In business, we are constantly presented with new ways of doing something. Whether it's the latest marketing technique or a whole new business model, it can be quite easy to get bamboozled with the latest idea or methodology.
Without exception, there has been a lot of talk lately about Design thinking. Companies and organisations such as IDEO, Stanford University and our very own UTS in Sydney have all been talking about Design thinking as a new way of doing things in business. And it seems that a lot of businesses and organisations throughout the world are now adopting it as a way to develop new products, services, processes and strategies.
"A methodology for innovation that combines creative and analytical approaches
and collaboration across disciplines." – d.school, Stanford University.
So what is Design thinking?
The term Design thinking refers to the process someone would take when looking to create a new idea or solve a problem. It allows you to combine 'right-brained' creative thinking with 'left-brained' analytical thinking. Design thinking offers a process and a set of tools to our decision-making process while ensuring the organisation runs effectively and efficiently.
New idea or passing fad?
Design thinking isn't necessarily a new idea. The notion of design as a 'way of thinking' can be traced back to Herbert A. Simon's 1969 book, ’The Sciences of the Artificial’. In Peter Rowe's book, 'Design Thinking', he describes it as methods and approaches that are used by architects and urban planners. During the 1980s, Rolf Faste started teaching "design thinking as a method of creative action" at Stamford University. And in 1991, David M. Kelley, a Stanford colleague of Faste's and founder of IDEO adapted Design thinking for business.
"You‘ve got to start with the customer experience and work back
toward the technology - not the other way around" – Steve Jobs
Start with the customer first
At the core of Design thinking is what they call a 'human centered' approach. There has been a tendency for companies and organisations to be very product orientated and forget about the customer or end-user.
Design thinking forces you to start with the customer or end user first and develop ideas or solutions based on insights from their perspective. Empathy is the key driving force behind Design thinking. When we can put ourselves in the shoes of others, we get a much better understanding of their needs.
Thinking as a process
Contrary to belief, creativity needs to have a structure around it for it to be effective. When there is no structure or process, our thinking becomes wayward and unfocussed. By using a Design thinking approach, it enables people who aren’t trained as designers to use creative tools to address a vast range of challenges and generate viable ideas and solutions.
Empathy > Define > Ideation > Prototyping > Testing
Over time, different Design thinking methods have been developed. Stanford's d:school uses five key elements in their Design thinking process; Empathy > Definition > Ideation > Prototyping > Testing.
This process can be used to create solutions based on customer/end-user insights. Both Stanford and IDEO couple this approach with three key factors; (human) desirability, (technological) feasibility and (commercial) viability.
Where innovation is found
Life is too short to be creating something that nobody wants to buy or use. By applying a customer/user-centric approach for your organisation, you are ensuring your products and services remain desirable, feasible and viable in a constantly changing world. Solutions are found when you focus on the needs of others. And empathy is the key to unlocking those crucial customer insights.