Welcome to FAN eLearning

Our first eLearning module, Design Thinking a customer centric process to innovation.

The first step is to create a ‘design thinking mindset’ and to build a team of diverse thinkers to challenge the status quo. This module provides practical tools and a case study from one of our members,  Gourmet Garden, who achieved success through adopting  Design Thinking processes.  Their documentary – Sharing Innovation Recipes (link here) reveals their secrets to innovation success.

At FAN we promote a culture of sharing and collaboration. Please share with us your innovation recipes and ideas for future eLearning modules.

What is Design Thinking

Design Thinking refers to creative strategies and iterative processes that ‘designers’ use when solving problems. It has also been developed as an innovative approach to resolve issues outside of professional design practice, such as in food and agribusinesses. Visit Wikipedia for further definitions.

It can be applied in any context, by anyone, not just designers. At its heart it is about understanding the customer, understanding their problems and in a collaborative way coming up with innovative solutions that solve the customer’s problems. In this video you’ll hear from FAN Chair Jacqui Wilson-Smith about some of the real applications and practical benefits of Design Thinking.

A common challenge that many food and ag businesses face is finding time to work on their business versus the day-to-day of making ends meet. To effectively deploy Design Thinking principles requires business owners, and their team, to carve out time to really understand their customer’s problems.

There are many forms of innovative solutions. They can be new products, new food packaging, new ways of working, new processes and business models… to name a few.

Therefore, when we talk about using ‘Design Thinking’ it is important take a holistic approach and look beyond the product to understand the entire customer experience.

Design Thinking is a Team Sport

Design Thinking requires a shift in mindset. It is about sharing, collaboration, capturing different points of view. Design Thinking works best with others, so start building your design team.

The most effective design teams are diverse, cross-functional, with different points of view. Diversity promotes a culture of innovation. Effective design teams are respectful, curious, think outside the box and often have robust debates!

If you are naturally an extrovert or the owner of a food and ag business, don’t lose the opportunity to capture the ideas of other team members who may be quieter than you are. Know how you can contribute to the team by bringing the most out in others. Sometimes the best ideas come from unexpected sources.

If you’ve attended one of FAN’s Design Thinking workshops, you might have participated in the Marshmallow Design Challenge. The Marshmallow Design Challenge involves each team constructing a tower out of string, tape and spaghetti – with the marshmallow on top. The winners are those with the tallest tower and the best teamwork within a given timeframe.

Marshmallow towers have been constructed by many different types of teams including kindergarten children, business graduates and CEOs. A key takeaway is that kindergarten children did well in this activity because they just get in and play to quickly learn their constraints through experimentation and prototyping. Business graduates tend to spend most of their time planning in theory and when they finally execute their grand plan, it’s an almighty fail because the theory didn’t work in practice.

Reflection: If you are too busy to step out of your day to day business, to understand your customer problems and to play with new ideas to solve them, what will you miss?

If you are just starting out in your business and don’t have a team yet, find yourself an accountability partner within the FAN network so that together you can help each other grow and gain a different perspective.

The Design Thinking Process

The Design Thinking process is an iterative one, to solve problems for customers in the most exciting ways. In this video, Jacqui Wilson-Smith takes a pen in hand to share the concept with you.

In the Design Thinking process, you:

  • observe the consumer
  • challenge assumptions
  • hypothesise
  • identify consumer problems
  • reframe those problems
  • ideate solutions
  • design experiments to test
  • prototype
  • validate
  • learn
  • adapt solutions

In the video, Jacqui mentioned “getting out of the building”, what does that mean? It means getting out of your office/farm/shop/food production facility and talking to your customers to find out what they are experiencing, their frustrations and what delights them? You will gain a deep understanding of your customers and you may reveal some gaps in your business.

Steve Blank is an American entrepreneur expert and he talks about the concept of ‘getting out of the building’ in this YouTube video.

When you head out into the real world, go with a Design Thinking mindset:

  • ask why and be curious
  • look for the failure points
  • share stories
  • seek out different perspectives
  • deeply understand
  • change the variables
  • test again

The Design Thinking Toolbox

The Design Thinking Toolbox contains templates to assist your Design Thinking process including Journey and Empathy maps, Personas, the Bulls eye diagram and Solution Jamming. Learn more about some of the tools in this narrated presentation.

In this video, Jacqui talks some more about Journey and Empathy mapping.

It’s important to remain agile and responsive in a world that is constantly changing.

Reflection: If you don’t have much diversity in your team, what are other ways you can introduce different points of view? (friends, family, neighbours, suppliers, customers, FAN network)

Click on the button below to download the Design Process Toolbox PDF.

Find out how Design Thinking helped Gourmet Garden in this 20min documentary which reveals Gourmet Garden’s secrets to innovation success as well as their trials and tribulations.

Check your understanding with these three quiz questions.

Remember, when you articulate a problem well, the answer will be obvious.

What is design thinking?
What sort of process is design thinking?
What does ‘failing smart’ mean?


In the video below you will see how Gourmet Garden used Design Thinking to implement a new product line.

Thanks for taking the time to complete our eLearning course.

We would appreciate any feedback and comments so we can improve future eLearning courses, please fill out the below form.

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