06/11/2018

A View from the Summit
By Maurice Turner, Interim Marketing Generalist

Prologue: Anticipation

It’s about 8:30 am, and from where I sit, an undeniable excitement hums through our building.  Everyone is working to prepare for our guests’ arrival.  Breakfast is in the works (and smells amazing by the way!)  Rooms are being set for a fun day of networking, learning, and insight.  This is all in anticipation for our second annual Financial Industry Summit. 

 

Summit theme: Our Pivot to Human-Centered Design 

This year, we focused on human-centered design (HCD). HCD is a method for creating people-centered solutions to problems. It relies on listening to and learning from people’s perspectives at every step of the process.  Over the last two years, GreenPath has embraced design thinking, infusing it into our company culture. Compared to our past – which was a pretty traditional corporate culture -- It feels as though we’ve done a complete 180-degree turnaround. This year’s Summit gave us a platform to share these positive changes and how we’ve really taken action to move the needle in our industry.  

Taking our ideas to the walls

As I observed guests arriving and checking in, I couldn’t help but notice them scanning the halls and observing our visual installations throughout the building. Looking around, you might think that it’s always been this way…walls covered with sticky notes, boards filled with ideas, thoughts, insight, company metrics circulating on a TV screen, and even strings hanging from the ceiling -- but these visuals are fairly new.  If our guests had taken this culture tour two years ago or more, they would have noticed that there wasn’t much culture at all. Things were quite “plain Jane” back then: bare walls, no art installations, and not a sticky note in sight.  For me, it’s almost a challenge to remember life before  HCD, but I’m ecstatic to have seen the progress we’ve made, and but even more excited about where we are headed!

 

Driving toward our bold goal: To remix the American dream to work for everyone

When Kristen came on board nearly two years ago, we knew there would be changes. We had no idea how quickly those changes and her vision would captivate the entire company and pivot our culture to where it is today.  It all started with our “big, hairy, audacious goal (affectionately known as the BHAG) to “remix the American dream so that it works for everyone.” 

Kristen has kept her hands steady on the wheel, but at the same time, she has allowed our core values and BHAG to really do the driving along this uncharted path.  Her passion for putting the client at the center is clear and laser-focused. It’s the reason she wants to share the HCD approach to problem-solving with our others in our industry through this event.

 

And just as Kristen wasted no time in pivoting GreenPath toward innovation and design thinking, the Summit dove right into the topics at hand.

Guiding principle #1: Always focus on your user

 We think of our users (our customers) as “the source.” Whenever we’re working on a project or solving a problem, the first directive is to “go to the source.”  Human-centered design requires us to ask questions and probe for what users actually need, without making assumptions. It also provides a platform to brainstorm on what we learn from the user and moves us toward creating something that we can test – also known as prototyping

Guiding principle #2: Celebrate failure (We call this  the “Taaa Daaaahhhh!” moment)

Humans have a tendency to unconsciously create obstacles when we spend a significant amount of time, energy, resources, and money on a solution.  Once we’ve invested in it, we get attached to it. It then becomes difficult to comprehend failure. Even if there are signs that an idea isn’t working, we tend to discount them and continue on our course, because we’ve already invested so much in solving the problem. 

Fortunately, there’s another way! Prototyping.  In this stage of HCD,  we can proceed forward quickly, lightly, and at very low cost. We are able to learn by celebrating failure. As Kristen says, “Tah Dahhh!” 

Guiding principle #3: Harness the power of human behavior

In addition to human-centered design processes, GreenPath relies on behavioral science and economics to help us stay focused on our users. Behavioral economics takes into account human emotions, our environment, and our social interactions as motivating factors in our behavior – or in changing our behavior. As our behavioral economist Chinmay Aradhye described it, we must pay attention to the “psychology of humans and their decisions”. 

Understanding human behavior will lead you to solutions that are effective for your users – because they take into account how people work.  Applying behavioral science and economics principles helps with a few things. First, it causes us to focus in on what behavior people need to achieve their goals. And then, it allows us to analyze what people need to successfully adopt that behavior. In other words, behavioral science and economics principles cause us to ask, What do our users need to change their habits? What things make it hard to change behavior? How can we minimize those points of friction or barriers in order to increase success?

 

How will you take action? 

As the Summit drew to a close, a sense of energy and excitement continued to permeate the room. We shifted into what I like to call “accountability time.” We started to ask the big questions…how and why will I use what I’ve learned about HCD & behavioral economics and put it into action? Where will I start?  What will it look like?  How might we apply it to our customers/clients? 

My best advice is to refer back to some of the day’s earlier lessons. Keep it light, and keep choosing to put your user at the center of your problem-solving strategies. 

 

About Maurice - Maurice has been with GreenPath for 10 years and is currently an Interim Marketing Generalist. When asked about his work with GreenPath and why he loves what he does, he has the following to say: "I grew up in a household of seven, my dad was an entrepreneur and my mom stayed home.  As I grew into adulthood, I often wondered how my parents were able to support our family on one income.  What I discovered was that both of my parents made smart financial decisions and established detailed goals for their future so they could accomplish their dreams.  This has helped me realize the importance of financial wellness.  I’m grateful that this career chose me and I’m excited for what the future has in store!"