Dr. Julia Oberhofer
How can the AOK become even more agile and customer-oriented? To achieve this goal, the AOK Bundesverband gained in-depth knowledge of the Design Thinking innovation approach and its underlying innovation principles. It therefore now seems a good time to ask participants in the first training year of 2018, where and how they have already created spaces -literally and figuratively- for innovation and agility in their everyday work.
Health protection and support in times of illness. The core tasks of a health insurance company are what make it predestined for the implementation of the people-centered Design Thinking approach. However, working methods and attitudes over decades in practice at the workplace mean that changing the current mindset to one of more agility is a demanding task. By virtue of a multiple part workshop series, led by coach Selina Mayer, participants take with them solid methodological knowledge, tested and iterated prototypes, and enthusiasm for adapting new, user-centered approaches to everyday life at AOK and in their respective context. Participants learn methodological knowledge by working out solutions for real challenges from everyday business life. These ranged from management training to tailor-made sport offers for employees, to improved support for AOK student employees. During the workshops on the HPI campus in Potsdam, many attendees got an overview of the premises themselves – a key element of agile work. With this topic in mind, team coach Dr. Jana Fuchs recalls participant Nicole Meisel, Head of Process Excellence & IT Partners at AOK-NORDWEST: “Nicole was full of enthusiasm – not only for Design Thinking itself, but specifically about the space, the materials and the flexibility associated with it. To her it was clear that the success of this new way of working be linked to the spatial possibilities. She was determined to also use such a furnished room for implementing Design Thinking.”
In a retrospective interview with former workshop participants, Design Thinking has already proven itself at AOK as an approach and is increasingly requested by employees in their day-to-day work. Heike Kemper, trainer for communication topics in personal development at the AOK Rhineland-Hamburg, says in this context: “The colleagues are always thrilled about the elements involved. The understanding phase has proven itself particularly important for my work. Just the semantic analysis alone starts my training off in a completely different direction. Problematic issues can be ironed out sooner and you get to the point much earlier. Nicole Meisel emphasizes another aspect: “There are moments when it becomes clear during the Design Thinking process that customers may want something different than was assumed previously. That’s why empathy-work – including the understanding phase – also mean the ability to let go of preconceived solutions. “There is already a lot of enthusiasm for the method but, at the same time, before it is implemented some reservations. “It is a ‘aha moment’ when we learn in interviews that doubts and fears about the survey as off-putting have proven to be unfounded.” On the contrary, customers are happy that they are asked questions about what is important to them.” Based on her own project experience, Heike Kemper stressed awareness of the importance of the verifiable customer opinion. In a survey to optimize complaint management she recalls: “Customers said things that were already clear to a lot of people, but we needed this impetus from the outside. As we all know: you can often be highly regarded everywhere except at home.”
Telephone consultation has since been redesigned based on customer suggestions, and customer opinions are being increasingly incorporated into several other projects. The sustainable change due to the introduction of Design Thinking at AOK is also revealed on site. In two locations there are rooms that support creative and agile work. At AOK Rhineland-Hamburg, there is now a creative space at a training center in Düsseldorf. While the creative space was planned before the workshop, only afterwards did it include the involvement of users. It was opened in 2019. At the end of the workshop, Heike Kemper actively integrated students in the design of the room and asked them about their needs. For example, a refrigerator has been moved into the room and the opening times significantly extended. The process garage can be found at the AOK NORDWEST. Planning times are shorter here and users are invited to try out new working methods that encourage and support new ideas. “In the meantime, the process garage is often booked as a space for inter-departmental and interdisciplinary exchange formats, where you can find flexibly configurable space, writable walls and a selection of working materials,” says Nicole Meisel. “Things sometime look wild after a workshop day. It’s a lot of fun when we see what we have accomplished at the end of the day. “The process garage creates a place where creativity and agility have their place in the truest sense of the word.”