Flying Circle brings designer’s eye to its business process projects

There’s a small firm in West Knoxville that is bringing the knowledge and feel of the design world to clients who are focused on trying to establish new business processes, improve existing ones or even design a new manufacturing floor layout.

The company is 10-year old Flying Circle, founded by Christian Biddle, a former Design Director for Scripps Networks. In a recent interview with teknovation.biz, Biddle literally dazzled us with his non-traditional approach to helping clients be successful.

“We use design and design processes to ensure the likelihood of success for our clients,” he explained, placing particular emphasis on studying the habits or tendencies of individuals in relation to the goals of the client.

A quick review of the firm’s web page – http://www.flyingcircle.com/ – underscores that Flying Circle’s approach is clearly non-traditional. The tagline calls out three words – create, shape, propel – indicating the impact that Biddle expects for his clients. The firm proclaims that its name “comes from our non-linear, non-traditional process of moving through the development cycle. The Flying Circle approach helps projects gain and sustain momentum.”

Flying Circle brings the eye of the designer to the effort. In fact, the firm has only four employees, most of them designers. It is co-located with Cadre5, a digital technology and integrated solutions company previously featured on teknovation.biz (https://www.teknovation.biz/2012/02/26/cadre5-software-helped-avoid-flight-delay/ ).

“Our early visualization step (as to what the client wants) helps make the final product much better,” Biddle said, using work completed for an assisted living facility as an example of understanding the ultimate goal, impediments, and human factors that would affect success.

“The magic sauce for this Midwestern firm was a mobile app that would get reimbursements submitted in a timely manner,” he said.  In this case, the client housed 4,000 assisted living residents in multiple facilities and employed many Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) who carried mobile devices to record patient data like temperature and blood pressure as well as medications dispensed.

The challenge was one of “store and forward.” In Biddle’s words, it was changing the way that the CNAs handled the data – from taking a blood pressure reading, for example, and writing the results on their hands expecting to later enter the data into the mobile device.

“Time was money to the client,” he said about the delays in entering the data and, by default, the submission of claims to payers like insurance companies and the Centers for Medical and Medicare Services.

Flying Circle teamed-up with Cadre5 to design the solution.

“We showed-up with a naive knowledge,” Biddle said. After observing the process that most CNAs followed, the Flying Circle-Cadre5 team pitched a touch screen solution, albeit in a kiosk or wall-mounted unit. The firm has subsequently moved to iPads which weren’t available when the project started.

“We used rapid prototyping to create a device that could be used in the real world and then evaluated and optimized it,” Biddle explained. Developing the prototype was just the beginning of the Flying Circle approach.

Biddle said that the CNAs who experimented with the prototype were told they were expected to use the prototype rather than their existing mobile devices to enter patient data. “They did not receive any (further) instructions on how to use it,” he explained.

The Flying Circle team carefully observed the interaction of the untrained CNAs with the prototype to understand the challenges they faced in correctly entering the data on a timely basis. With a designer’s eye, Biddle and his colleagues evaluated issues like screen glare, optimal screen colors, and even the use of icons for various data entry functions similar in nature to the universal symbols used internationally on roadway signs. All of these designer-enabled improvements were incorporated into the final product to help ensure easier and more frequent data entry.

“We even added a capability to customize the app to each individual,” Biddle said. As a result, the solution became a two-way or “smart” tool – entering information so the assisted living center could file claims more promptly.  However, the solution also became a tool the CNAs used for applications like an alarm clock to alert them when they needed to give medicine, take blood pressure, or do other things with individual patients.

“We’ve taken macro strategic thinking to the micro production level.” Biddle explained, adding that his team’s approach is to do “all thinking upfront,” then build the customized solution for the client after “we know that we have buy-in.”

“It (the Flying Circle approach) gives stakeholders deep insight into how a product will be used and increases the likelihood of success,” he added.

Other clients have included DENSO Manufacturing Tennessee, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the National Nuclear Security Administration, and Aldis. Flying Circle is available for a wide-array of projects and can be reached by emailing ContactUs@FlyingCircle.com.

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