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CH Interview | KODW Special: Selena Xu

by creativehomex

Selena Xu has 10+ years of expertise in innovation and design thinking industry. She is deeply rooted in consumer insights to drive product innovation, with the understanding of business objectives and technology capability. For her upcoming KODW session, she will share her point of view about how we can leverage and accelerate digital transformation to design better human experience, business and cities.

Selena Xu, Service Design Director of EY wavespace™ | Hong Kong
Session: Rethinking Digital Transformation: The Role of Design






Can you share a little about yourself?
I am Selena Xu from Hong Kong EY Wavespace. I am a service design practitioner who puts the users’ needs at heart for every design solution that I create. I am also a mother of a 5-year-old son. Observing human behavior, analyzing human reactions with outside feedbacks is my passion. Ultimately, I believe we, human beings, are influenced by the surrounding world and the things we interact with. So I must make sure that I am creating meaningful solutions that bring a positive impact to the end-users. To me, service design is not a personal preference nor an anesthetic façade; it is about creating a tool or channel to achieve a particular end goal.

What inspires you?
My inspirations always come from the end-users. For example, a few years ago, I did a banking project on Hong Kong millennials. I did the first-hand research with many young people across different life stages. One couple I interviewed, the husband said, “I only can afford to either own an apartment or have a kid. Housing and education are too expensive that we cannot afford both.” It broke my heart, and I can feel their helplessness. With social media and materialism modern market destructions, spending is always the focus of financial services. In the end, my inspiration led to a different focus: new bank feature that can allow people to spend smarter and save up for what matters for their life.

What is your design philosophy?
Human-centric design is my philosophy. My career starts with IDEO, a world-famous innovative design consultancy. With human-centric design, every solution I provided my clients is deeply rooted in user research. Many people may know design as aesthetic styling or functional creation. In my view, the real value of design is to get a product/service to better fit into users’ life and to help them achieve their goals.

For example, nowadays, there are many bank apps with bad reviews in the app store or online forums. If you look into the complaints, you will realize that most people are not complaining about how awful it looks visually; users are frustrated with the troublesome process and clumsy user experience. Most of the banks design and build their apps as a replacement for the branch. With a single inside-out view, the app is created based on the bank process, rather than users’ needs or expectations.

Let’s take a digital account opening, for example. Nowadays, in Hong Kong, if you go into a branch, the staff will ask you to fill in a form and copy many documents that usually takes 2 hours. When designing a digital account opening flow in the mobile app, the easy mistake is to turn a paper form digitally. Imagine you are the user, sitting at home, looking at a lengthy list of questions with many drop-down options on a tiny screen with a lot of bank jargon, but no one can help you understand. No wonder people will give up on it after 5 minutes.

I believe the real value of design is to see, feel and understand a task-to-be-done from the users’ end, then design a best-suited solution to facilitate the task-to-be-done in a more efficient and pleasant way.

Can you tell us about your company and your specialization?
We help our clients transform into the digital era, on their offering level, operational level, tech capability, and way of working.

EY emphasizes on generating long-term values. We help our clients put humans@center, leverage technology@speed, and enable innovation@scale. With these three lenses, we bring together our transformative capabilities, skills, solutions, and tools to create impact throughout our clients’ enterprises and the broader ecosystem.

As part of the transformation journey, my strength is rooted in the human-centricity to drive innovative design solutions. In practice, innovation can be led by new technology. However, the design value becomes in the adaptation and use case of that new technology. It has to bring real impact or benefit to the end-users.

You will be one of the key speakers at KODW. Can you tell us about what you will be sharing during your session?
I am part of the panel discussion on Rethinking Digital Transformation: The Role of Design. My key emphasis is the importance of balancing business or tech-led transformation with human centricity. The three lenses must remain in sync with each other. Otherwise, the result won’t be satisfying. It is not to say human centricity is the silver bullet for all problems, but it is the piece that can be easily ignored or neglected in a business agenda. Especially in this digital era, the customers have high expectations of a digital experience. The digital service providers are not only competing with your immediate industry competitors but also fighting for users’ time and attention with all apps within the screen.

How has design change over the years? How does this influence the way we work and live?
I witness the changes in the design and innovation industry that human-centric design grows from a niche offering into the core of transformation capability. With the radical change brought by Covid-19, the urgency for better digital experience is in the spotlight. 2020 is the year that traditional industries, such as education, are pushed to the edge and must adapt to a new way of learning and a new way of collaboration. Many new offerings are created due to the demand in a short period. However, the ones that can survive must win the heart of the user.

What do you think will be emerging design trends in this “new normal”?
The new normal for design is the designers must be the multi-disciplinary talents who can connect the dots between business understanding, technology possibility, and user experience. It requires designers to learn and see things from the other two lenses so that you will be able to convince business stakeholders to understand the user values that can be impactful to the business results.

What do you think is the best way to use design to engineer a better world to live in post-pandemic?
As part of the design methodology, prototyping is a critical component. Build to test for iteration is the spirit. In the pandemic, things change fast and out of the blue. The historical learnings or patterns may not apply. Keep the Agile mindset. Fail early to improve better may be the best attitude we shall have to face more up-coming challenges.

Finally any advice to established as well as upcoming designers and those involved in the design industry?
Find your strength and passion is more than anything else. I have many great designer friends with excellent design skills. They are more like artists who put all their dedication with great design creativity that I admire.

Catch Selena Xu’s session on August 26 2020. For more info log on to: https://www.kodw.org/en/event/rethinking-digital-transformation-the-role-of-design/

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