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Home Team UPGRADE: Design Thinking for People-centric Solutions
Solutions that improve user experiences – ASP Muhammad Zahari tells us how Design Thinking can enhance our service delivery.

Assistant Superintendent (ASP) Muhammad Zahari’s mantra is simple: “If you take care of the men, they will take care of their jobs.” 

A Product Manager (Mobility) with the Singapore Police Force’s (SPF) Ops-Tech Department, ASP Zahari works with his team to utilise Design Thinking principles and come up with people-centric solutions to challenges faced by SPF officers. He shares how Design Thinking can give the Home Team the winning edge. 

Home Team News Design Thinking SPF 01
GRAPHIC: Home Team News

What’s Design Thinking about? 
It’s a creative approach to problem-solving that puts people at the centre of the process. The intended outcome is to provide solutions that users will find meaningful, useful and delightful. 

In Design Thinking, we try to smoothen their paths of resistance towards doing the right thing. By putting people over processes, we can work more effectively and reduce cost by investing in human-centred solutions that people find helpful and actually use.

This also applies to our officers who deliver services to the public. By understanding what our officers’ motivations are, and what they’re thinking and experiencing in their daily work, we can design holistic solutions that go beyond just meeting our Key Performance Indexes (KPIs). The Design Thinking process also provides an opportunity for SPF units to review their working processes, in order to make a greater impact.
Home Team News SPF Design Thinking Woodlands
Simple applications, big impact: At Woodlands Police Division Headquarters, directions on the floor help users to orientate themselves and find services and locations quickly. PHOTOS: SPF
What’s an example of Design Thinking in action? 
Woodlands Police Division is a good example. It’s easy to find your way at Woodlands Police Division Headquarters. Why? there are directions placed on the floor for users to follow, so they know where they should go, whether it’s the self-service kiosk or the amphitheatre. That’s Design Thinking in action. These are simple applications that put users at the heart of what we do. 

Home Team News SPF Design Thinking 2
Let's talk about it: ASP Zahari meets with CPU officers to discuss how their work processes can be improved. PHOTOS: Desmond Ang

So how does Design Thinking help us to come up with fresh solutions?
Design Thinking helps us to better understand the context of a problem and uncover new opportunities to address it. Going through the Design Thinking process helps to ensure that the solution we come up with is a holistic one. 

Take us through the Design Thinking process.
In trying to understand how someone has been affected by a problem, we employ the “IDEA” approach, which stands for “Interviews”, “Do-it-Yourself”, “Ethnography” and “Analogous Experiences”. 

“Interviews” and “Do-it-Yourself” let us learn about an experience first-hand. “Ethnography” is about observing people in their most natural setting as they conduct their day-to-day work. “Analogous Experiences” allows us to look at a problem statement and see if there are similar processes outside of our current context that we can learn from. For example, when you're designing a solution that uses maps, you’d want to explore how popular mapping apps are designed and used. 

After we’ve applied the “IDEA” approach, we prepare a service journey map that shows all the activities that users take part in. This helps us identify where the pain-points are for users. Finally, we prototype or develop a preliminary version of a concept or solution that addresses the original problem and these pain-points. 

What’s a good starting point for Home Team officers who’re keen to learn about and apply Design Thinking in their work? 
Start by being curious about how things work, and why. Don’t accept the answer that, “It has always been done this way” as the final answer to a question. To break away from this way of thinking, I highly recommend Warren Berger’s A More Beautiful Question as a resource. 

As you build up your sense of curiosity and apply it to different facets of your work and life, you’ll begin to see work things work in terms of systems. 

Home Team News SPF Design Thinking Grp
Delivering people-centric solutions: ASP Zahari and his fellow Design Thinking practitioners at SPF. PHOTO: Desmond Ang

Also, bolster your creative confidence by learning to prototype quickly. Sometimes I feel that one prototype is worth 1,000 meetings. It’s okay that your prototype isn’t perfect. We all want to impress at the first outing, but that takes huge effort, which carries an opportunity cost. If you worry about this, you’ll tend to take less risks with your ideas. Prototyping allows you to learn faster, at a lower opportunity cost. 

Finally, step up and experience things for yourself. Design Thinking is something that everyone can learn about and apply, as long as you have the right mind-set. Open yourself to new ways of doing things. Keep learning, attending courses and meeting like-minded people, in real life and virtually too!

To deal with ever-evolving threats and tighter workforce constraints, we need to leverage the opportunities offered by technology and become more innovative in the way we operate. The Home Team thus needs to constantly redesign jobs to support new ways of working, and officers need continuous skills upgrading to remain effective. 
Find out how Home Team officers have upskilled themselves:
- Home Team UPGRADE: Bot-Avengers Assemble!
© 2019 Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore. All Rights Reserved.

  1. by Desmond Ang
  2. 09 April 2020
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