Keys to Design Thinking
A customer-focused way of solving business problems.
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I had the opportunity to attend a design thinking workshop hosted by CA Technologies a couple of years ago. The process reminded me of the creative strategy development process I learned and was involved with, virtually every day of my career on Madison Avenue.
I just attended Skillsoft's user conference where a roundtable discussion identified design thinking as one of four key power skills for IT professionals. Given the renewed emphasis on, and interest in, design thinking, I thought it would be useful to share some thoughts on what you need to know to become proficient with this new skill.
Design thinking simply defined is a customer-focused way of solving business problems.
In the 1990s, the Stanford School of Design identified the five phases of design thinking:
Define the problem
Let's drill down on each of these:
It is critical to engage with customers and prospects and not assume you know what your customers are thinking. I've worked with a number of companies who relied on research results and insights gained from family and friends to assume they know what's on their customers' minds, their emotional connection to the product, service, or brand, and their experience with the product or service.
When talking with customers, ask questions and listen to the answers. Adopt a beginner's mindset. Meet with customers one-on-one, in person. Ask questions that will get past the top-of-mind surface answers and start providing insights into the consumers' emotional connection to the brand — what they like, dislike, and why. Can they tell you a story about how your brand makes them feel?
Define the Problem
Following your empathetic observation of the customers, document everything you've learned and share it with the rest of the team. Articulate the customers' unmet needs. Use this to build a POV (point-of-view) a well-defined problem statement that defines who the customer is (persona), what they need, and why a new product or service is needed to meet the customer need. Then, reframe the problem based on the POV — what is the problem we are trying to solve for the customer?
Customer-centric brainstorming is a collaborative and iterative process. The objective of the process is to generate as many potential solutions as possible. There are five steps to a successful ideation process: 1) Do this with a diverse, cross-functional team made up of people from every business unit. 2) Remember, customer support representatives likely interact with customers more than anyone else in the company and can provide great consumer insights to the team. It's also beneficial to have a creative person on the ideation team — someone from design, UX, or CX will be able to provide a very different perspective than someone from finance. 3) Have a safe space for the team to meet so they won't be disturbed and they can post their goals and ideas in a safe environment. 4) Establish a clear goal for the ideation process that aligns with the POV/problem statement. 5) Set a time limit so all participants can set aside time to give the process the time required to be successful.
In addition, set forth guidelines for contribution, the need to withhold judgment of ideas, the need to be creative, and the importance of quantity versus quality at this stage of the design thinking process.
A prototype visualizes the solution for customers. It's a low-resolution demonstration of how you propose to solve the consumer's problem. The prototype communicates the essential tenets of the idea. Prototypes turn ideas into reality and give the customer something to interact with physically and emotionally. It's important to observe the interaction to see what is and is not working for the customer so it can be improved.
It's important for the team to develop the prototype together. In doing so, team members are able to resolve conflicts and solve previously unforeseen problems. Team members are able to bounce ideas off each other to build or improve the prototype channeling ideas into realistic solutions.
Testing is the final stage of design thinking to deliver a solution the customer will value. Perform tests with the prototype and customers to generate feedback which provides insight on the solution and on the customer.
Test early and often to help refine the problem state. Set test objectives based on what the business needs to learn about the tested solution. Recruit a diverse group and use one-on-one interviews versus focus groups to understand what respondents really think rather than them giving you the answer they think you want to hear or what they think will make them sound smart to others. Collect results in as close to a real-life setting as you are able to create. Show recruits the prototype and listen to and watch their feedback asking follow-up questions about how they feel or why they said something. Let them figure out things for themselves and see how they fill in the blanks.
Use the knowledge you get from every test to improve the problem statement, the prototype, and the finished product.
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