An introduction to Design Thinking for Innovation (Managers)
“The focus of innovation has shifted from being engineering-driven to design-driven, from product-centric to customer-centric, and marketing-focused to user-experience-focused”
For the innovator the design thinking approach looks to minimize the uncertainty and risk of innovation by developing within the collective thinking through a series of frames a growing understanding of customer needs. By also engaging with customers or users actively throughout the process using a series of prototypes to learn, test and refine concepts, you end up far closer to customer understanding through this dialoguing, exchanging and growing intimacy to help uncover their needs. Design thinkers rely on customer insights gained from real-world experiments and direct engagement not just historical data or market research.
The key today is to think like a designer in the way you lead, explore, create and innovate
If you are wanting to change something from the present situation into a preferred one, design thinking helps you achieve this. It takes you through a process. It helps you reduce the risks by engaging with internal and external people seeking out a new solution that solves a need, problem or challenge. This comes through a series of prototypes to learn from, to test and then continually refine concepts to get them to the finished value adding point, taking away the issues.
One of the best illustration of the Design Thinking process is shown here:
Design thinking helps the innovator to gain a greater clarity, to find viable, feasible and desirable ideas, design thinking should force user-centricity as central to innovators thinking. In its most simple form, design thinking can be thought of as building the series of conversions that draw out the needs, that eventually becomes the solution.
Design thinking can be highly supportive for continuously finding new meanings, both to products and new usages or services, it can help answer the multiple-questions of why a customer will buy (or why they will change behaviour), clarify and make a sense of things and be the catalyst to bringing insights and concepts together. So, Design Thinking is an approach for Creative Problem Solving that is inspired by the way designers work.
To quote from Tim Brown, IDEO “Design thinking is a system that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business can convert into consumer value and market opportunity”
So, what makes up the design thinking process to help innovators?
Managing New Product Development (NPD) can be a daunting challenge and so it is critical to focus on what is important, not to lose the focal points. Design Thinking becomes a highly useful and effective collaborative approach to identifying and creatively solving problems. As it is a non-linear, iterative approach that focuses on user needs, articulating frameworks, and formulating a strategy its constantly addressing the direction, design and development and encourages a “fast acting- learning” cycle.
To quote Soren Petersen and provide his visual below: “Better design metrics and decision-making in the product selection process could significantly reduce new product development failure rates. In addition, including design considerations before marketing investments are made would qualify as a game changer”.
The challenging constantly of the direction, design and development needs by recognizing these are constantly looping back to validate against the user needs is central to design thinking. The earlier you involve design thinkers and specifically in contributing to any product brief can provide valuable support in the NPD process.
In a constant stream of good posts by Soren Peterson, such as “Design Thinking- What is it in Practice” Or “How to Manage Innovation with Design Thinking,” these begin to raise the value of DT within the innovation development process.
Design Thinking’s value is how involved it becomes within any new development thinking
Establishing an inspirational design brief early on can help guide the process. Having part of any brief include the design strategy can assist in facilitating innovation strategy, diagnosis, formulation and implementation.
Yet design thinking does have its limitations, applied to innovation work.
Design Thinking’s primary use, to date, has been in developing incremental innovation or help resolve specific problems or challenges. There are often recognized needs established, or can be quickly found out but if the requirement has a more open brief then design thinking needs to shift from a tactical part to play into a more strategically designed one, where problem definition, placing it in the appropriate context becomes sometimes as complex to understand as the thinking that goes into achieving the potential solutions. There can be a lot of ‘push back’ if the problem has not been fully framed, as the solution might only have many unintended consequences.
In this recent report by RSA an action and research centre called “From Design Thinking to System Change”:
“Great design doesn’t always generate impact. As we show in this report, innovations attempting to scale and create systemic change often hit barriers to change, sending them catapulting back to square one. We call this the ‘system immune response’. The particular barriers will differ dependent on context, but might be cultural, regulatory, personality driven or otherwise…..
“Design thinking alone will not be enough. The core insight of this paper is that solving our most complex problems will require augmenting design thinking with a systems thinking approach as the basis for action”
The critical point is that Design thinking is human-centered
It stands in service of creating positive outcomes for people, then its value is through a series of activities to inspire the essential elements of creativity, to be able to take an abstract idea and create something with it. It helps you to actualize your concepts and results, to drive increased adoption, help design the behavioural change and ease in ongoing use. So, it becomes the tool to engage with people, find the purpose that ‘it’ is meaningful and as a result, it should generate a positive cash flow. Value, meaning and profit.
The five phases of Design Thinking, according to d.school, are as follows:
Empathise – with your users
Define – your users’ needs, their problem, and your insights
Ideate – by challenging assumptions and creating ideas for innovative solutions
Prototype – to start creating solutions
Test – solutions
It is important to note that the five phases, stages, or modes are not always sequential.
Design thinking with services in mind
Design thinking is not just for product, it can help across services, in designing new business models. As we combine product and service far more then design thinking is focusing even further on meeting the user’s and customer’s needs for that service. Service design needs to ‘feed’ into creating those great customer experiences.
Today many organizations, capitalizing on technology are looking to build a comprehensive customer journey map, covering all the touchpoints that a customer has with the organization. Each of these becomes a potential engagement point but so often organizations struggle as they lack a complete understanding.
Design thinking can help and become as valuable to be part of any process, organizational information and technology (re-)design. One of its critical roles to play is to keep the organization absolutely clear it is not internal design needs, it is customer needs as central. Often customer journey understandings become component-by-component built by the specific team engaged in that touchpoint (customer service, spare or replacement part, billing) but the total delivery of any service oriented solution needs a holistic approach and design thinking can greatly help in this.
Service design tends to have a higher planning and organizing level. The focus on understanding infrastructure, communications and the material components increases. The service design has a higher “quality, time and interaction” emphasis for the response outcomes.
A constant questioning with any design thinking process revolves around “is it useful, usable, desirable, efficient and effective”. The more you involve the customer the more you design the solutions to match these requirements.
How Design Thinking can transform a service industry provider and how it engages and designs
SAP, the German Software provider has become deeply engaged in design thinking. It saw design thinking as a way to tackle complex challenges and make its software more intuitive and easier to use through engaging internally and externally gathered around design thinking principles. SAP’s co-founder Hasso Plattner founded the SAP Design Services Team as an organizational transformation incubator and made his own personal donation of $35 million to found the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford, now known worldwide as simply “the d.school”.
SAP made a deep ongoing commitment to reinforce design thinking and trained thousands of design thinking coaches, offer SAP design services to enable customers to equally engage in experience design and went on to create co-creation centres in different locations around the world.
SAP’s world-wide design function, with a Chief Design Office has won numerous awards including 7 Red Dot awards (http://en.red-dot.org/) that ‘judges’ design in product design, general design concepts and communication designs from agency work.
SAP offer design thinking through numerous educational platforms, such as ‘massive open online courses’ (MOOCs) to train software engineers and co-innovate with their customers at different centres. They make available a raft of useful design tools and have a dedicated website www.build.me where you can design enterprise apps as well as having a dedicated website https://designthinkingwithsap.com/en/
Three examples of top design organizations
The Design Management Institute (http://www.dmi.org/) has a design value index, based on 16 publicly traded-stocks that are considered as “design-centric”. The criteria reflects best design management practice and these companies show a 211% return over the S&P 500. These exemplars are building highly-functional design organizations in less time than the past.
In a recent report from the DMI they offer this change in design where there is a growing momentum:
“When the leadership gets behind design thinking, a enterprise-wide design function forms then the positive results can be built in less and less time. Also design is becoming a more strategic as well as tactical capability. Today we are seeing service, non-profit, management consultants and governments trying to build design capabilities. Design thinking has moved from a ‘fad’ and by increasingly putting the user at the center of the problem or challenge it increasing is providing solutions that are outside in rather than inside out in providing better answers”