Niharika Gupta

Design Researcher/Strategist at Walmart

How to strategize to truly innovate and digitally disrupt?

18 Minutes

During her keynote, Niharika shares the importance of using design thinking to effectively create strategies that can truly innovate and disrupt. She shares her favourite frameworks, and the key principles she relies on to successfully solve problems. 

More about
Niharika Gupta

A connector and a problem solver passionate about creating experiences for people.

A UX Researcher and a Strategist with 7+ years of experience in driving design research and strategy initiatives for Consumer Product Development, Business Development, Marketing and UI/UX. For the last few years, I have been working in consulting helping an organization build an innovation capability from scratch and helped various clients innovate and digitally disrupt. In my past, I have worked in advertising for some Fortune 500 clients like Pepsico and Nestle helping them launch new products and services. 

I have a masters from Parsons with an Strategic Design and Management. Recently got a certification from Harvard Business School for disruptive strategy. I also studied social psychology, cultural design and game design from the University of Wolverhampton in England. 

My journey gave me the opportunity to wear multiple hats of a designer, researcher and a strategist in my career which helps me see through things end to end and more strategically.

Something I really believe in,"Fill your life with adventures not things. Have stories to tell, not stuff to show."

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Video Transcript

Hi, everyone, I'm Niharika. I am a design researcher at Wal-Mart Cuddy's, I'm originally from India, from Delhi, the capital, and let me talk a little bit about my journey and how I came to be here. Let me share my screen.


So pretty much I was an artist who turned into a designer that was pretty just and I started with my bachelor's in communication design from the university of Bangalore. It's really focused on understanding that, you know, how can we connect the brand, a customer and how to really launch a brand and how to make it connected to the customer. So I started with that and then I moved into I moved to England on a scholarship to study costume design, and game design. And from there, I really understood that, you know, how cultures really impact customer choices and customer preferences about a product or service that they're using. And then from there, I'm moved to advertising. I've worked on advertising for five years I worked with various clients like PepsiCo and Nestlé, McCain really helping them, you know, extended their product lines and also like helping them rebrand and come up with new innovative ideas.


So while I was working in advertising and so I felt like, you know, it was very, very important to understand what the customer really wants and one of the preferences. And from there, I sort of moved on to New York at Parsons and studied strategic design management, which really focused on I did my master's in strategic design management, really really focused on entrepreneurship, business development, innovation, and trying to understand what are customer needs and how do we always engage in the best possible fashion in order to deliver success.


So my overarching journey was from an artist who a designer to a strategist, which really involved a lot of collaboration and problem-solving facilitation and mentorship. So being the psychologist at times and even being a design researcher, of course. So from Parsons, I moved with hard work, which is an idea consulting that involved in marketing and product innovation. And then I moved to the data consulting, focusing on really helping them build a new innovation department which focused on design thinking, product innovation and digital disruption in totality.


From there. Currently I'm in Walmart looking as a design researcher at the interior. And I think one thing throughout my journey as I worked with various claims and I've worked for many, many companies and different interesting industries, I realize that for me what a strategy.


When people ask me what really strategy is only is pretty much going from point A to B and B C when you say point, Italy's moving from here to there pretty much. Right, you're right. Chasing your goal. But at the same time, while you're chasing your goal is very, very, very important that throughout that journey you're really, really touching upon the users and connecting with the users at all stages of the journey to define the offering. Really understand that. OK, what does my user need? Their pain points? Am I delivering what they really want and am I really connecting with them and empathizing with them? I think while we are putting together that strategy that is very important to work to help us succeed.


And in general, if you ask me one word strategy for me, it's design thinking and now you must be wondering what it's design thinking? Well, design thinking is a mindset and a strategy, a methodology, a process to solve complex problems, to also, like, help you create better user experiences, to help you in a way to disrupt to help you pretty much. You know, I would say in one word, if it has to be it has to be the innovation. When you talk about design thinking, it equals to innovation in my head. It's a mindset thing said design, thinking pretty much focus because his mind is understandable, but really, really trying to understand what are you solving for. You know, and then feeling forced, failing as fast as possible and not really waiting for the entire project to complete into it. So not going through a waterfall methodology, and rather than going through an agile methodology, the first prototype, learn, build and not that you can depend on, like really creating the entire product, and then testing it out and then thinking that's a long process. Right. And then again, rigorous testing, continuous testing, really understand your customer, what do they really need and having that continuous process of build, test and learn, and not only going to a linear process, you just go to waterfall methodology where you just bling bling bling spending like probably 20 months, six months, 10 months and not leading to anything. Right. So, like, it's very important to prototype quickly and then test it and then learn and then iterate.


one framework that I have for pretty much as an industry standard as well. But this is what I have been following in my practice, particularly the design thinking framework of the double dime process is what we call it. So this is one framework that I follow whenever I'm looking into solving a new problem, um, so pretty much as you can see, the two diamonds here and each diamond has to hearts in it.


So we start by discovering the first time and really focuses on designing the writing. So it really focuses on understanding the problem. Is this really the right problem? and the second diamond really focuses on once we have decided but I've got this I think this is a problem to be solve for and I feel confident that this is a problem, then it's all about solving for it. How can we ideate? How can we solve and how can we produce the best possible solution?


So within the first diamond in the first half focuses on the research, which is very important that you really focus on understanding who is my customer, what they want, what really the problem is, what am I really trying to solve for rather than jumping to solutions and then really, really trying to empathize with the customer and understanding diverging. We don't really like trying to box ourselves and deliver divergent. Understand. OK, what does my customer want? What is the real problem? What am I really solving for? Am I solving to be the right team? If somebody told me this is the right problem, do you think so? It's really trying to focus on that and diverging as much as you can. And then the next phase is about defining.


Then once you've discovered and you have a lot of data, you start defining, you start thinking about what you want. Now, I've talked to a lot of people. I've done a lot of research, if you like. This could be my potential opportunity area. These could be some things that I really want to focus on. Probably these are some insights that my business people really resonate with, right? So it's all about converging with your goals and with your particular vision, that you have as a company or as a team and then trying to synthesize an understanding what are those different opportunity areas that we can leverage and start ideating upon. So once you've concluded that the next is not about developing. Developing, it's all about ideation. And ideation is pretty much just talking about going out of the box unboxing yourselves. In the sense that no idea is a bad idea, just going broad diverging and expanding your horizons and really being open minded and thinking as much as you can if you're trying to understand what are those different ideas that I can think of. And then finally, you deliver by prototyping, testing and iterating and just converting and pretty much trying to like the ones in that this is the final product you have build based on our tests and iterations and prototypes.


So we pretty much follow this double diamond process by following the design thinking methodology. Some principles that I personally rely upon while I am solving for any problem is like, first of all, live the problem to solve. So I always believe that it's very, very important to live the problem before you even start solving it. Usually in my experience of eight years, I have seen a lot of people jumping directly into the solution phase and trying to solve the problem without even questioning. Why isn't the problem, you know, so when somebody comes up with the brief, you or somebody comes up and, hey, you know, this is what we're trying to solve for. My first reaction would be why is it a problem? Right. I my first reaction would be to understand why is this even a problem? Why is this happening? Do we really need to solve it or is there some deep rooted cause underlying the needs that we are missing out on? So really, the first thing I feel is for everybody, you know, just really trying to focus on the problem, than the solution. trying to and try to understand what is it. And the second thing is customer is king. I feel like today any strategy we build, any roadmap. We are putting together a plan. At the end of the day, we all want some kind of an autobiography trade. We build a plan to either get increased sales or something. Or to get some business investment or buy in a partnership or merger and acquisition or something, but like at the end of the day, it's all about selling a certain skillset or a service or product to someone. It will bring you to B or to C or customer. But at the end of the day, we all are selling it to somebody and that somebody is our customer. And that customer is the King. So in today's world, customer is the king. It's very important to understand whenever we are strategizing, I personally feel it's very important to understand what does my customer want. What are the needs, what are the, you know, needs to painpoints the ones, the aspirations and goals in life. Once you understand that, it's very, very easy to understand how to position your product into their lives or how to innovate or, you know, create something new that could actually impact or help them in their lives.


And at the same time, I would also like, you know, I strongly believe that it's very important to look at tomography research, which basically means that a customer does not know what they want. So there's one thing that they say that they want. There's another thing that they don't even realize that they want. So it's also very important to just think, you know, observe and listen and just like show them and understand the lifestyle in order to understand in order to see that, you know, business even nounces is and probably even down and observing it, I'd think that they might not even know the needs, but actually are the needs and tapping into those needs and aspirations and wants and become a great, great, great opportunity for a company or an individual to innovate upon. So I feel like really, really resonating with the customer.

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