Reborn Retail- Building capabilities within a company through Design Thinking

“This is a new beginning. We are one. Fly and open your mind to new trends.”

These were the thoughts that the recently incorporated Retail Director of JLL Spain wanted to transmit to his team.  He arrived to our small, but tiny Design Thinking room thirsty for innovation and he asked for our help to redesign their annual seminar.

The Spanish retail team is composed by several departments and they are responsible for the operative management of shopping malls all over Spain. They realized that the universe of shopping malls is changing and they have to be prepared for it. People need and demand real experiences and not only fancy stores and bars in the same building. At the same time they wanted to improve the provided services to their clients, the owners of the shopping malls.

We proposed to design an immersive experience where they were the superheroes and they had to save the shopping mall experience. As part of this experience, we conceived a two-day workshop for the retail team in which they were taken through the whole creative process and could try different DT tools in customized workshops. As Katja Tschimmel says in Design Thinking as an Effective Toolkit for Innovation, the aim of the training was to familiarize the participants with all of the stages of the creative process and the techniques which support collective creation.

retail canvas

“Learning how to move in creative processes through the application of Design Thinking tools is useful to everybody who wants to identify new human needs.” (Katja Tschimmel, Design Thinking as an effective toolkit for innovation)

Cool, but…What is the tangible benefit of making everyone a design thinker? How do employees take DT in their daily work? How could the retail team be prepared for the management of shopping malls of the future? What did they learn in these two days?

    • During building their social network 1.0 they got know each other and share their professional and personal superpowers.
    • Using a personalized retail canvas they gained a deeper understanding of the functions and needs of the different departments and the value of their own job.
    • Through the brainstorming sessions they experienced and discovered that in a multidisciplinary team they are more productive and they are able to solve problems in a creative way.
    • They witnessed the power of visual thinking and how to be sure that they are talking about the same concept.
    • When designing the ideal shopping mall experience together in pairs they realized the important role of empathy to understand latent needs, and the power of rough prototyping to test easily solutions with final users.
    • They developed their pitching skills, people who didn’t want to present their work on the first day were comfortable sharing it with everyone by the second day.
    • And finally, they became familiarized with the main drivers of future trends in shopping malls through participatory workshops.

Reborn Retail_en subtitles from Business Innovation Team on Vimeo.

These were the very first steps to the transformation of a renewed Retail team. Now, they are armed with innovative tools, but is it enough? It’s a long journey full of challenges. Nowadays more and more in-house teams have this kind of need for transformation and innovation within an organization. I think that we should move further to not only build capabilities through DT, but also to give and teach internal teams a methodology and offer the most effective tools for every stage of the process as we saw in the Evolution 62 model developed by Katja Tschimmel.

By applying this strategy it can be easier to transform these teams into independent change makers and ambassadors of DT within their company.

Reka Barath
Service Design Strategist
Business Innovation Team, JLL Spain


Tschimmel, K. (2012), Design Thinking as an effective toolkit for Innovation

Brown, Tim (2009), Change by Design. How Design Thinking transforms organizations and inspires innovation.

4 thoughts on “Reborn Retail- Building capabilities within a company through Design Thinking

  1. I always like to see the ways others are implementing Design Thinking and training teams. It would be interesting to hear from the participants how this has changed their way of thinking one week, one month or one year later. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Thanks Ann! Change is hard and a long process but as I am “in-house”, we have the opportunity to have a follow-up with the Retail team. One of the most important thing which has changed is that the whole team shares information about their projects, trends, etc. on an internal online platform (they are located in different offices and shopping malls). They feel free to propose ideas and also implement them and also changed the focus of their internal meetings.

  3. I fully agree with you that it is not enough to do only one-shot teaching people. Organizations often use dedicated internal centers of excellence to make sure strategically important initiatives take off. Typical examples would be Project Management Office, Business Process Management Office, Analytics Office to name a few. Shall we start talking about Design Thinking Office (DTO) as well? DTO could be a one-stop-shop for DT tools and methodologies. I am not sure if e.g. Eataly ( has DT office, but with or without it they seem to succeed in bringing together grocery/shopping mall/bakery/restaurant experiences into something people like.

  4. Hi Reka,
    fantastic summary of the efforts you are making as an in house designer. I really like the concept of super heroes and the fact that you have customized different design tools in order to make them more relevant for the participants. I’m particularly interested in the retail canvas – what did you change/add comparing to the standard canvas?

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s