Why design thinking matters for business

By now you might have heard of “Design Thinking”. Maybe you’ve heard about it in the corridors of your workplace or being discussed in talks regarding the workplace of the future, or maybe you’re even working in a place that practices design thinking. Whatever your experience of it, you might still not understand what design thinking is and why it matters.

A little bit of history

Design thinking wasn’t always the desired standard. For many centuries, business practised linear methods to produce outputs. These methods focused on the product and how to move it quickly through the supply chain. Unfortunately, these ways of thinking and working didn’t allow much room for innovation or creativity. And even though they may have worked successfully for many years, the rapid changes that have taken place in society are causing the old ways to fall short when it comes to achieving significant returns on investment.

A little bit of history - Image

Enter design thinking

Design thinking is defined as “a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.” This is according to Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO and a pioneer in the field of design thinking.

So what does this mean? Well, when we take a closer look, we see that there are 3 main focus points in design thinking. People, technology and business strategy. It focuses on people, their needs and their wants because we design products and experiences for them. Secondly, it focuses on technology, on what it can do and what it can’t do for us. And lastly, it focuses on the business strategy because, at the end of the day, a business needs to make money.

Design thinking uses this five-step process to solve problems:

1. Empathise

As we saw in the definition above, people are important, so it’s no wonder that the very first step of this process focuses on them. Here, the idea is to get to know the people that you are designing for. This is done through research methods such as interviews, surveys, surveillance and any other way that will help you get a deeper understanding of your users’ thoughts and behaviours.

2. Define

Once you have collected all your user research, it’s time to work through what you have. You also need to decide which problem you need to solve for. By creating a user view using role-play and personas, you will be able to identify the major pain points for your user, helping you find the problem to be solved.

3. Ideate

Once you have a user and a problem that you are solving for, it’s time to come up with creative solutions. Everyone should be allowed to express an idea at this point, no matter their title or field of expertise. The best ideas usually come from free spaces like this where team members’ minds are allowed to roam.

4. Prototype

If you’ve heard the saying “designers learn by making”, then you understand how important this step is. In this phase, you build your solution and put it into the users’ hands. This build should be cheap and fast to make as it is not the final product.

5. Test

Once your prototype has spent some time in the hands of your users, it’s time for more research. Here you’ll find out what worked and what’s best left out of the next build. All this feedback gets taken into the next iteration of the design process, which begins again at Empathise.

So why design thinking?

Now that you know how design thinking works, you can see how it changes the way things are done traditionally. When it comes to creating products and services, design thinking gives business the opportunity to tap into a single source of truth, the user. This ensures that business solves real problems for real people, helping them to stay relevant in the market. And if they can come up with good enough solutions, who knows, they can end up being market leaders too.

Why design thinking matters for business