Branch of the Future workshop participants use design thinking to explore space and service options.

As a Minneapolis architecture firm, we are regularly called upon to help our commercial interior design clients rethink the nature of their workspaces, based on changing customer and workforce needs. In November 2018, we partnered with the Minnesota Credit Union Network (MnCUN) for a design thinking workshop focused on the credit union branch of the future. It was an opportunity for MnCUN members to learn how to apply what PlanForce does to their credit union branches in order to better serve their members.

In the workshop, we walked the MnCUN members through our approach to solving design challenges, with an understanding that it’s flexible and can be structured in many different ways to adapt to their unique organization, project, and working styles.

Branch of the Future workshop participants use design thinking to explore space and service options.

MnCUN workshop participants use design thinking to explore space and service options for the branch of the future.

[PlanForce] did a great job of tailoring their specialty to a broader audience. Rather than speaking specifically on their subject matter, they found a way to share the concepts and problem-solving approach from their work and relate it to ours.

Branch of the Future workshop participant

Branch of the Future workshop participants use design thinking to explore space and service options.

Participants were tasked with asking questions at the heart of design: What would members want? What challenges are the credit unions solving? What benefits are they providing for their members?

Five Pillars of Design Thinking

To start the workshop, we described the five core pillars to the design process that we use with PlanForce clients: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Iterate. But instead of giving a lecture on what those mean, the workshop was very participatory. Attendees learned by doing, both as individuals and as part of design teams. After all, it’s difficult to learn design through a lecture.

We asked each participant to imagine they were building a new credit union branch — the branch of the future. The goal of the workshop was to begin to design the experience — what that branch of the future looks like, what happens there, and how it functions. Most importantly, we wanted to uncover what would make this an incredible branch experience in the eyes of their members.

The first step was to ask what questions would participants have for their members in order to begin to understand what they want out of a new credit union branch, and what would make this new branch successful? Of course, we provided a few questions that participants could use to start:

  • Why are you a member of our credit union? What makes it valuable to you?
  • Think back to the last time you went to the credit union. Why did you go? What worked about your visit, and what didn’t?
  • What services or amenities would draw you to visit the credit union more often?

Branch of the Future workshop participants use design thinking to explore space and service options.

Design thinking isn’t just for designers. We all have different experiences and unique thoughts on how to solve problems.

A Prototype Branch of the Future

With those insights in mind, we had attendees write down the ideas they had to make the branch of the future an incredible experience for members. Participants were encouraged to think about what solutions could mean in terms of physical layout, features, member experience, and even staff operations.

Then, as small groups, participants sketched out their solutions on large writing pads, combining the most popular ideas from within the group. (Or at least the ones that made sense to co-exist together in one space.) While the workshop was quick, in the real world, organizations often go through this cycle multiple times. As they work through designs, they often get additional interviews, iterating on their first prototype — or scrapping it all together! — and testing it with stakeholders at all levels.

We partnered with PlanForce for a round table for credit unions on innovation. They were able to help our credit unions think outside of the box when it comes to what it means to serve members in a branch setting.

Ben Hering, Director of Engagement, Minnesota Credit Union Network

Have you and your team been tasked with solving a major design challenge? Need some help with discovering how to re-think your workspace design for changing technology and markets? PlanForce can help! Contact us today to get started.

Brock Ray, Director of Marketing
Brock Ray
Director of Marketing & Business Development

Equipped with a designer’s eye, a storyteller’s soul, and a marketer’s targeted goal-setting, Brock works with clients to help develop integrated branding, graphic design, and digital marketing solutions — creating property marketing and space branding solutions to tell their stories and reflect their values.

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