4 reasons to shift your business culture towards design thinking

Last checked and updated on 4 March 2021

Design thinking isn’t another flash-in-the-pan catchphrase, it’s the name of a formal innovation process that the likes of Apple, Bayer, Google, P&G and other big brands use – and it could have a transformative effect on your organisation.

The design thinking concept originally emerged as a way for these big businesses to gain a competitive advantage, and it certainly succeeded.

A study by the Design Management Institute found such design-led companies have outperformed the S&P 500 over the past 10 years by an extraordinary 219%.

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At individual companies, you don’t have to look far to see the value of design. Two notable examples include Walmart, which increased the number of unique visitors to its website by 200% when it redesigned its e-commerce experience and the Bank of America, which increased online banking traffic by 45% by implementing a user-centered redesign of its account registration process.

Design thinking also has an impact within our workforces – some 79% of executives regard design thinking as an important or very important issue to “design a productive and meaningful employee experience through solutions that are compelling, enjoyable, and simple”.

Below: Percentage of Deloitte survey respondents rating design thinking as ‘important’ or ‘very important’

Source: Deloitte

What is design thinking?

It is an iterative process where you try to understand the user, challenge your assumptions about your users and refine the problems with your product and service. It was devised with UX at its very heart and is usually split into the following phases:

  • Empathise with your users
  • Define your users’ needs and issues – and your insights
  • Challenge your assumptions and create ideas for innovative solutions
  • Prototype your solutions
  • Test your solutions

These stages don’t always have to be sequential, you can iterate and work in parallel across all these steps to your heart’s content until the perfect product or service emerges.

As a result, the design thinking process should help you to redefine your problems, better collaborate with your colleagues and clients, solve identified problems in a different way, put the user first and formulate simpler solutions.

You could also reap the following rewards:

  1. Improve your language and vocabulary

If you know how to talk about design and your design process, you can offer your customers a more compelling business argument because you’re speaking the same language as them.

According to McKinsey Group, creating a design-driven business helps companies to engage with the consumer.

Aligning your language with your users will also help you more effectively empathise with your users, which is one of the pillars of design thinking. Stefanos Zenios, a professor of operations, information, and technology at Stanford GSB, said: “It’s all about putting yourself in your user’s shoes. Spend time with your users. Ask them questions. Think ahead. What do you want to learn? Draft some interview questions and then engage in a conversation.”

This will help you to understand your user’s needs and how they communicate their requirements. Carole Bilson, president of the Design Management Institute (DMI), said: “The process of design thinking provides a common, customer-centric language to discuss the opportunities available to the organisation. Problem framing (and reframing), and the emergent thinking used during the exploration of the problem, allows design and business to develop a common understanding of both the challenge and possible solutions, together.”

Research also reveals high-performing salespeople ask 10 targeted, relevant questions per hour while average performers only ask only six.

In other words, design thinking will help you to more effectively conduct your market research andclose your deals by optimising your language to match that of the customer.

  1. Align your wider business strategy

A design-centric digital strategy will help you ensure that all your activities are working in parallel with your business objectives. Research from the Design Council reveals that design is more powerful when it is culturally embedded in an organisation and it can added value to any organisation.

To achieve this, support must be forthcoming from your senior management and the wider business. You will need to embed design at the strategic level, allowing it to shape your business strategy and influence your products and services across the development lifecycle.

You may also want to consider using a design manager to champion the design thinking process to internal and external parties. Or you could take things one step further and overhaul your office environment to provide a design-led workplace.

And, according to the Harvard Business Review, design thinking could also help you to plan fewer, but more productive meetings.

  1. Boost your brand and bottom line

Organisations with a focus on good design enjoy better brand perception because design thinking helps you to establish trust and credibility with your target audience.

It can also positively affect your bottom line. For example, accounting software provider Intuit used design thinking to boost sales by $10 million in a year.

IBM also claims its design thinking program allows the organisation to be “more strategic and shift away from the engineering-driven “features-first” ethos towards a more ‘user first’ mentality”. As a result, IBM increased its ROI by 301%.

  1. To remain relevant and competitive

In a world where consumers and businesses recognise the increasing value of design, presenting your products and services with a design emphasis can help you to innovate and stay ahead of the competition.

A recent report about leading the UK economy through design and innovation defined the design process as “the bridge that turns creative ideas into innovative products that can add value to the market and economy”.

Research from the Harvard Business Review also reveals that a design thinking ethos sparks innovation across your organisation, which helps you to remain competitive as it prevents you from producing iterations of the same product or service.

“Developing a deep, empathic understanding of users’ unarticulated needs can challenge industry assumptions and lead to a shift in corporate strategy,” the research reveals.

In conclusion

There are many different business arguments for choosing a design-led ethos across your business.

We now live in a world where design affects much more than appearances. It can help you to develop innovative solutions, better communicate with your clients and improve your ROI by discovering new opportunities to meet and exceed a user’s expectations.

If you’d like to find out more about design thinking and how to integrate it with your business, contact us today.

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Important – The information provided in our articles is intended to be for general purpose use only, and not advice for you or your business. We strive to publish accurate information, but encourage you to fact-check and seek expert guidance. You should always speak to a qualified professional to get tailored advice about how to operate your business under your specific requirements and circumstances.