As a business leader, entrepreneur, CEO, senior executive, marketer, whatever your title is, if your work at one point or another involves strategic innovation i.e. creating or improving business strategy, product development, customer solutions or organisational culture, chances are the concept of design thinking (DT) will be relevant for you.
DT can help you innovate your business strategies and processes, develop new products and additionally help to develop a positive culture, where customers are at the forefront.
This will boost not only your customer retention but also the company culture, in effect making you a more profitable business all around.
What is design thinking?
DT is a way of solving problems that is helpful for creating product and service experiences, and when used effectively, can be the foundation for driving a brand strategy or business forward.
DT can be a helpful tool for businesses seeking to innovate, as it often involves a mind shift to solve business challenges, leading to more agile strategies. DT uses empathy and creativity to generate insights and solutions, thereafter analyses to find solutions based on rational thinking and by applying context.
An innovative way of solving problems
DT can be used at any type of strategy development and when wanting a customer-focused culture, as it can help foster a culture that’s focused on an innovative way of solving problems – one where everyone feels included.
DT can be applied to products, services, and processes – basically anything that needs to be improved. And by the way things are moving in today's fast-paced world, what doesn't need improvements?
To further accentuate that design can apply to any strategy or innovation initiatives where we seek to improve the status quo; Herbert Simon defines "design" as the "transformation of existing conditions into preferred ones”.1
Simon describes it as follows: “Design thinking is, then, always linked to an improved future. Unlike critical thinking, which is a process of analysis and is associated with the 'breaking down' of ideas, design thinking is a creative process based around the 'building up' of ideas. There are no judgments in design thinking. This eliminates the fear of failure and encourages maximum input and participation. Wild ideas are welcome since these often lead to the most creative solutions. Everyone is a designer, and design thinking is a way to apply design methodologies to any of life's situations”.
In essence, it’s a repeatable process using creative techniques to yield guaranteed results — often results that surpass expectations. For this reason alone it’s such an attractive, dynamic and crucial methodology for businesses to embrace today.
A brief explanation of the design thinking concept:
1. Define the problem
It’s not just about defining the problem but defining the right problem to solve. When brainstorming, always question the problem at hand and try and empathize with the person’s experience you want to improve.
This also needs cross-functional insight into each problem by various perspectives as well as constant questioning. When probing, repeatedly ask: Why?, Why? Why? until you’re left with the real issues you need to deal with.
Visualising problems will help here as the more you can see the problem at hand and paint the picture for your peers, the better you’ll be at forming viable solutions.
2. Create and consider many options
DT is a way to go about things differently, attempting to solve problems in different ways. It's key that many different solutions are ideated, regardless of the problem at hand, although be careful not to overanalyse and stay at one point for too long.
3. Refine selected options
When a few potential options are revealed, the whole group needs to embrace them. This is where there should be no fear of failure when proposing ideas, and the old ways of thinking need to be put to the side, in order to let new ideas grow and flourish.
4. Repeat (optional)
Often there’s a need to combine several answers and refine these further in several rounds to ensure the right answers are brought to the forefront to solve the problem.
5. Pick the winner and execute
Finally, the desired course of action is selected and the appropriate resources are allocated to achieve the objectives.
In the following blog post, we'll look further into applying DT for customer experience later on we’ll apply the theory to organisational culture.
1. "Sciences of the Artificial", MIT Press, 1969