NOTE: Formal reports and detailed process notes for the DFW Innovation Strategy Project have not yet been announced publicly. Please note that the content below is a limited representation of my work and has been approved by Accenture for publication here.
The Ask: Support Accenture team in developing an Innovation Study for the DFW metroplex by leading focus groups with key DFW participants in collaboration with SMU, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, and the Dallas Regional Chamber
The Outcome: Planned and facilitated a series of six focus groups with participants coming from a broad range of backgrounds and industries. Synthesized data into key findings to inform the overall innovation study and roadmap
The Role: Design Strategy Intern
The Team: Business Strategy + Geographic Marketing
The Employer: Accenture
The Timeline: January - April '18
In January of this year I was invited to join Accenture as a Design Strategy Intern to support a 9 month study developing an innovation strategy for the DFW metroplex. We were partnered with the Dallas Regional Chamber, United Way of Metropolitan Dallas, and other stakeholders from Southern Methodist University. The goal of the overall study is to develop a plan to drive substantial improvements in DFW's innovation economy, ultimately leading to a more innovative metroplex and greater national awareness of DFW's current innovation efforts. I was staffed on the Innovation Project with a fellow colleague from SMU's Design and Innovation program, working with and reporting to a number of consultants, managers, and strategy leaders as well as designers from Fjord over the 12 weeks of the project. Over the course of the internship I was able to help plan, facilitate, and synthesize data from a series of focus groups across the DFW metroplex. My colleague and I were given responsibility for designing each focus group format and iterating the flow from session to session based on size, location, and make-up. These focus groups consisted of participants spanning all sectors of the DFW innovation economy: corporations, startups, social enterprises, civic organizations, and academic groups. After having gathered a multitude of diverse opinions and performing careful analysis of focus group data we were able to formulate key insights that helped to shape the overall strategy of the innovation study. I, and the stakeholders, look forward to the public release of our deliverables and the rollout of the DFW innovation plan in the coming months.
We had the opportunity to commit the first few weeks of the project solely to preparing for the series of focus groups that we needed to conduct. During this time, I was able to draw on my design and innovation education to craft facilitation guides that would lead to meaningful conversation among participants. While our research environment was constrained to a traditional focus group setting, we were still able to utilize design thinking research principles in the formulation of our guides and agendas. Methodology included: group affinity diagramming, foundational and generative journey mapping, and paired brainstorming to elicit honest feedback from participants. We also crafted an interview guide consisting of carefully worded questions aimed at understanding mental models of DFW's innovation ecosystem, exploring the workarounds that participants currently use to get their innovation-minded processes to work better, and gauging the emotions underlying the current state of innovation in DFW.
Ultimately, we focused on understanding current gaps and strengths in DFW's innovation ecosystem and identifying potential opportunities for innovative growth.
Over about the next seven weeks we carried out six focus groups at a variety of locations across the DFW metroplex. We did not just target the downtown area, but included participants coming from a variety of municipalities such as Grapevine, Las Colinas, Frisco, and Fort Worth. We were able to make multiple pivots over the series of focus groups, learning as we went how best to elicit thought-provoking responses from our participants. Originally, we spent more time on design research based methods, but quickly realized that some of the environments we held sessions in were not always conducive to worksheets, sticky notes, and sharpies. We also found that participants were much more willing to share their opinions in a traditional discussion based format, than participate in design research activities. By the last focus group, we decided to double down on using our interview guide to understand the perceptions of our participants and stimulate rich conversation. While we had been performing incremental data synthesis from focus group to focus group, after all six had been completed we moved on to a final stage of synthesis and insight building.
After collecting over 12 hours of audio, hundreds of pages of notes, and a multitude of research artifacts we were able to enter into final synthesis to make sense of everything we heard. After each focus group we had transcribed key quotes from each participant, often totalling over 100 separate statements per session, sorting them into preliminary themes. Our primary method of aggregating and associating data was done through affinity diagramming using both physical tools with the classic "post-it and sharpie" combo and also digital tools with trello. A sizable challenge in tackling the synthesis with a distributed team of consultants and designers was maintaining clear communication via digital channels in a process that is typically very analog. While I had become very accustomed to working with a design team whom I could always meet with physically, the teams at Accenture and Fjord helped me to overcome the distance that we often faced on the project and trained me in methods of digital collaboration.
It was a challenge to sift through a sea of diverse points of view to find real meaning and actionable insights.
Another major challenge in synthesizing our data was in reconcilling apparent conflicting viewpoints among participants within and between the different focus groups. Of course, everyone wanted to see DFW become more innovative, but there were often opposing opinions on what exactly the problem is, or what the strengths of our region are, or how exactly to bolster the strengths and fix the problems! Even though these contradictions seemed discouraging at first, after digging deeper into the nuance of what was said we discovered more powerful insights than what we would have ever found had all of our participants agreed with one another. It was in balancing one person's assertions with another's, balancing gaps and strengths, and balancing opinions with quantifiable data that we were able to formulate a set of key insights to present to the multiple stakeholders.
My colleague and I wrapped up the internship by formulating our findings into an informational deck and presenting to the Dallas Regional Chamber, United Way, and SMU. We had the opporunity to work with an amazing team that pushed us to keep refining our thinking, polish our deliverables, and better ourselves. Because of this we were able to successfully defend our findings to the stakeholders, backing up our insights with real data and effectively explaining how we arrived at our end result. I truly believe in what we discovered through our process and look forward to seeing our work published as a part of the larger study within the next few months.
While I am not at liberty to discuss our findings in detail, please checkout the following news releases for a sample of things to come and follow the Dallas Regional Chamber (@DRChamber) to stay in the loop!
For our final presentation to the stakeholders we decided to focus on both the strengths and gaps that we uncovered in the innovation ecosystem, along with highlighting concrete opportunities for improvement.
RefillWise Price Transparency ToolUX Research | HCD | App Development
Where's My Card?UX Design | App Development | Digital Marketing
Dell IoT ApplicationApp Development
Credera Management ConsoleUX Design | App Development
Accenture Innovation StrategyDesign Strategy | UX Research
SPCA Loose Dog ProjectUX Research | Human Centered Design
The Happiest HourUX Design
Visual Design CompilationVisual Design
Titania LampIndustrial Design