SME South Africa celebrates Game changers/Disruptors this March. Follow along as we explore ideas and people that are challenging the status quo.
This article was originally published in 2017.
Lethabo Motsoaledi and Matthew Westaway are two young engineering graduates who are changing how businesses talk to their customers.
They are co-founders and co-CEOs of Motsoaledi & West (M&W), a design thinking consultancy that launched in January 2017, which is in the business of disruptive intelligence. According to a Bizcommunity article, they aim to “help companies fast-track innovation through applying their accelerated design thinking methodology”.
Design thinking is the latest craze in driving innovation within businesses. The methodology is used to help devise strategies to deliver customer value and define market opportunity through creative problem solving, using tools such as experimentation and empathy.
M&W was formed after the founders realised that businesses, in particular corporate SA, had no real understanding of the design thinking concept, and that their biggest pain point was the amount of time it took to bring something new to market, Westaway told the publication.
M&W is not their first attempt at disrupting the business landscape. In 2014, they launched 3D Power, a next-generation product development company that uses 3D Printing, IoT and other Industry 4.0 techniques to translate ideas into viable products, the company states on their website.
Here are 5 ways these young techies are driving the design thinking movement.
1. They are among a Few Local Startups Pioneering Design Thinking
Through their methodology, the duo is hoping to get companies to better understand their customers’ actual needs and desires, the Bizcommunity article states. They do this by immersing themselves in their clients’ environment, before ideating for solutions.
“It’s quite simply about empathising with the customer to find their specific needs and decide on which need can be satisfied within certain business constraints,” the article states.
2. It is Co-Led by a Black Female Powerhouse
Motsoaledi is a rarity in the male-dominated tech sector and has collected an impressive list of achievements despite her youth. At just 24, she is a 2015 Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Fellow and 2016 Mandela Rhodes scholar. She is also celebrated among powerful, successful young achievers in lists such as the Mail & Guardian’s 2017 Top 200 Young South Africans as well as the recently-announced Destiny Magazine’s Power of 40. She is also part of the Inspiring Fifty’s SA Women in Tech.
Her business partner, Westaway, is a design thinking expert with achievements that include completing an Advanced Programme in Design Thinking at the Hasso Plattner Institute (HPI) Cape Town, a partner of Stanford University’s d.school. Together they are hoping to create one of the most innovative design thinking businesses in the country.
3. They make use Of Next Generation Tech
Through the use of innovative tech, some of which they developed themselves, they are able to present robust, quality findings from analysing lengthy customer insight interviews for their clients, the article further adds.
Some of their tools include AI algorithms that they developed during their studies to automate previously time-intensive tasks, a transcription app tool as well as an algorithm that picks up key topics from the customer reports and also allows them to ‘drag and drop’ elements into the basic report skeleton to speed up the process. Both are self-devised, according to the article, which allows for some much-needed creative time.
Westaway says in the article that what these tools allow them to do is bring data to life “as the natural language processing allows for qualitative analysis without needing to read every word of the interview. It’s genius and proves that design thinking is more than a buzzword. Rather, it’s a methodology to fast-track innovation in the current customer-centric world.”
In their first venture, 3D Power, they developed what they have dubbed the ‘hourglass’. This is an interactive tech-enabled art piece that helps corporates encourage and track participation in Employee Volunteerism Programmes (EVPs) through a unique Internet of Things (IoT) platform.
4. Their Unique Solutions are Proving to be a Hit with Big Brands
The duo have managed to differentiate themselves from many other tech startups in the local ecosystem with their unique solutions. So much so that their ‘The Hourglass Project’ innovation is now powered by Vodacom.
Through their 3D startup, they also managed to catch the attention of Pampers and are now partnering with them for their framed 3D baby ultrasound scan prints, ‘Hello Baby 3D Prints‘. They also partnered with Netcare for their ‘Hello Baby Family Journal‘ that was a hit at the recent Mama Magic expo.
5. Now you Too can take Part
Their human-centered design thinking methodology is now also available as an Airbnb Experience, where you can learn to develop problem-solving techniques.
The programme is a learn-by-doing experience that aims to help you approach problem solving from the user’s perspective, teach you how to cultivate a passion for innovation and creativity as well as get you to develop solutions with deeper insights.