Design thinking is providing competitive advantages as organizations try to provide differentiated products and experiences with a user-first mentality.
What is design thinking?
Lately, many of us must have heard of design thinking. At the core, it is more of an iterative process to understand what the users really want and redefine problems. It helps us to arrive at a solution based approach to solve user problems. In design thinking, we understand the users’ in-depth and their challenges. Attempts are, made to identify alternative strategies and solutions. It inspires out of the box thinking approach.
Sometime back a truck driver tried to pass through a low bridge and his truck got stuck. Emergency workers early at the site were contemplating options like chipping the bridge or tugging the truck away or etc. Both options could lead to damage to the bridge and expensive repair options.
A boy walking by saw and said, why not just take the air out of the tires? The solution worked and the truck was able to drive out from the bridge, without any damage to the bridge. Here we see an out of the box thinking approach.
People are absorbed in their ways of working. The thought process is reinforced every day in the daily job based on their activities. The thought process is constrained and does not give rise to new innovative ideas easily. Design thinking is about changing the way we think for better solutions.
Design thinking is useful in areas where the problems have not been defined properly. Some of the techniques used are
Design thinking is a non-linear process and is iterative to bring out the best possible solutions. A practical example of design thinking is the one where Braun and Oral-B wanted to develop an IoT toothbrush. Designers Colin and Hecht were invited. They understood that products were having features more than what the customer needed. Market forces drove the features rather than customer needs.
Colin and Hecht empathized with the user and their sense of guilt if they were doing justice to the morning brushing activity. They focused on two other features beneficial to the customer. Charging the toothbrush and ordering replacement brush heads. Charging can be done through a USB port or a docking station. For ordering replacements, pressing a button on the brush would send a brush head replacement reminder notification to a mobile phone app via Bluetooth. So the design-centric philosophy helps in what is realistic and beneficial to the end users.
Phases in design thinking:
Empathize > Define > Ideate > Prototype > Test
The process is non-linear and iterative in nature. It may have few variations in usage from organization to organization. Empathizing with users is done in problem definition. Inputs from prototyping and testing stages are iteratively used to redefine problems for better solutions.
Applying design thinking in business:
Organizations need to have a design-centric culture. Senior management needs to set strategic intent and value design. Investments in design infrastructure and training across the organization are crucial. Organization-wide coaching in design thinking can make design a core competency enabling the creation of differentiated products and services. Staff can apply Design Thinking concept in their daily work to deliver more value through new approaches. It enables visualizing and designing new products with a user first perspective. Organizations can understand hidden customer requirements and needs to deliver what the customer actually needs and is beneficial.
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