“Recognizing the need is the primary condition for design” – Charles Eames
Design thinking (DT) originally came about as a way to teach engineers how to approach problems creatively, as designers do. Since then, it has been used effectively within a variety of industries, customising the process to their environment, challenges, and goals. Market leaders like IBM, Google, and Tesla also use design thinking as an innovative methodology to guide their product development. It helps them see the world through the eyes of their customers.
Addressing the needs of consumers is a powerful way to drive innovative thinking. In today’s rapidly changing world, it is becoming increasingly difficult to proffer a one-size-fits-all approach to customer expectations. This is due to advancements in technology, changing tastes and lifestyles, increasing purchasing power and so on. Organisations today have to address more complex problems. To address these problems, there is a need to better understand the consumers and what they expect to gain.
Design thinking puts the consumer at the centre of problem-solving. To be able to proffer solutions to a problem, it is important that organisations understand the impact on the consumer. Design thinking encourages organisations and businesses to focus on the human point of view above all else, and to build this focus into each step of the product development cycle. This means designing products and services with people’s needs and preferences firmly in mind. For instance, a software company will prioritise design functionality, dependability and security which will allow consumers to transact in a clear, simple and intuitive way.
Steps in Design Thinking
- Empathize: Empathy helps to understand the problem of the consumer by setting aside assumptions. It is when you understand how a problem impacts a consumer that you can empathise. We can practice empathy through observation and interviewing.
- Define: The outcome of this step is a problem statement. It involves asking what problem we are trying to solve. It helps identify the features that are a priority in the solution.
- Ideate: This requires an exhaustive exploration and evaluation of possible solutions (i.e. brainstorming), in a bid to address the pain points of customers.
- Prototype: It involves developing a quick representation of the solution i.e. a physical object, a drawing, or an experience map. It selects a handful of innovative proposals and turns them into prototypes.
- Test: Here, we test the prototype by gathering feedback to determine its effectiveness. It is an iterative process with opportunities for improvement.
Benefits of Design Thinking
- Cost-effectiveness: DT enables the testing of ideas without committing resources i.e. companies are able to evaluate the effectiveness of a new product or service, without having to go through the entire process of developing the product.
- Non-linear problem solving: DT allows companies the flexibility to jump from step to step as needed. For example, if the prototyping step does not work, a company can re-start the ideation process.
- Managing complexity: Complex problems can be solved by focusing on user needs and the limitations of existing products and services
- Market discovery: DT opens up the opportunity for companies to discover entirely new markets. For example, the iPhone started with the question of how to avoid customers juggling multiple devices. By working on how to make things easier for people, Apple invented the smartphone, which opened up a whole new global market.
- Tailored solutions: User experience (UX) is emphasised when capturing customers’ mindset during the design process.
Leveraging Design Thinking in BOI
Despite monumental successes that the bank has achieved over the years, BOI is not immune to challenges and as such, adopting a design thinking framework could help in efficiently executing some of its strategic objectives. For instance, improving access to BOI loans by the youth segment can be further enhanced by leveraging the DT approach by dialoguing with the segment to understand their limitations. Brainstorm on potential solutions and jointly analyse possible solutions and thereafter test/pilot such solutions for effectiveness.
Pitfalls to avoid in Design Thinking
Design thinking often leads to comprehensive solutions. However, the framework may not work for all objectives. As such, it is important not to lose sight of other pragmatic approaches to executing corporate objectives. In addition, clear and simplified communication is key in the iterative development stage of problem definition.
We conclude with a quote by Laura Ashley – “We don’t want to push our ideas onto customers, we simply want to make what they want.“