Design Thinking is a collaborative and creative approach to problem solving built on empathy for the customer. We use a variety of tools, techniques, and methods to apply design thinking in innovation processes. It is successful in new product development (NPD) because design thinking focuses on the customers’ needs and understanding from their perspective – of issues or challenges.
Traditionally, design was an afterthought in product development. Designers were called at the final stages to make a product or its package “look pretty”. Today, however, design thinking integrates aesthetics, functionality, and production throughout the innovation process – from ideation to commercialization.
I was recently asked, since design thinking is so successful in helping innovators meet goals, can it be applied in other situations? The answer is a definitive YES! Design thinking helps teachers and trainers, consultants, and small business owners.
Design Thinking and Teaching
As any teacher knows, students are all different. Trainers and facilitators base learners with different needs and capabilities. Students and participants learn differently too. Some gain knowledge from listening to a lecture, others by viewing content visually, and many learn by experience.
Design thinking offers several tools that are specially geared toward the various modes of learning. The design thinking tools and techniques engage multiple senses so participants can hear, see, touch, and engagd in the learning process.
For example, an affinity diagram is a simple tool for categorizing ideas and innovation. But you can use the same concept for learners to categorize vocabulary words, engineering processes, or biological concepts.
Design Thinking and Consultants
Business and management consultants can use design thinking tools to help frame problems and to guide teams to optimize solutions. For example, senior marketing experts in a firm often consult with individual NPD project teams. Understanding the customer’s journey can frame the development process as well as the marketing campaign. A customer journey map shows how various personas become aware of a product need, make a selection, buy and use the product, and dispose or service it after use.
External business consultants can also use the customer journey map to describe engagement with the team, senior management, and other key stakeholders. For projects involving product or quality improvements (like Six Sigma), design thinking tools complement the quantitative data with qualitative evaluations. Understanding how people feel about certain solutions builds rapport and support for total quality management.
Design Thinking and Small Business
Owning and operating a small business is both rewarding and challenging. Small business owners must maintain a pipeline of new products and new customers, all while managing day-to-day operations. In many ways, the small business owner has more challenges than an innovation team seeking disruptive technology!
In order to understand and meet customer needs, small business owners use surveys and CRM systems to understand traffic to their shops. Yet, data alone cannot predict transit attitudes that impact business conditions. Small business owners can apply design thinking tools to better understand their customers and to grow their reach.
One tool that helps identify customer needs and builds understanding is the customer empathy map. Here, you put yourself into the shoes of your customer and gain perspective on what problems they face, how it makes them feel, what messages they see and hear, and what are the pain points and benefits of existing products and services. Repeating the exercise for each of your target market segments helps the small business owner to identify the best way to help their customers have better lives.
Using Design Thinking
Design thinking offers a great set of tools and techniques that help product development practitioners, teachers, trainers, consultants, and small business owners to better understand customers, clients, and end-users. Empathy is at the heart of design thinking so that you deliver products and services that truly meet customer needs and make them happy.
Many of the design thinking tools utilize all our senses to hear, see, and touch artifacts that bring data to life. Design thinking draws on collaborative problem-solving, recognizing that the best ideas are nurtured by a group of people with different experiences and viewpoints. Finally, design thinking is it creative process, often starting with a blank sheet of paper and no preconceived notions of products or customer behaviors.
If you are a management consultant or small business owner struggling to identify customers and solutions, you need to join the Life Design Master Mind group. In Life Design Master Mind, we use design thinking applied to life and investigate how to achieve our best purpose, what steps to take in the next phase of life, and how to help those around us. Join me on 21 October 2019 at noon CDT (1 pm EDT/10 am PDT) for a Q&A webinar and Life Design Master Mind pilot. Register now!
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