The wallet ain't what it used to be.
This past week I conducted two design thinking workshops. Both were what we call DP0 or "design project: zero" exercises centered around the re-design of the wallet. The wallet project is a 90-minute exercise where participants work in pairs. It is meant to serve as an introduction to design thinking, providing participants with the vocabulary and basic concepts.
The wallet project gives individuals an opportunity to take an otherwise basic and more or less universal object and see it anew -- in light of another person's needs. Unlike the gift-giving or breakfast exercises (both introductory design-thinking exercises that start with a focus on experiences) the wallet project starts with a focus on an object.
The exercise eventually leads people to look beyond their own assumptions about what a wallet is and see a broad range of possibilities by empathizing with their partner. Ideally, they discover relatively early in the exercise that they are not re-designing a wallet but are, in fact, designing to meet someone else's needs, which can free them to create something that looks and feels nothing like a wallet at all.
I happened to conduct these workshops during the week of Apple's highly-anticipated product announcement, which included the reveal of a new payment system, Apple Pay. The catchphrase for Apple Pay says it all: "Your wallet without the wallet". So, it should come as no surprise that, in both workshops, at least one participant found themselves designing for someone who didn't want a wallet at all. In fact, in both workshops, one partner didn't want anything. The need they expressed was to have no object whatsoever involved in their ability to organize and store methods of payment. So, in that instance, what do you design?
In one workshop, I used the fact that two participants prototyped nothing (they did not even touch the prototyping materials) to emphasize the importance of prototyping an experience. How would their partner pay for, say, a cab ride or groceries if they had nothing handling their transaction? Essentially, I concluded, whether it's an object or an experience, there is always an opportunity to prototype and test something.
I also thought it may be time for a new "object" in the introductory design-thinking project family.
My underlying work and challenges here at the d.school center around storytelling and the capturing of stories from people who are often deep in the process of learning and applying human centered design. Given that, what if the story replaced or rested alongside the wallet? We all consume stories. Some stories are great, just as some wallets are great, while others just fall apart at the seams.
So, what if there was a DP0 story project? What could it look like, how would you pivot the wallet project to make it an effective tool with which to teach design thinking? Would you change it at all (aside from some essential wording)? I'll be working on this in the coming weeks, but I'd love your thoughts.
So, let me know, can the story replace the wallet?