The importance of design thinking for businesses

design-heroSummary

  • What Design Thinking is
  • Designers as ‘creative consultants’
  • Design thinking practices your business can start adopting today
  • A Design-led process defined

So what is Design Thinking?

From nations seemingly on the verge of World War Three through to on-going Brexit negotiations – the world today seems to be one big problem to be solved, and how we approach these problems may ultimately define their outcomes and our futures.

So what am i going on about? Typically, problem solvers from various sectors and industries would take a problem at face value and endeavour to come up with solutions. However, design thinking is built on the notion of defining the right problem to solve by questioning the brief and the problem to be solved before embarking on it’s solution and execution.

Design Thinking is a methodology/process any business or profession (…or world superpower) can employ to solve complex problems and achieve results. This is achieved by focusing on developing a deep empathy for a customers/users/audiences and creating solutions and experiences that match their needs.

In terms of the creative industry, in contrast to a typical design process where an account manager or designer/developer will meet a client who would have pre-diagnosed the reason why their company was failing before we rush off to create visually engaging solutions, design thinking focuses on upfront problem framing before any applications are fired up and solutions are explored. It works to pause and consider alternatives and enhance creativity to innovate – the great thing is it can be applied to developing products, services and business practices.

Design thinking has started to empower creatives and strategists to position themselves as consultants, not merely service providers – as clients want experts to help guide their businesses and create value for their customers.

But, (there’s always a but !) before designers and other newly crowned consultants can sit back and bask in the glory of their new found importance, a concerted effort is required to evolve themselves to diagnose client problems before delivering solutions. Instead of being order takers – us creative consultants need to develop the integrity to research and identify what the real underlying cause is – despite what client says they want.

A phase of diagnostics is vital before road mapping a project as it helps design teams understand what the problems are and the best solutions. The client might initially come to us asking for one thing but in reality if there is no value to be gained for the client, as experts and trusted consultants we need to guide them to ensure the outcomes are more effective for their business. Ultimately the client is always right and if they insist they require a bloated solution that doesn’t really address their core problem then all we can do stay true to our moral creative compass and make recommendations ….then get on deliver the project in an efficient and professional manner.

In essence, It’s about re-framing the issue, instead of focusing and acting on what clients say they want, we need to establish what the actual problem is (as experts we are better qualified to determine the correct diagnosis) – would we ever walk into a mechanics garage and tell them what is wrong with our car and the best course of action? No, we trust them as experts in their fields to not only correctly diagnose the original problem, but to also guide us in offering us solutions.

Design thinking requires a varied perspective approach and relentless questioning (see the 5 whys practice below) until the true issues are exposed. Once the core issue has been distilled down and identified, no matter how obvious a solution may seem, many solutions from various perspectives should be created for consideration. Once understanding is achieved we can begin the iterative process of ideating, prototyping and testing. This ensures mistakes are quick, cost-effective and ultimately lead to a successful solution.

However, despite it’s growing popularity, many businesses still don’t really grasp the potential of how a design-led approach can benefit them. As the late great Steve Jobs says

 

“Design is more than aesthetics, as it’s more than just how something looks – it’s about how something works”.

 

Smart businesses are realizing that integrating design thinking into everyday business practices is now a necessity in order to create a deeper loyalty among customers. Using it as mind-set to solve complex business challenges and as a means by which their companies build emotional connections and stay on the leading edge of change.

The world is changing fast around us and businesses need to adapt and evolve rapidly to ensure customers needs are being met, and that they grasp the right opportunities moving forward,

I’ve outlined some design thinking practices your business can start adopting today…

Craft a User-Centric Experience
Brand expression is no longer just about what a company says; it’s also about how it acts, what it does and how it makes the customer feel. In fact, for many of today’s most innovative and up-and-coming brands, it’s the experience that is driving growth and differentiation.These companies are harnessing the power of design to craft experiences that immerse customers – reinforced at every stage of the customer journey. Think of your seamless experience of the Apple brand across various touch points from shopping in an apple store to browsing their online store.

The five Why’s to understand Audience
This easy research method will help you uncover the deep motivations and assumptions that underpin your audience’s behaviour. By asking why five times you’ll get to some essential answers to complicated problems.

Wikipedia’s describes the five why’s method as:

 

“…an iterative interrogative technique used to explore the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a particular problem. The primary goal of the technique is to determine the root cause of a defect or problem by repeating the question “Why?” Each answer forms the basis of the next question…”


Use a design-led process
A continuous model made up of five key stages that are commonly used in UX (User Experience) projects. This process typically is looped to continually refine a solution, product or service.

•    Empathy – develop a deep understanding of the problem
•    Define – clearly define the problem to be solved
•    Ideate – quickly brainstorm and develop solutions
•    Prototype – design a prototype to test all or part of solution
•    Test & Refine- engage in a continuous cycle of innovation to drive improvement

User Interface/Experience Design
To keep users at core of your thinking, you need to remove unnecessary steps in online interfaces and simplify the user journey to ensure your users have a better user experience and an improved onsite performance. UXD (User Experience Design) dictates that we make users online objectives as easy as possible to achieve by reducing the cognitive load required to navigate through interfaces and make decisions easier.

For more information on UX design, read my blog post on 5 best website UX practices

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