Q&A with Deepa Bachu, Co-founder and CEO at Pensaar
Deepa is the Co-Founder and CEO of Pensaar, a Design Strategy and Innovation Consulting firm that uses the collaborative and human-centered approach of design thinking to create awesome experiences.
She is a design and product leader who spent the last 20 years at large multi-national Tech start-ups leading their Design, Innovation and Product Management functions. Her passion is to transform customers’ lives by creating products that solve their biggest unmet needs, products that make the customers’ lives better and delivers unexpected delight!
Deepa helped pioneer Design Thinking at Intuit working closely with Intuit Co-Founder, Scott Cook. One of the many projects she led, FASAL, went on to become an HBR Case Study & one of their Top 10 Innovation ‘must reads’. Fasal helps farmers gain a competitive edge in the marketplace by providing them with pricing and other agricultural advisory information.
Deepa mentors start-ups in India and the US, and volunteers her time to start-ups/NGOs in children’s education. She is a regular presenter at industry conferences and is an active member of several design, innovation and women forums. Her work has been covered by several publications like the Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, Economic Times, Hindu Business Line, YourStory and HBR Case Study.
Deepa is presenting Research Methods: Receive Inspiration and Design Delightful Solutions for your Customers at the Design Innovation day and conducting a post-conference workshop titled Insights that Inspire Innovation – Harness the Power of Design Thinking and Rapid Experimentation. Click here for conference details and registration.
Q: How did you find design?
A. Design found me, really! I was an operating systems engineer who often wondered about the users of my app. My curiosity led to what is now my career, designing awesome customer experiences.
Q: Describe your role.
A. I am the co-founder and CEO of Pensaar. My day revolves around creating awesome experiences for my team, my clients, and my clients’ customers. I try to put off all paperwork and back-office work as much as possible!
Q: How do you and your colleagues generate creative ideas?
A. I’m a big proponent of ‘think independently together’. This approach gives a voice to each member of a team and ensures they all contribute their points of view. Once we generate multiple ideas, we start to combine the ideas together and build on them without pride or judgment.
It is important to find inspiration in what’s already out there and incorporate conventions into fresh ideas.
Q: How do you encourage collaboration between teams?
A. Diversity mixed with collaboration is an intellect multiplier. All our co-creation sessions are tailored to bring together people from different backgrounds. Our teams are comprised of people across business verticals, so each participant can each bring their own unique perspectives to the discussion.
Challenging each other is a critical part of innovation, which is why we cannot stress enough the role of diversity. To bring order to chaos, it is important to detach from your idea and build on other’s ideas. We use a technique called “The World Café” that works beautifully to advance collaboration. Everybody owns all the ideas generated at the end of the exercise and brings a little bit of themselves to the ideation.
Q: What advice do you have for leaders attempting to create an innovative workspace?
A. Empower your teams, give them freedom (and the explicit mandate) to fail and connect with customers, constantly.
Q: How do you see the design business evolving over the next years?
A. The next few years will see millennials being a larger part of the customer and employee base. Their expectations are very different. Hence, there is a need to design for this group that is constantly asking “Why does it have to be this way?” Design will have to cater to this group who are always on their devices and hyperconnected globally. Design must encourage a dialogue between this generation and earlier ones.
I also see virtual reality and machine learning becoming really big and allowing us to interact and work in very different ways – ways that are beyond our wildest imagination.
Q: Tell us about your talk/workshop.
A. At Pensaar, we have created new ways of understanding customers deeply from a behavior, mindset, and attitude standpoint. I hope to inspire participants to create their own methods of deeply understanding customers and to dedicate time to synthesizing customer data to uncover insights that inspire innovation.
Q: What is your idea of an Agile mindset in the context of UX Design?
A. A big part of design thinking is to iterate frequently with customers and get reactions to prototypes based on observed customer behavior. This methodology was popularised by Lean Startup. It is the nexus of design, experience, and Agile, coming together to build iteratively, and not incrementally, solutions that delight customers.
Q: How have you evolved the Agile process in your department? How does it impact your engagement with development teams?
A. Our co-creation process requires the convening of diverse minds. It begins with discovery, in the form of primary research of key stakeholders. Research findings are then taken to co-creation to ensure the voice of the customer is accounted for and to enable teams to build empathy for their users.
Together we define the problem, ideate, prototype, and test. Depending on the project, all of this generally happens in the span of three weeks to one month. For example, we re-imagined the future of connected vehicles, from user research to carry out experiments on ideas generated, in a span of 4 weeks.
The process is fast-paced and exciting, and the structure helps everyone think on their feet and stay engaged.
Q: What is the hardest part of being a leader?
A. Sometimes it’s difficult to explain my instincts, or how I came up with a particular insight or idea. It is quite frustrating to say “I don’t know — just trust me.”
Q: What is your favorite part of your job?
A. The thrill of identifying an insight that comes out of deep customer empathy. I love building on diverse ideas and exploring ideas that, at face value, feel like they are “out there.”
Q: What advice do you have for young people?
A. Identify your innate strengths i.e. things that you enjoy doing and that come easier to you than most, then design your career around that. Resist the temptation to fit into any mold and be your amazing self!