What is Design Thinking? Your Questions Answered
April 23, 2019 | Design Thinking
by ExperiencePoint

What is Design Thinking? Your Questions AnsweredEveryone is talking about design thinking and how it’s going to revolutionize the customer experience. But, like many industry buzz terms (blockchain, AI and the Internet of Things), it often feels like half the people in the conversation have no idea what they are talking about.

To avoid being that person, here’s everything you need to know about design thinking and why it’s a powerful business strategy.

Two ExperiencePoint master facilitators recently hosted a Webinar explaining all the ins and outs of design thinking, including what it is, how it works, and why you should care. They shared many great anecdotes and data about how design thinking is helping businesses solve real business problems while generating measurable financial returns. You can listen to the entire webinar here, but for a synopsis, here are some of the big questions they answered for participants.

What is design thinking? Design thinking is a problem-solving methodology that leverages a designer's tool kit. It simultaneously considers what is desirable from a human point of view, what is technologically feasible, and what is economically viable. When teams use design thinking, they start to think differently about their users' problems and how to solve them.

How does design thinking make a team more innovative? Innovation isn’t a lightning-bolt idea that miraculously disrupts your industry. It is the outcome of people working together to identify problems, brainstorm ideas, test hypotheses, and evolve solutions – all of which is part of the design thinking process. The great thing about design thinking is that it is a repeatable, scalable, and learnable process for driving innovation. You might not do it perfectly the first time and that’s okay. The most important thing is to just get started.

Who is it for? Everyone. There is a misperception that design thinking is just for product teams but, in fact, anyone can benefit from design thinking if they have a big complex, human-centered problem to solve. You don't have to be a designer to use it, but you do need to learn to use the tools that designers use.

What makes it special? Customer-centricity. Design thinking solves the problem of how to find solutions that customers actually want. It is all about talking to people we normally don't talk to, so that we can come up with ideas we may not have otherwise. Remember that “customers” include any human that uses a products or service, or has a problem that needs to be solved for — that includes employees, vendors, partners, and every other person you interact with.

Don’t I do this already with my customer surveys and NPS scores? No! Being customer-centric is not a quantitative activity. You can’t look at a pile of numbers or survey results to understand customers’ needs; and you can’t brainstorm ideas for what your customers want without gathering their input first. The only way to be customer-centric is to actually spend time with customers, observe their behaviors, and ask them what they need.

Can I solve any problem with design thinking? No. Part of learning to use design thinking is learning when to use it and when it won’t be helpful. A good rule of thumb is if the problem is complex, human-centered, and has no clear solution (i.e. how can we make our products easier to use?) design thinking could be the right choice. However, if the problem is not human-centered, and has a very clear goal (i.e. discovering a new medicine, or solving an engineering issue) design thinking won’t help.

Where do we begin? Design thinking always starts with the customer. Ask yourself, who is the human we are trying to help? And what is the benefit we are trying to create? “When you start with a question (what do our customers need) rather than an idea (we should build a dashboard!), you open your solution space to a huge number of possibilities. Abandoning your preconceived notions of what customers need is the only way to allow innovation to happen.

There is much more to learn about design thinking and how to make it work for your organization, but we hope this blog gave you enough information to hold your own in any conversation about how this trend is helping companies generate real business results.