Design thinking is an important tool that any business can use to its advantage, no matter in which discipline or industry the business finds itself.
As we have discussed in other articles, some of the biggest companies in the world, including Apple and AirBnB, use design thinking techniques in order to advance their business model and work together with their customers to improve their product or service.
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Design thinking, and its non-linear, iterative nature, can help a business better understand its users’ wants, needs and problems that they have in order to pursue a better engagement process for everyone involved.
Using each stage effectively – Empathising, Defining, Ideating, Prototyping and Testing – a company can truly enhance its system of operations to a huge degree, leading to maximised profits and happier customers.
Here, we will outline 3 key design thinking techniques to challenge assumptions and drive towards a better business model.
1. Assume the mindset of a beginner or first-time user
This technique involves taking a step back and observing your product, service or application from the outside and with a beginner’s mindset.
This can be difficult at first, despite its nature of looking at things from a basic principles standpoint, but it will allow you to understand the problems or issues with your system that will be noticed as soon as someone new to your product begins to use it.
The difficulty of applying this technique can be reduced greatly if you actually use your users to your advantage.
By engaging with first-time users through surveys and questionnaires you will be able to ask them key questions regarding how they use your service and what they think are the main issues with it.
Through some simple questions, you will be able to collate a massive amount of data and draw from it the key areas where your product or service needs improvement.
Although this method will not highlight or tell you the possible solutions to problems, it will serve as the first stage of the process as it will make you aware of where the problems are.
You can then employ other design thinking techniques in order to arrive at effective solutions.
2. The multidisciplinary approach
It is no secret that one of the most effective ways to find a solution to any problem is to get a second pair of eyes to look at it. However, the effectiveness of this approach is enhanced further when you have that second pair of eyes belong to someone from a different part of the office or workshop, as this will really bring a new set of skills to the table.
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If you work in manufacturing, for example, and you are distanced somewhat from the end user, it can be hard to know what the best solution is when you are faced with a production difficulty.
This is where consulting a person from the marketing department or even the customer service team could rapidly increase your chances of finding an effective solution to the problem.
Conversely, if you work in marketing and need to find a way to make the product more appealing or serve its purpose more effectively, it may help to ask someone in manufacturing what could be done, as they will know what is and isn’t possible from a physical design point of view.
So, it can become evident very quickly that a highly effective method of employing design thinking is through the connection of multiple disciplines, and by bringing together people from different areas of the business to get an internal “outside look” at areas where improvements could be made.
3. Simple user testing
This method of design testing is highly appropriate for product-based businesses, but it can still be applied fairly effectively for both service- and application-based businesses as well. This involves testing your product or service with real users and customers under set conditions. This could be carried out by directly contacting users and inviting them to come into your lab setting for a day in order to find areas where improvements can be made.
This hands-on approach will be highly favourable by your users, as they will enjoy having the ability to come into direct contact with the people behind the service or product that they use, and can discuss with them their own specific issues or ideas.
However, this is a very mutually beneficial process, as you, the designer, will be able to use this opportunity to find out what your users think of your product first-hand, and you can watch as they test out your new or improved ideas in the lab.
This direct contact will make for very significant results, and results which you can use to immediately get to work on improving your design.
This design thinking technique is employed in order to build a close relationship between user and producer, which will bode well for your brand image as well as for your sales numbers. It does require some planning, but the benefits that can be yielded from this technique make it very worth it.
Similar results can also be achieved through virtual testing, most notably if the product is an application or piece of software, and remote testing can be useful too as it will still yield you some feedback from users.
However, by physically connecting with your users you will obtain much more valuable information and the opportunity for direct dialogue just cannot be emulated remotely the same way that it can in person.
Each of these 3 design thinking techniques do require some upfront investment of time or effort, and in the case of the third technique, some money as well in order to set up a suitable testing area.
However, the customer interaction and useful information which can be obtained via these methods far exceed the effort requirements.
Applying these techniques regularly and effectively will allow you to connect with your customers and users of your service, leading to mutually beneficial solutions and thus a higher rate of customer satisfaction and increased revenue for the business itself.
For further advice, or to discuss design and development at your company, contact us for a chat.