Creating a Culture for Digital Transformation: Don Relyea with BBVA

Don Relyea, CXO of the BBVA Dallas Creation Center and Global Head of IP, discussed design thinking and the benefits of creating a culture of support for digital transformation. Don spoke as the featured presenter at a recent meeting of the XD Leadership Alliance in Dallas.

You can watch the video of Don's presentation above. Highlights of Don's speech follow:

People tend to overcomplicate the design-thinking process, not because the process needs to be overcomplicated, but usually because their organizations are overcomplicated.

You want to empathize with your users and customers. That is really defining who is using your product. These are not marketing segments. You come in with design research and figure out who is actually going to be using the products. You want to define the problem and the needs that your solution is going to meet.


You get together and ideate around those solutions and focus on a direction that's attainable. Then, you prototype and test those solutions with your users and validate your assumptions. That is the design-thinking process in a nutshell.

It can be done in workshops, in design sprints, and it can be iterated on though your Agile sprint cycles.

Top-down support for user-centered design and design thinking are really keys to success.

One of the things that I've found useful is to identify your working style when you engage with a new team. You need to be mindful that you may have to work a little harder with some of them to bridge the gaps and silos, and make sure you get everybody who needs to be engaged in a project in the same room.

“The very first thing you start with is the customer. If you’re not starting with the customer, you’re probably not doing it right.”
— BBVA's Don Relyea

We identify customer personas. These are the actual users for the product. We redefine those with every project because they tend to be more specific.

You want to identify and define the problem to form solutions around. What is it those customers really need?

Get as many ideas out on the board as early, then narrow it in and focus it into an attainable goal.

Test the prototypes with actual users. Get as much prototyping done before you engage development resources.

Oftentimes, products are built by isolated teams and silos. This leads to a limited range of ideas or only a certain point of view, so many possible aspects are often overlooked or ignored. In the end, it is our customers who then suffer with bad experiences.


The way to prevent this is simple: to work together. We call this principle the "triangle," which simply means bringing members of the design, engineering and business teams together as equal partners on a project.

Using the triangle, we can apply the 3-6-9 approach to product development. The 3 stands for three days to put together a team from the three corners of the triangle. Once the team is identified and assembled, a co-creation workshop usually takes place. This workshop follows a user-centered design process to help answer the major questions: who, what, why and how?

After the workshop ends, the team then has six weeks to build a prototype. The prototype can be a proof-of-concept, an interactive mock-up of key features, or a video animation to help summarize the larger vision.

Once the prototype is built, it is reviewed and validated by users and stakeholders. Once everyone is satisfied, the team then has nine months to release the product to market.

By following the 3-6-9 process, we can rapidly prototype and launch that great idea, giving our customers products that truly are amazing.

XD Board Member Toby Hughes and BBVA's Don Relyea

XD Board Member Toby Hughes and BBVA's Don Relyea

For building a creative culture, hire creative people. Empower them. Let people know how wide the boundaries are for empowerment. Let them build their own creative culture.

Design-thinking companies and design-infused companies outperformed the Standard S&P by 219%, according to Design Management Institute.

To sum it up, interact with your customers, connect with other areas of your company and your organization, experiment with new ideas, prototype and test your concepts with the users, iterate on those solutions, and pass on what you've learned.

About XD Leadership Alliance

The mission of the XD Leadership Alliance is to recognize and connect industry thought leaders in the fields of design, technology, research, product and marketing. As customer experience continues to be the top driver of digital transformation for organizations, experience-driven (XD) businesses are leading the way in increasing market share and delivering greater ROI. The new ideas and collaborative efforts of the XD Leadership Alliance are aimed at keeping Dallas at the forefront of this vital economic initiative.

For more information and to get involved, visit the XD Leadership Alliance now at