Design Thinking is one of the most popular innovation methods in the economy. Start-ups do it, concerns explore it and Apple has been using it for the development of its uniquely successful products and services. But what can design thinking accomplish in a company and what are its specific benefits? What makes it unique? Must the process be guided or can you do it yourself? Three terms help explain method and success:
- Team framework (People)
- Process expertise (Process)
- Customer understanding (Purpose)
Team framework – free up your employees
The Design Thinking method encourages creative and solution-oriented operations with 5 to 7-man teams and especially helps heterogeneous project teams successfully develop new solutions. Such teams are characterised by the freedom that they are given by the management: they can try new things, tumble, get up and carry on in quick succession. This framework can unleash the creative potential necessary to develop innovative products and services that delight the customer and build up competitive advantages for the company. At the same time, it is fun and helps improve team atmosphere. For such a creative team, different, yet complementary roles should be present. In addition to the obvious inventive heads, critical minds are required to counterbalance excess renewal euphoria. Movers and shakers ensure representative results in the end. For this kind of situation, an external observer can be of great help, for example, a suitable role model for the team like Meredith Belbin.
Process expertise – because creativity needs structure
In addition to creativity, design thinking also means the practice of discipline in processes. Above all, a project team is required to focus on results and to get to the point. That’s why every step is time-limited – called ‘timeboxing’ in Design Thinking jargon. No matter how much discussion is ongoing and perspectives differ: when the given time’s up, one must present. Therefore, a moderator who knows the method well and, at the same time, has the experience to lead, motivate and challenge the team is required.
Customer understanding – knowing what the customer wants
Design Thinking means thinking along with the customer. Who needs your idea, your product, your service? Who is your customer or consumer? What do they really want or wish for regarding functions, possible uses or service experiences? You’ll find it best to figure it out alongside your customer.
Beware the naïve assumption that customers will tell you what they want if you ask for it nicely. That’s why you should make your innovation perceptible: construct a prototype of your product idea that’s tangible, but don’t make it too perfect – create room for feedback and exchange of ideas. While testing, the customer might suggest improvements for further developments of the prototype. It’s not the initial product idea, that’s important. It only serves as a starting point. It’s more important to enthuse the customer with what you finally deliver. It’s not completed until the users are happy and say: “Wow, that’s exactly what I need!” And if they have not, then you’re not finished yet.