Design Thinking: The Process Behind Innovation. (Explained)
It’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement of innovation and forget a key thing: that you’re creating something for a specific audience and you’re targeting a human. Ultimately, this is what separates your good products and your great products that actually sell.
This is where design thinking comes in.
I fell in love with design thinking when I worked on the Innovation Programme at Accenture. We ran Ideation Sessions internally, and externally, to promote an innovative mind-set that aimed to solve problems using emerging technology. The user-centric, empathetic approach of design thinking really drew me in. I loved collaborating with a team and focusing on ideation. Eventually, it changes the way you think and approach products. I brought this new approach in to POWERnomads
So what is design thinking and how can it help your business?
The 5 Step Process of Design Thinking
In short, design thinking is a creative process for problem solving within your business. This method behind innovation can help you approach problems differently and find a new way of looking at something which shifts the focus on to your customer’s experience. The key thing to bear in mind that everything centres on your end user, it is ‘human centred’ design’.
Here are the five key steps to the design thinking process and how they can help you.
As you may have noticed already, empathy is a huge part of the design thinking process, you need to know your target audience. What do they want, who are they, what do they value, and how do they view the world? If you don’t have this key information in mind during the design process then you can fall short and have a brand or product that no one can (or wants to) use. The best way to avoid this is to carry out market research, sit down as a team, and really put yourself in the place of your target user.
So you’ve learnt a lot about your customer in the empathise stage but now you want to hone in on that information. You know who your customer is but what exactly are you trying to convey to them? What is your company offering and is it useful? Unfortunately, without these clear ideas and a defined mission statement, you’re going to get lost in your product and lose clarity. Make sure you can define your company and your product in a few lines. You’ll be amazed by how difficult it can be to summarise your project but being clear about what your offering a customer is key.
This part of the process is key and in many ways the most satisfying. This is where ‘out of the box’ thinking and creativity shape the product in to the best it can be. At this stage all ideas are welcome; your team should come together and maximise the differing thinking-styles present. This allows the best ideas to flow which can then be combined in to the most useful and viable course of action going forward. Ideation gives the user the best product possible. Think about the people you have around you, everyone has a different personality and approach, right? By brainstorming together and really getting creative, you can create solutions and ideas that will take your product to the next level. It’s easier to make a crazy idea possible then a boring idea innovative, so the sky really is the limit.
Even if you have the best creative team in the world, and a solid idea from the ideation process, there are going to be issues which you can’t anticipate. That’s why it’s so important to create a demo or a prototype for real users to try. Any issues that arise during this step can be brainstormed again and you can fix them with minimal financial loss. It also gives you a chance to really see your product in action, sometimes by seeing someone use your product, you’ll notice things that you’re not happy with. This is the approach we take at POWERnomads, get the idea out of your head onto paper, and start working with it straight away.
You’ve perfected your product, tested again, and you feel ready. Launching your brand isn’t where it ends for you. You need to be constantly collecting feedback, engaging with your users, and keeping an eye out for any room for improvement in this test phase. True Innovation is completely iterative and you may end up somewhere totally different to where you started, that’s the fun part! Youtube started as a dating site (read more here) so anythings possible!
Remember empathy from the first step? This is how you can show your customers you’re a genuine person rather than someone who makes a sale and isn’t heard from again. And this is how you get repeat and loyal customers.
Why do we care?
Steve Jobs was an early subscriber to what we now call design thinking. Consumers of Apple products often comment on the user-friendly and intuitive approach to each design. Of course, the launch of the iPhone brought about so many of the conveniences that we now take for granted.
Steve Jobs meticulously designed to meet the needs of each user. As we move closer to an age where people desire more and more intuitiveness from their products, design thinking has never been more critical.
“We don’t talk a lot about design around here, we just talk about how things work. Most people think it’s about how they look, but it’s about how they work” – Steve Jobs
Why do I like it?
Personally, I love the human-centred element – the fact that you’re designing for your user and getting in to the headspace of someone who’s going to use your products. I love that it can lead to the most beautiful creations, like Doug Dietz who, when he found out that the children in hospital were terrified of the MRI he had designed, took a design thinking approach to solve the problem. His creative journey led him to design child-friendly scanning experiences that take away as much trauma as possible from the situation, in fact, they enjoyed it!
How to implement it in your business
If you use the steps above, you can shift your mind-set so that the product or service you’re creating is always being created for a real person. If your product is made for you and not for your audience, or if it’s not thought through thoroughly enough, it won’t achieve the good results you’re looking for. Design thinking reduces risk, can help your company learn faster, and generate creative innovative solutions. What are you waiting for? Start with a bit of Ideation, get some post it notes and choose a problem statement in your company. After that, put 5-10 people in a room and get them to work alone, and in teams to solve the problem – you’ll be surprised with what come up!