Let’s talk about Design Thinking
Design thinking has become an important strategy in business. Used by some of the most successful organisations in the world, it combines human interest with scientific approaches to reach a solution.
What is design thinking?
For many, design thinking is a relatively obscure, or new term. Design itself has become a catchword for the look or feel of a product. Often seen gracing the pages of a glossy magazine review celebrating the latest must-have gadget or device. But as the late, great, Steve Jobs once said, “Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like … It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” If we should take advice from anyone on design, it’s our Steve.
In practical terms, design thinking is the measured steps toward determining how something works. It is the process of reaching a solution, through creative problem-solving techniques. The aim is to understand the problems, issues and complexities of any barrier on the path to success. Those barriers can range from a new product due to be released, to a seasonal profit slump or all important customer engagement.
How does design thinking work?
The framework boils down to the following four main categories:
The first stage in developing a design thinking strategy is to identify what it is you’re hoping to achieve. This can often be a fairly broad topic, ranging from “How can we improve on…” to the cripplingly open-ended statement such as, “What do customers want next?”. The main aim for this part of the framework is to end up with a question, vision or statement of intent with which to move onto the next stage.
Once a statement of intent has been produced, the next stage is to expand this idea into a workable document. This will often require research to determine who is affected by the problem you are hoping to resolve and what sort of audience you should be aiming for. Beyond this, themes and cultural influences also play a big part in defining the topic.
You may have heard of ‘the eureka moment’ or ‘a-ha moment’. Essentially, this is when everything becomes clear and you find you can see the way forward. This is the core of the develop stage of the process. Once you have enough data to understand the issue at hand and know where you are going next, you can develop a working concept or prototype to gain some feedback. With each new version, the concept can be refined and retested until you are happy with the final result.
It’s done. The final step is to deliver the concept which can be developed into a product or service and then released.
Originally mapped by The Design Council (UK), this four ‘D’ approach covers the extent of the design thinking process, which essentially amounts to the ‘What, Why and How’. This isn’t something that requires lengthy explanation, as it is a uniquely intuitive method of reaching a decision.
By relying on research and customer awareness, design thinking helps keep the end user in mind. As Jeanne Liedtka said in Batten Briefings 2015,
“Customer intimacy – a deep knowledge of customers and their problems – helps to uncover those needs.”
Introducing the design thinking process into your organisation is key. It provides the tools needed to foster innovative approaches to problem solving. Becoming a design-focused company may call for a radical change in approach for many businesses.
The biggest challenge comes from a company’s approach to customer interaction. A company relying on design thinking must engage with the end user in an unprecedented way.
Focus on ‘end-to-end customer experience’. This will help you gain a greater insight into the customer’s needs and ultimately reach a solution.
Build a strong team of individuals with a broad range of knowledge and experience. Collective wisdom is the priority. It is important to manage a group of people with a broad range of inputs to cover the widest audience as possible.
Keep your range limited
Develop small projects with your team and learn to problem solve in a group environment. Start by producing a daily newsletter or report which captures data that otherwise goes unrecorded. Whatever works best for you in your company’s culture. The key is to build a team of confident problem solvers with their eyes set firmly on design thinking.
In time, your team will become a vital factor when developing new approaches.
Motivation is the key to success
The greatest motivator is momentum. A team led by creativity thrives on a feeling of activity and ‘buzz’. Deadlines aren’t always a useful tool in reaching a definitive solution. There is nothing worse than having thorough research spoiled by a rushed conclusion. Instead, focus on the team’s successes and continually explore alternatives.
You simply won’t believe how important this will become in time.
Look out for more blog pieces coming soon!
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