Companies today have global exposure. Unlike earlier times, where competition among similar brands and businesses was restricted to a certain specific geographical area, competition today is on a global scale.
Amazon, for instance, can face a significant threat or competition from a niche eCommerce store operating out of Bengaluru. Today, you start something local and grow big. That’s the norm.
When the competition is so fierce and retaining customers and gaining new ones are growing concerns today, how can businesses pull this off?
Well, in my personal experience, the only reliable solution that has worked for us is design thinking.
(Disclosure: I’m the founder and CEO of the web development solutions company linked above.)
For starters, design thinking could be jargon. For others, a misconception. Regardless of what it is, we’ll explore what design thinking is from scratch and completely understand the framework and why it is inevitable for your business growth.
What Is Design Thinking?
My interpretation of design thinking is very simple. It’s a process and framework that puts humans first. It takes a user-centric approach to solving problems and concerns. Blending in creativity and unique ways of problem-solving, design thinking allows us to come up with effective solutions that are different from conventions but highly effective practically.
Design thinking has empathy at its fulcrum. It starts with what users are in dire need of, allowing you to develop a product or a service that bridges that gap between what users want and how you deliver it to them from a business perspective.
As a beginner, it’s easy to get carried away by the notion that design thinking is only associated with tech aspects like mobile app development or mobile UI design.
It’s completely not.
Design thinking has been tried, tested and implemented across diverse sectors including music, literature, engineering, architecture and more.
But for our comprehension, let’s look at the business aspects and benefits of design thinking. To throw in some stats, 46% companies that have implemented design thinking in their processes have revealed that they share an emotional bond with their customers.
Besides, design thinking-driven companies have also outperformed the S & P index by 219% over a decade.
Not just that, 50% of the companies that have taken a design thinking approach have reported a more loyal customer base.
When it comes to workplace productivity, 71% companies who practice design thinking have reported a significant improvement in their work culture.
The major inference from these numbers is that design thinking is more than a fancy process or a framework that sounds exciting. It’s a proven technique that has shown results as well.
Stages In Design Thinking
Like we mentioned, designing thinking is an iterative approach. It has steps that enable us to come up with solutions that are in line with market and customer expectations. If you intend to implement design thinking in your work, here are the steps you should be aware of.
Generally, most businesses are established when owners identify an opportunity. An opportunity in the form of a gap in the market. In such cases, business and products come first before customers. Driven by the opportunity to make money and get funded, we tend to focus on developing a product/service that we think would solve the existing problems.
The problem here is that we don’t take a moment to empathize with our customers, the problems or the issues they face. Design thinking enables us to empathize to better align our product or service delivery with their requirements.
An empathy stage in your design thinking would include the following approach-
Once we understand their perspective of the crisis, it allows us to better define their problem. While the identification of a business opportunity was vague, design thinking gives us a systematic approach to tackling the problem. Defining in design thinking is describing exactly the problem to extract all possible solutions.
Or brainstorming, this stage is where we focus on all the possible outcomes to our proposed solutions. Here, we don’t channelize our energy and efforts delving on the persisting constraints but on ways to tackle and resolve them.
When the ideas take proper shape, it’s time to make them tangible by developing prototypes. A prototype could be an MVP of your product, a mockup or a full-fledged product that you intend to develop. Basically, a prototype is the version of your idea people could look and experience. This is a crucial stage if you run a mobile app design company.
The process doesn’t stop with developing a product. The entire purpose of design thinking is to understand if our solution is in line with customer requirements. That’s why testing is inevitable.
Testing gives us a complete picture of how effective our idea/solution or mobile UX design is, the loopholes in terms of functionalities, areas that need to be made more airtight, critical user feedback and more. With the results from testing, we have to adapt and improvise to optimize our solution to user needs.
Do you know the Flyknit Racer shoe from Nike failed 195 times before this style of shoe was launched? Yes, even the early prototypes of the Fuelband were nixed, which took enough tries and testing before it could become the right product.
Testing until you build the right product design is what every business needs to become a brand.
Why Design Thinking is Beneficial for your Business Growth?
Now that you know the different stages in design thinking, let’s understand why your business needs it.
1. Fresh Perspectives
Design thinking is all about breaking conventions. When you follow the steps mentioned, you brainstorm and stumble upon ideas, perspectives and angles to resolving issues you never knew existed. While the entire market gets busy in studying competitors and their approaches, design thinking allows you to carve a path of your own into winning your target audience.
Airbnb transformed from a falling startup to a billion dollar business with the help of design thinking. A co-founder, Joe Gebbia, shared in an interview that the company encourages new employees to ship new features on their first day at the company. He continues sharing an example where a designer was assigned to reevaluate their “star” function, which was earlier used to wishlist a property.
The new designer came up with a fresh perspective on his day one that he wants to replace the “star” icon with “heart.” He said that people consider star into utility-driven experiences and hence, it doesn’t go well where Airbnb’s services are so aspirational.
Airbnb not just changed it, but even saw more than 30% of increase in engagement.
That’s what fresh perspective is all about.
2. Meet Your Client Requirements
When talking about businesses, we only consider the successful brands in the market. But for every successful business, there are several businesses that failed. Be it the same idea or market segment (a mobile app design company for instance), these failed because they identified problems but did not meet their customer requirements.
If you have a great idea but your execution of it doesn’t fall in line with customer requirements, your business is bound to fail. Design thinking lets you think in terms of customer requirements and reverse engineer the entire process of building or developing a product or business.
Even Stanford Hospital used design thinking to improve their patient experience in the emergency room. For them, patients are their users, their customers.
If you’re into healthcare, design thinking is what you need to help you stand out from the competition.
3. Consistent Optimization
A process or a product that works fine doesn’t mean you can’t upgrade or optimize it. When you stop listening to your audience, you stagnate and that’s not healthy for your business.
With design thinking, you are constantly iterating your product or service. You are listening to people and stakeholders and helping in the evolution of a business that is customer-centric. When you’re developing your prototype or testing your mobile app design for instance, it is subjected to constant criticisms that help give the best shape to it. This helps in expanding your horizon about your market, its requirements and your idea’s place in it.
So, that was a brief introduction to design thinking and its significance to your business. If you haven’t implemented design thinking yet, it’s the right time because your decision now could put things on track this year.
If you’re doing it, it’s time to optimize how you do it. As you make this a habit, you would see a significant improvement in terms of customer engagement, satisfaction, retention and overall growth of your business not just externally but internally as well.