How designers can drive new ventures

June 23, 2022

Learnings talking to Shiva Jaini, Product Design Manager at Google on the design and product story of inventing YouTube Kids. 🎙 The biggest takeawys how designers can drive impact in an corporate setting by having an intrapreneurial mindset.

Designdrives, hosted by Sebastian Gier, is a weekly podcast interviewing design entrepreneurs and progressive design minds who gained their experience in design cultures like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Uber, Spotify, IBM, Twitter, SAP, Facebook or own startups, design agencies and business ventures.

In this article, the valuable thoughts from an inspiring design intrapreneur, Shiva Jaini, Product Design Manager at Google, are shared based on his design-driven intrapreneurship experience.

Shiva elaborated this journey of driving new projects like YouTube Kids or Google Kitchen Assistants during his career. In this talk, he is explaining why and how design drives intrapreneurship. Shiva has been quite successful doing exactly that during his time at Google — going from an idea to an actual product internally, and he has shared his insights on how design can be a driving force for new innovations and products.

Why design drives intrapreneurship?

In this modern and evolving world, corporate leaders are expecting a more demanding job and blurrier roles from their employees. Design-drive approachcan be a key to success in the roles that require innovation, customer understanding, designing solutions for customer problems and continuous improvement.

Shiva Jaini has identified a couple of factors that help designers to become intrapreneurs within their organizations and help to launch new ventures and products.

Design is problem solving.

To become an intrapreneur, the designers need to think differently. According to Shiva’s experience, the problem-solving skill is the foundation of designing a product. Design thinking is about solving problems. Instead of focusing on the problem, design thinking starts with observation. It includes an understanding of the people and the context of the problem.

The designers who love to understand the needs of people are the ones who can eventually find the new and best ways to resolve their problems. They look at problems from a holistic point of view and analyse it from every possible angle.

The design process.

The job of designers is not limited to design the product and move on. They start with an idea and convert it into a real product that is being used by the real users in a real environment. Design is not a single step in the development process, it is the process itself. The designers are part of each stage of the process: Idea, understanding users and needs, sketching and wireframing, UI images and prototyping, implementation, testing and evaluation and improvement.

Shiva shared that how he followed the proper design process while making the idea of YouTube Kids a reality for both user types: parents and kids.

“We engaged with parents and kids to understand their desires, aspirations and needs. The Kids convention of YouTube was a core part of the design process. We did co-design sessions with both kids and parents to gather insights around what families were looking for. These insights influenced our design principles, product direction, generated team alignment and helped us build a family-friendly experience from the ground-up.” — Shiva Jaini

Hence, following the design process helped the team a lot to move the idea towards implementation.

So, how Design drives intrapreneurship? Here are 4 aspects.

As mentioned above, the design-driven approach is the key to become an intrapreneur. Shiva shared a few useful guidelines on how designers can follow this approach and drive internal incubation projects and ventures with confidence.

#1 Balance between users’ needs and business objectives.

When you are designing a product for your users, you need to maintain a balance between users’ needs and the business objectives you are targeting. This balancing act is explained by Shiva through his experience of YouTube Kids. While defining the experience of YouTube ads, they handle the problem of balancing between the needs of content creator, content consumer and advertising partner in a very interesting way through introducing the idea of TrueView.

“We have this interesting balance among the needs of (i) creators who are uploading content and they need to make money for the content, (ii) end-users who want to see the content with a minimum disruption, and (iii) advertising partners. The TrueView was an interesting solution that balanced all these needs”

The YouTube TrueView feature is a real example of Balancing Act. The implemented feature doesn’t annoy end-users, and at the same time it allows content creators to monetize their content.

#2 Approach problems with a beginner’s mindset.

The designers can influenceintrapreneurship and push the new project forward in an organization if they approach the problems with a beginner’s mindset. To provide an unbiased real solution to a problem, it is critical to see the problem from a fresh perspective. Shiva shares this guideline while explaining the process of working on YouTube Kids.

“The people who have kids of themselves, they definitely would have pre-conceived notions and assumptions around, like if my kid is able to do these things then every kid will be able to do the same.”

The reality is different. To design the experience of YouTube Kids and make it a successful product, Shiva and his team looked at the problem with beginner’s mind. They met with real families, parents and kids, to get an idea of the problem they were facing from existing YouTube and what they wanted to achieve from this new product.

This simply means that when you are leading a product, do not let your own thoughts and assumptions affect your design decisions.

“There are many possibilities in a beginner’s mind, but in the expert a few. ” — Suski Roshi

#3 Use power of storytelling and prototyping.

Designers are very good at storytelling and they should use this powerful tool to share their innovative ideas to the audience. Sharing the ideas of new projects in a way that audience can visualize it in real environments can make a big difference. Shiva also used the same approach to explain his idea of YouTube Kids to the potential audience as well as his colleagues. The feedback that he received from this exercise was amazing.

“One of the things that we did for YouTube Kids is that we created a product story video. The idea was to share the possible ways to design this experience in the form of a story. It was like creating an advertisement for your product before it was built and showcase the audience that how the product will fit into people’s lives using real examples. It was a very low-fidelity video with real pictures of a real family and a real household environment.”

This 2-minute story video helped Shiva and his team to get the users feedback and dozens of ideas to incorporate into the real product.

Visual storytelling and prototyping will help you to inspire and convince stakeholders through visualization of your idea and make an impact.

#4 Innovate by embracing new technologies and interaction modalities.

To become intrapreneurs, designers can drive innovation using latest technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and human computer interaction modalities like touch, speech, vision etc. AI helps designers to have a deeper understanding of users, so that they can design with anticipated motivations and behaviors from users.

Shiva shared his experience of utilizing AI to support the idea and behaviour of Google Kitchen Assistant. Shiva and his team focused on human modalities and their current context while using the Google Kitchen Assistant. Provide the support of modalities that are best suitable in a particular circumstance. it is also important to design from the perspective of creating something that make the user feel better in the current moment — rather the forcing the user into new and uncommon interactions an behaviours that would require completely new habits. A similar experience is shared by Cheryl Platz while taking about designing the interactive voice experiences on Designdrives episode 1: “It’s not always about doing completely new things, it’s about doing things in a way that’s better for you in the moment.” An approach that worked very well for her when designing and exploring use-cases for AI assistant experiences like Amazon Alexa.

This discussion also shows the importance of doing user research to know about their behaviours and motivations. Shiva and his team used to interact with end users on every single day for around 8 months.

“We were doing meetings with families and they were testing our products. It was a very human-centered design process where our engineers were also participated in sessions with users and they observed the issues. Designing a display that would cater to the needs of different family members was an important thing to address. How could the main display cater to the different needs that each of these household members might have. This became possible by adopting a very user-centered approach.”

Using latest technologies help you bring innovation in your design, however, the power of knowing your users and observing their behaviours can never be underestimated while making design decisions for your products.

Conclusion

In this podcast, Shiva has shared his experience of implementing the innovative ideas like YouTube Kids and Google Assistant. He provided the guidelines that how a design-driven approach can help you become a successful intrapreneur. Always try to look at the problem with open minds and from multiple perspectives. Using latest technologies and multimodal interactions help you define innovative products that match closely with your users’ behaviors.

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