Design-Based Innovation

Integrating Design for Success in Innovation


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An Airline Without Pain Points

by Guest Contributor, Uri Hess, Hess L&D Inc.

Even your typical gold frequent flyers will tell you about their difficulties with airports and airlines. These “pain points” can begin the moment you enter the airport, and can continue throughout your flight all the way to your destination.

Companies that have subscribed to Design Thinking approaches aim at the removal of pain points as part of a continual innovation process. Design-Based Innovation incorporates the search for customer problems as a means of stimulating potential for new breakthroughs.

Design-Based Innovation includes the early steps of observing, questioning and networking, followed by divergent and convergent thinking exercises that can lead to new insights. Airports make for interesting settings to practice the first skill of observing customer behaviours because pain points are quite evident and easily recognized there.

One way of developing an understanding of customer pain points is to appreciate the opposite and recognize airlines that have seemingly found ways of removing them. Rewarded as one of today’s leading airlines, Air New Zealand demonstrates unique approaches that eliminate typical customer pain points where they commonly occur with other airlines.

Having recently experienced Air New Zealand on several flights, I personally observed these pain-free check-in and take-off procedures:

  • Air New Zealand’s check-in kiosks are heavily staffed to assist passengers with a quick and efficient starting point.
  • Lines to check luggage and obtain boarding passes are few or non-existent (the result of an efficient kiosk process). This can eliminate the typical pre-check-in and printing of boarding passes before arriving at the airport — another pain point removed.
  • Gate agents use a systematic method of maintaining a clear gate area with a simple, row-by-row boarding procedure that actually works, likely because it begins much earlier than on most other airlines. The result is a calm, smooth boarding experience.
  • On board, Air New Zealand grabs your attention with a humorous, yet serious, safety video. It features the popular New Zealand actor, Bear Gryllis, known for his outdoor survivor TV programs. The outcome is clearly greater attention of passengers to the importance of safety.
  • Air New Zealand even offers an “Economy Skycouch” for relaxing during long hauls. Economy Skycouch consists of a row of three economy seats that convert into a couch-like space, allowing you to stretch out and relax.

By providing something different that has a positive impact, Air New Zealand defines innovation. And, Design-Based Innovation provides the processes that lead to this type of outcome.

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