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Demonetization after-effects
and Design Think

The buzz around recent demonetization of higher currencies in India is making waves across the globe. While the central focus is around cleaning the country from the ill-gotten wealth, it is impacting the common man as well.

The announcement on that eventful evening by the Prime Minister on demonetization was surrounded by a lot of secrecy, since the whole effort demanded minimal stakeholder involvement for its potential success. However, I believe Design Thinking could have possibly addressed some of the aftermath issues comfortably.

Design thinking in simple terms is about a ‘Human-centered’ approach towards an ‘improved future’. Here is my take on some of the tools of Design Thinking that could have alleviated the short-term challenges citizens and the policy makers are facing post demonetization.

1. Observing Patterns

Patterns of cash usage by different sections of society should have been observed well in advance as a means of identifying the aftermath of such policy change. We have enough data to understand the dependency on banks and ATMs across demographies, which could have been leveraged to sensitize all key stakeholders on what to expect post the announcement.

All possible extreme users (ex. students, daily wage workers, daily commuters, villagers and foreign tourists etc.) and their patterns of usage could also have been studied to understand how they will influence the agenda or get influenced by it.

2. Blind Spots

With data and experience, a ‘What If’ scenario study would have helped in identifying some of the blind spots encountered post the roll out. These include the long queue in the banks and ATMs, black money reportedly coming back to mainstream through third parties such as maids, students, teachers, drivers etc. The use of indelible ink was a step in the right direction but with practical implementation challenges. A ‘What If’ scenario study could have prevented a lot of the loop holes.

3. An integrated campaign

A well planned and integrated campaign starting the next day after announcement in all possible forms (visual, social and audio), outlining the objective and intended outcome of this policy would have helped the fence sitters and the common citizens to understand, empathize and eventually support this agenda of ‘Black money free India’. This could have also been leveraged to appreciate every citizen’s role in shaping the future India - a short term pain that one goes through for a long term gratification.

Design thinking as a problem solving approach is not applicable for all problem situations, especially where the solution is direct and obvious. It is applicable where the solution would need the observation of patterns, addressing unstated needs, and unearthing blind spots. The demonetization agenda is one such classic situation which is ideal for a design thinking approach!