I was recently asked how long I thought design thinking would be considered the poster child of the business world. It’s a fair question given that business fads do come and go.
To answer this question, I start by sharing the fact that the practice itself has been used to great success since the mid-60s, albeit in what we consider to be the more traditional world of product and graphic design.
The business world, however, first cottoned on to the practice when they were searching for alternatives to the standard approach in the early 2000s.
Ever since, its success has been widely proven with statistics from the likes of the S&P Global Index, suggesting that companies that adopt design mindset and practices, can outperform their competitors by over 200 per cent. Since then, the rest of the business world has been quick to look at how they can do the same.
So no, we don’t think it’s a fad but like all good business practices, we see it continuing to evolve based on its effectiveness and learnings across different industries and situations.
Many may be surprised to know that design thinking is being taught in universities all around the world and in some progressive secondary schools in Europe.
UX & CX designers have also, of course, used a design thinking type approach to create experiences in the online world for years and as an industry, are excelling at it.
They are probably wondering why has it taken the rest of us so long to cotton on to it, as brands and companies all over the world look more deeply into how they can enhance the experience at every step of the customer journey now.
Having the word ‘design’ in design thinking possesses a major perception challenge to companies that regard ‘design’ in the context of graphic design and product design etc. In other words, it’s not a serious business tool. This is absolutely not the case.
It’s vital to always be reviewing and evolving the customer experience, so you can stay ahead of the copycat competitors
How does design thinking compare to agile and lean?
The methodology of design thinking, agile and lean is in fact quite similar, although each one has its own strengths and particular areas of effectiveness.
At DesignThinkers Group, we promote an ‘and’ not ‘or’ approach based on the priorities of the organisation, but are quick to point out that our core expertise for teaching capabilities lies in design thinking (or Service Design as it is also referred to).
Breaking down the dependency of consultants
Consultants can, and do, play a vital role within organisations, providing a high level of expertise in areas that companies don’t always have, as well as offering a fresh and independent perspective.
We focus on helping organisations build design thinking capabilities and to embed the practice and mindset into how they do business every day.
So this means it’s our intention to get an organisation to the stage where they can confidently apply design thinking throughout their organisations themselves.
3 key benefits for businesses that adopt design thinking practices
Understanding what your customers really need and what they value!
Seems an obvious one, yet most companies report that they don’t engage with their customers enough and very few actually take the time to truly empathise and walk in their customer’s shoes. Design thinking practices help us to become outwardly focused on our customers and their experiences, rather than inwardly focused on what companies have always done, producing things that they ‘think’ their customers want.
Differentiating your business by creating meaningful customer experiences
There are very few business ideas and products that can’t be copied by a competitor. Gaining a deep understanding of your customers’ needs allows you to build and evolve a key competitive advantage. It’s vital to always be reviewing and evolving the experience, so you can stay ahead of the copycat competitors. Companies who excel in this have to become comfortable with constant ‘iteration’ and always stay close to their customers.
Creating a culture of problem solving and innovation
Adopting a design thinking mindset and key practices cracks open the untapped potential of your entire staff to contribute to innovating solutions and own key initiatives to create growth and customer loyalty. It’s great for business and for company culture, that helps drive high performance and business growth.
Darryl McClay is co-partner, DesignThinkers Group New Zealand
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