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Design Thinking: what benefits for companies?

29 Oct, 2019 Methodologies
Design Thinking: what benefits for companies?

While it might seem like a buzzword, very creative but not so tangible, Design Thinking can actually turn the tide of a business.

What is Design Thinking and how it applies

The Design Thinking process comes to light in Stanford, takes root already in the 1960s and then explodes in the 1990s and 2000s, spreading into the United States, Canada and most of Europe.

Based on the designers’ model, although inspired by the scientific method used in research, its strength lies in the combination of creative thinking and problem solving: starting from a problem, it allows in fact to improve the ability of taking effective and, most importantly, profitable decisions.

The occurrence of problems - which is something daily for companies - therefore is dealt with a blossoming of innovative and fitting solutions.

In concrete terms, Design Thinking consists in 5 steps, which are not linear but rather cyclical, not only involving the "technicians" but also different professionals (depending on the aspect that needs to be treated) and, potentially, the use of elements outside the company (suppliers or customers).

The 5 phases

The initial model, then restructured by the various schools, is the one coming from Stanford University:

design thinking process Stanford

Let's see what happens at every stage.

1. Empathize

To best define the situation that needs solving, we have to start from the root, by collecting data, information, interviews which will clarify the nature of such problem.

Very often, in fact, we observe reality in a superficial way, without taking off the company’s shoes: listening to what other people have to say can, on the contrary, help us see new shades, aspects that had never been considered before.

To make the most out of this step, we usually work with two tools: the User Journey Map and the Emotional Map. From concrete aspects to emotional ones.

Why is that? Let's make an example: an elderly person who cannot move well with the walker will tell us that he/she has problems going for a coffee with a friend, going shopping in his/her trusted store, taking a walk in the park. What is the real problem, then? Not just moving around, but rather loneliness.

2. Define

Now we can start tidying up: personas, pain points, roles, critical points. At this step it is necessary to put everything down in black and white, so as to have every detail right before our eyes.

Reporting everything is essential. In interviews, for example, no word should be omitted: the verbs used, the situations described there are mines of information.

At the end of this phase we will get a Problem Statement: the exact and detailed definition of the problem.

3. Ideate

And here is where the scientific method is combined with creativity!

The third step is where we reach the turning point: we have everything we need to reverse the situation, starting to think about all the solutions that could be decisive for the identified problem.

Just one warning: you don’t need The Idea, but many ideas. In this phase what matters the most is quantity and the opportunity to unleash creativity, without wondering about concrete realisation and feasibility. No judgment, only free thoughts.

One of the methods used for coming up with more ideas is the SCAMPER Method, which helps thinking outside the box: born from Brainstorming, it goes along with the "creatives" in 7 steps that allow to re-think the product or service.

4. Prototype

After having laid down a lot of ideas, these can be rearranged and evaluated both by the team and the customers. Here we start to draw conclusions on the most interesting solutions!

In this phase, a product or service prototype is created, in the form of mockups to submit to the judgment of others. We can actually build what we want or simply present the idea.

5. Test

Getting other people’s moods and impressions: this is what we do in the testing phase, by working on the prototype and improving it or, conversely, coping with failure.

That is because now we might have to go back to the ideation phase: failure, in this process, is part of the game and we must be ready once more to search for creative ideas, build new prototypes and start all over again.

Who uses Design Thinking?

Coca Cola, Nintendo, Auchan. These are just some of the big names to have introduced Design Thinking in their management model.

But we also find start-ups and small businesses among those who have achieved important results through this process.

These are two successful cases.

Benefits for companies

Besides the case histories, what benefits can a company get out of the application of Design Thinking?

Design Thinking is becoming increasingly popular, even in Italy.

As you can see, a pinch of creativity can be the key to make your company work better!

Virginia Jukuki Capoluongo

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