Design thinking is a process for solving complex problems and exploring innovation opportunities. By emphasizing speed, collaboration, and human-centred insights, the process often solves challenges much faster than traditional project delivery methods.
With design thinking, input from a variety of knowledgable perspectives is used to evaluate assumptions, generate ideas for potential solutions and test concepts with representative users before a final approach is determined.
A deep understanding of users is the key to most design thinking activities.
Initially, the process was born in the world of visual design but is now popularly used to transform how organizations develop products, services, and business strategy. By leveraging a step-by-step design thinking framework, a variety of business and technical roles can be empowered with creative tools that quickly and effectively produce desirable solutions.
Good design is good businessThomas J. Watson, IBM
Why Is Design Thinking Important?
- It leverages internal subject matter expertise and user research
- It reduces the risk associated with launching new ideas
- It helps organizations and teams learn faster through close collaboration
- It generates solutions that are truly innovative, not just incremental
The connection between customer experience and customer loyalty is clear. When customer loyalty goes up, sales go up and referrals happen organically. When customer satisfaction increases, costs to serve these customers will go down. With a deep understanding of customer needs, your solutions will be more successful in meeting them.
In addition, while the design thinking approach is centred around what is desirable from a human point of view, the process also marries the customer need with what is technologically feasible and strategically viable for an organization’s business need.
The Core Elements of Design Thinking
- Human-centred (empathy)
- Ideation (generating a lot of ideas)
- Experimentation (testing concepts)
- Balance (customer need, feasible execution and business need)
- Iteration (gathering feedback and learning quickly)
What Design Thinking is Used For
Design thinking can be applied to a variety of unique challenges across any industry. Here are a few examples:
- Business Design – Remove risk around new ventures by testing assumptions and concepts quickly
- Service and Experience design – Develop innovative models for new or improved ventures that create moments people will remember and brands they will have loyalty to
- Digital Product design – Confidently launch concepts for interactive experiences and learn from real user data, not guesswork
- Marketing strategy – Ensure concepts resonate with your potential audience and provide clear next steps for engagement
How to get started with Design Thinking
Design thinking techniques can be used during regular business meetings and in longer Design Sprints (one or two weeks in duration). The activities are also useful throughout ongoing strategic initiatives.
In the same way that architects generally start new projects with blueprints and scale-models, Design Sprints help organizations learn from Subject Matter Experts and quickly prototype concepts for user feedback before rolling out new products/services at scale. This process allows ideas to be evaluated before implementation and can provide significant savings, further downstream, in both time and resources.
When getting started with the process, identify a low-risk initiative or topic where your team can pilot the activities and techniques the first time. Try to capture the experience with photos and videos to share with internal stakeholders. This will help by encouraging support for future initiatives.
An excellent resource for step-by-step instructions is the book Sprint by Jake Knapp. This book documents the original Design Sprint process piloted by Google Ventures and provides detailed workshop plans as well as a variety of case studies which may help to convince your team.
Need an accelerator to empower your team?
Leverage an experienced facilitator when piloting design thinking activities or the Design Sprint process for the first time. Their insight and guidance will ensure that your initiative stays on track and delivers valuable outcomes.
Has your team tried design thinking?
Let us know about your biggest challenges or success below in the comments or contribute to the discussion in our Experience Design Community Facebook Group.