How might we...
break free from a twenty-year distribution model to shift thinking about an old problem in a new way?

A global beverage company delivers their product in a number of different form factors, including one specifically designed for their largest retail client. The distribution process for this client was a logistical nightmare and involved a number of different stakeholders. 

The company wanted to reimagine the distribution platform and asked us to help bring all the stakeholders together to redesign the distribution platform. While the company had a prevailing idea they thought they would pursue, they wanted to take a step back and use a human-centered design approach to examine the question from all angles to ensure they were making the right decision.

How We Did It

Over the course of two days, we took all the stakeholders through a series of exercises and facilitated field work. The participants went to restaurants and distribution centers to observe what the distribution process actually looked like in practice. To help fine tune their observation skills, we custom-designed a field book to guide them.

What they observed was that theory does not always translate into practice. The participants noticed that what appeared to be a little bit of liquid remained in the bottom of the refill hose. When they measured the quantity, it was the equivalent of nearly a pint of liquid. They realized that that pint times the number of deliveries and the number of stores would be equivalent to millions of dollars of product left in the hose — a huge amount of waste and lost revenue.

This participatory, real-time co-design process was revelatory. Many of the stakeholders had worked in operations for decades and had never gone out into the field to see the actual process. The field work and observations helped them understand that the way a system is designed can be vastly different from how it shows up in the world and led them to reconsider their distribution plans.

The results
Unlocking the power of co-design.

Many of us are taught to stay in our lane, working harder and faster at doing what we do. But this holds us back from lateral growth and narrows our ways of thinking and working. The co-design process helped the participants open their minds to different ways of “doing their job.” 

Several participants thought they knew the solution already and found themselves changing their perspective. As a group, they reframed the problem, and in the process let go of the legacy problem and way of thinking. It also reset the playing field to bring everyone together without the assumptions they had carried in. 

Instead of opinions, the participants gathered observed evidence, insights, and a shared experience. They used these to create a shared mental model for solving the problem — and forged a better collaborative environment too.

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