Design Thinking with NS International

Working with the Dutch national rail operator to find opportunities for innovation
2 minute read

The Double-Diamond

NS International is a branch of Nederlandse Spoorwegen, the Dutch national rail company, operating international train connections from The Netherlands to more than 3000 destinations in Europe. Across three separate engagements over 2017 and 2018, I worked with design and innovation agency Nordkapp, looking for new ways to improve experiences for rail travellers.

We worked directly with NSI's internal teams, developing design thinking methodologies and working hands-on to find opportunities aligned with different parts of the business strategy. Our work involved customer research, ideation, persona creation, value proposition design, workshops and lean experiments to test the viability of different solutions.

Project process
Defining the problem
Kick off workshop
Finding the right solution

The 'double diamond' formed the basis of our approach to each project wave. Starting with a single area of investigation, we expanded our knowledge and understanding of the problem area, then focused in on a particular opportunity.

We then explored ways of addressing the opportunity or problem. Through experimentation and testing of prototypes we settled on solutions and built proofs of concept.

Project process
Working with the team to define goals for the project and to chose customer segments to focus on.
Photo by Snap me Pretty

Finding focus

Prioritisation of customer groups based on potential value, assumption mapping and reviewing existing research helped us to find our focus for the first investigations.

Prioritisation
Using a prioritisation matrix to select a customer group.

Talking to customers

Along with customer interviews, we designed a co-creation workshop with a group of travellers to help us draw out insights about their travel habits, motivations, pain points and suggestions for improvements.

Customer research
Customer research

Making sense of the data

We used affinity mapping to collate our insights, help build consensus across the team and to share our findings with others. Writing down and grouping related insights allowed the team to clearly see the most common patterns in behaviours and pain-points.

Customer research
Affinity mapping in a group then allowed us to organise the research findings and identify patterns and insights.

Re-tracing our steps

Following the research rounds, the team felt that a re-alignment exercise was necessary to review our progress and findings, and check that we were still focused on the problems we had initially identified. To do this we developed a 'story so far' journey mapping exercise wherein we re-traced our steps through the project during the solution fit phase.

Project process
Output from a 'story so far' journey mapping exercise

Writing value propositions

Using value proposition canvases we focused on the best opportunities for our customer groups based on the insights we had found. This process helped us to link pain points to possible solutions.

Value proposition
Value proposition

Fast ideation

Using the Crazy 8s technique, we were able to consider a lot of potential solutions very quickly.

Crazy 8s
Crazy 8s
Crazy 8s
Crazy 8s

Customer experience strategy

We used ideal customer journey mapping to identify the touchpoints our customers were likely customers to use, and to communicate to stakeholders where in the journey we expected the new ideas to feature. The output was then simplified, illustrated and used as an asset in our presentations to the business.

CX mapping
CX mapping
Customer journey
The journey as a presentation tool to help pitch our ideas to the business

Experiment design, testing and iteration

Experimentation and rapid prototyping helped us to define proof of concept for the most promising ideas. In addition we used tools such as the Business Model Canvas helped us to estimate viability and to present the case for investment.

Two of the concepts we helped develop at NSI are now in pilot phase while they are tested and refined in readiness for full launch.

Experiment
Experiment
Experiment
Alex Charlton is a digital product and service designer

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