based on those ideas, we designed very rudimentary prototypes to take out with us in our next field visit.

One such prototype was a blank prescription with a number of cards containing information you would and wouldn’t normally expect in a prescription. We had cards for medicine, dosage, doctor’s name and qualification, but we also had cards for weather information, a picture of the doctor and a visual representation of when the medicine should be taken. The idea was to let the end user design their own prescriptions to see what resonated with them.

A major characteristic of the IDEO approach is the mindset that every tool, including prototypes, is a learning opportunity. Use them to see what works and what doesn’t, but keep in mind that it’s perfectly fine if the prototypes crash and burn, as long as you learn some new insight (or for that matter, even some old insight) from the experience.

The last two weeks of the engagement took place back in San Francisco, at the IDEO.org office. That’s where we met Minnie Bredouw, an amazing interaction designer and our third IDEO.org team member. Working with Minnie, we were able to completely redesign the user experience in just a couple of days in a way that guarantees ends user satisfaction and delight. With Danny and Behrouz, based on all the insights from the field, we also hashed out several other models of service delivery that we need to test before declaring a ‘most likely to succeed’ model.

So that’s where we are now. There’s a lot to be done, and even more to learned. We’re looking to optimize the user experience, harness the power of word of mouth marketing, ease the adoption of the Amader Daktar service and try out different service delivery models to find the most easily scalable and replicable healthcare delivery solution for rural Bangladesh.

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But taking a step back from all we have to do in the next couple of months, there’s the much more important question of what we’ve learnt over the past two. Working closely with IDEO.org was an invaluable opportunity, not for the recommendations we received or the tools and methods that we learnt. The crux of the value lies in the shift in mindset that occurred during the engagement. A shift from being overly concerned about thoroughness and perfection to seeing the value in ‘quick and dirty’. A shift from a results-oriented approach to one that is much more focused on learning. A shift from being afraid of failure, to actually embracing it as a doorway to innumerable insights. And ultimately, the shift to a more human centered approach to design.

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Ahmed Abu Bakr

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