I feel very fortunate to be where I am today at Accenture—working as an Innovation Designer (more later about what that means) for the Client Innovation Services team at “The Dock,” a design-led, multidisciplinary research and incubation hub. We’re located in the heart of the Dublin Docklands, Ireland, in a connected, state-of-the-art workspace designed for creativity, collaboration and fun.
Here, you’ll find designers, developers and experts in cloud, artificial intelligence, advanced analytics, IoT, blockchain, security and mixed reality—doing things that matter for people and places around the world. Cloud platforms like Amazon Web Services (AWS) are the foundation for much of what we do. That is, we presume that solutions will be delivered on the cloud either now or later.
I also work as Accenture’s Global Eco-Champion. In this role I’m responsible for shaping and driving our global eco-engagement program, by driving greater employee awareness and engagement, leading eco initiatives, and updating and sharing our eco-tools and technologies. This all fits together, as I’ll explain.
The path to today
I began by earning a degree in Product Design from Politecnico University in Milan. My first job was at Orlandini Studio, a small design studio in Milan where I created models as part of product design and manufacturing. But I couldn’t avoid the nagging feeling that the world actually doesn’t need so many new products as much as it needs design-led ideas that can shape and enhance how we live.
So I moved to Copenhagen and subsequently to Helsinki to do my Master’s degree work in Sustainable Design. This field is quite interesting because it is an effective mix of three emphases:
One is the business side of things. I identify gaps in the market where a company has an opportunity to move in, and the business models that we should be moving toward as a society.
Second is the innovation aspect. What are the methodologies that help businesses innovate products and bring them along a path that is unlike the traditional one?
Finally, there is the aspect of sustainability—thinking about development from an environmental, economic and societal perspective. At The Dock we have recently re-defined our purpose as “pioneering conscientious innovation”—helping our clients to reflect on the intended but also unintended consequences of their market presence, especially when technology is in play. I believe in designing for and with people as a means to create empathy and innovation.
What’s an “innovation designer”?
I’m a passionate design thinker and problem solver. Since I've joined The Dock, I have applied my multicultural background in design thinking to deliver customized innovation showcases and design sprints for our global clients. I'm a passionate advocate of “the customer”—leading clients to embrace and evangelize customer-centric design and explore ways in which this can grow their business across digital and culture. Through meaningful collaborations I’m able to gather insights and envision opportunities for the users and stakeholders involved in the project.
So, what do we actually do? We engage with global clients, particularly at the C-suite level, and our internal account teams to co-create workshops, design sprints and innovation projects here at The Dock. As a designer I’m responsible for transforming customer problem statements into a multi-layer experience—from research, to design, to developing new methods and tools, to sharing knowledge, to immersive workshop activities.
Thinking five years ahead
Here are a couple of examples of the kinds of things we do at The Dock. One of our clients is a major cruise company. Their Chief Digital Officer (CDO) visited The Dock and was impressed by our ability to leverage Accenture’s entire Innovation Architecture as well as a local ecosystem of academics. (Through our Human Insight Labs, we collaborate with academics from Trinity College Dublin, especially from anthropology and the social sciences like behavioral science and cognitive science.)
The CDO asked us to help them think through what the guest and employee experiences might look like in five years. We created a series of workshops to help them articulate how the future end-to-end experience could best be designed. The workshops took place across different Accenture Innovation Centers (The Dock and Atlanta), the client’s Innovation Lab in Miami, and onboard with the crew.
In another case, a major airline came in for five days of design thinking workshops to reimagine interactions among crew members on a plane. How can the airline make sure that the crew exchanges important information about all the passengers, and provides passengers with a personalized service experience?
These examples demonstrate how our multi-industry Client Innovation Services (CIS) team works from a formidable breadth of insights. The growth of CIS is expanding Accenture’s capability to drive strategic discussions and is changing the nature of innovation consulting.
AWS and innovation
My path crossed with AWS recently as I was planning a client workshop and considering several Accenture AWS Business Group (AABG) demos. These applications are particularly rich as a way to demonstrate innovative solutions in the cloud.
One was “AI on Ice,” where you can play ice hockey, facing off against self-taught AI opponents of increasing difficulty. AI on Ice leverages the power of AWS, specifically machine learning and facial recognition, to take the gaming experience to a whole new level.
We also looked at “Fun Awards,” which brings together multiple demos and utilizes real-time video stream analysis to recognize individuals for participation and engagement during a design thinking session. Fun Awards analyze video in real time and compares against faces identified during an Amazon Alexa check-in demo. In addition to searching and detecting faces, it analyzes emotions, movement and engagement.
The freedom to be passionate
In everything we do for clients, we work from two perspectives. First, you need a commercial perspective to build the business case that can show the actual value of the technology being implemented. Second, you need a design perspective to consider the human need for the solution and create the interface for seamless adoption.
It’s a privilege to be able to spend my days thinking about the future, and how people can shape that future to everyone’s advantage. There is a great collaborative working environment here and a true experimentation culture that empowers people to be brave, candid and passionate.