Design Thinking as a part of everyday work

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An interview with Marek Hornych, Innovation Navigator at Air Bank.

What did you do before coming to Air Bank?

Before coming to Air Bank I worked at Raiffeisen stavební spořitelna, where I was responsible for education and branch network development. I led a team of trainers, set up a training strategy, introduced online training and later I was also an ambassador for the coaching management style.

This must have been a shift from education. How did you switch from training and education to HCD (Human Centred Design) and innovation?

It was a combination of things. I have always taken a project approach to education. I tried to conduct training so they would be more in touch with reality, and ideally connected with the business goals. The aim was always a change of behaviour that was meant to have a specific impact, e.g. improving the effectiveness of recruiting new consultants or increasing sales of loans. However, there was no room to contemplate certain things sufficiently within the company. We lacked a sort of empathy, greater contact with reality and an understanding of things in a wider context. I see your method (design thinking – author’s note) as an excellent solution, that helps us move forward without having to fundamentally alter the functioning of the firm as well as other things. This is a feasible path which can give us an enormous push.

So then you received an offer to work for Air Bank. Why Air Bank?

Air Bank was one of the companies in the field that attracted me for a long time. A place where I could see myself working one day. The brand had always resonated with me especially because of its values. At the same time I wanted to work in an environment that is more innovative and modern, more open and where I would be given a space to engage with something like this.

Can you tell me more about the company values you mentioned?

The main values are courage, friendly approach, sincerity and also simplicity. That is the one that attracts me the most. I’m convinced that things should be done simply. In reality it is quite complicated to do things simply. So when I see that something is simple and it works, I know there is a lot of hard work behind it.

What is your mission at Air Bank?

My mission is to help and support people in the company to come up with new inventions, innovations and ideas and bring them to life. My task is to support innovative culture focused on the customer. That actually means incorporating Design Thinking into people’s mentality, so this approach becomes a regular component of everyday work. I aim to create purposeful innovations that our customers will appreciate, and that will help Air Bank stay one step ahead.

To what extent are you succeeding in fulfilling this mission?

My colleagues are gradually starting to use Design Thinking when addressing certain problems and seeking out solutions. They do it consciously, but also subconsciously, which is even better. So now they easily come up with something they never would have said or done before. For me that is the best indicator that we are on the right track.

How big is your team?

We always build a new team for a specific project, usually around 8 – 10 people from different parts of the bank. Diversity is very important. I put together people from IT, legal department, business, basically from all departments. It’s important to also have one or two people from outside, whether this is you – Direct People, or experts on the problem we’re addressing.

What role do we, Direct People, play in the mission, and why does working with us suit you?

Cooperation with you brings an impartial point of view, as well as the experience of people who have already worked on dozens of other projects. That is very valuable. The results are important to you, and you are involved from the very beginning, even with defining the scope of the project, which is often the key to success. You do not rush things just for the sake of getting them done. Everything is carefully thought out. You are bold, professional, fair and you always kept your word. Working with you is simply something I enjoy.

What project is the most important to you and why?

Every project I have worked on has given me a lot. Each one of them was different. I can definitely recall the first project, which was relatively large. The goal was to find a brand new value for customers, and we did not have a clear assignment or direction we wanted to take. Thanks to this I got to know the dynamics, how everything works, how people react and how everyone in the team is different.

What impact did these projects have on your people?

They had the opportunity to meet the customer, get to know their issues and what they consider important. This is quite fundamental, because they could suddenly empathize with the customer and work with that empathy. The second thing is that innovation projects are in general a certain motivation in themselves. People are involved in something from its inception. This makes their work more diverse, and they have the opportunity to participate in something that makes sense and is important for them.

Do you think that through your activities and Air Bank’s approach to clients you also inspire other banks? That in this you are the leader?

I think we are able to inspire others. At the same time we all feel obliged to abide by the bank’s values and to keep our customers satisfied. That is not always easy to combine.

What grade would you give us on a scale of 1 (minimum) to 10 (maximum)? And why?

As I already said, the way you work and think is something we can agree on. It fits well with Air Bank’s values. I like the fact that everything works, and that you are flexible and do not stick to “corporate manners”.

About Air Bank

Air Bank is one of the fastest growing banking institutions in the Czech Republic. It entered the Czech market in 2011 and since then gained more than 600 thousand clients. Air Bank is a member of PPF Group. It focuses mainly on small retail clients and got multiple awards over the years, including “the most customer-friendly bank of the year”.