Mar 24 2013

Using Design Thinking to Serve the Underserved


The creation and delivery of products and services to people are at the core of any business. As dumbfoundingly simplistic as that sounds, developers and decision makers often overlook, or make assumptions about, the very people they’re serving as they design for them.

Design thinking refers to a set of methods and a mindset that create empathy by putting people at the center of the design and development process. It is a highly collaborative, human-centered approach that yields innovative solutions through a flexible but standardized process. Design thinking can be applied to any business, but it is particularly critical for credit unions to understand members more deeply for a few key reasons:

  • The knowledge gap: The distance between how credit unions think about financial services and how most consumers understand and experience the financial realm is likely vast.
  • The emotional gap: While it all seems quite rational to you, managing finances can be emotionally charged and confusing formost people. As a result, many consumers do a poor job managing their finances.
  • The credit union mission: Credit unions are different from other financial institutions—a difference manifested by standing with consumers rather than against them. In that light, adopting a design thinking mindset is an emerging capability credit unions need to develop to remain competitive and relevant.

This brief outlines design thinking methods, tells the story of how the Cooperative Trust employed design thinking to spark innovation, and introduces the resulting Tru Account product currently in development as a result of their efforts.

Report Number 285