How imperative is Design Thinking?

It is time for business leaders to understand the power of design and design thinking; specifically how Design Thinking will help them transform their businesses and make them future-proof

By PwC
Updated: Feb 26, 2018 02:30:01 PM UTC
Image: Shutterstock

Who doesn’t love a good design? People would readily tell you how much they love the way something looks or feels... yet many still think of design as an esoteric art practiced by those with a taste for liberal arts or for organisations that design objects and products. Nothing could be further from the truth.

'Design Thinking' is a mindset that can be employed by any business to transform itself. It is time for business leaders to understand the power of design and design thinking; specifically how Design Thinking will help them transform their businesses and make them future-proof.

Here are five reasons you need to leverage Design Thinking today to transform your business.

A problem well-defined is a problem half-solved
Ever met a consultant who cannot immediately tell you the solution to your problem? We often plunge headlong into doing what we have been rewarded for - answering a question quickly. So what’s wrong with that? A few things – we first need to know if we understand the problem deeply. We need to know if we are solving the right problem. We need to take the time to ask the right questions.

Finding a solution without taking the time to understand the real problem is fraught with risk. Organisations waste tremendous amounts of energy and resources solving the wrong problems.

A few years ago, I was advising a retailer on how to improve their product returns process. They felt the only solution required was to re-engineer the check-out process to make product returns faster. But when my team and I spoke with consumers, we understood that they would highly value not having to return the item at all or at least want not to come to the store to return it, or even if they came to the store, they would prefer not having to stand in line to return products they didn’t want. Surprise, surprise!

Using these simple insights, we helped the retailer develop an assortment of strategies that would reduce product returns; we helped them equip consumers with tools that would enable them to buy the right product in the first go, and also helped make the return process friction-less.

We often create solutions based on best practices or assumptions that are typically based on market trends and what the competition is doing. We don’t take into account our customers’ needs and expectations. Forget that, sometimes we even fail to recognise whether the stated problem is the right problem to solve at all. This is the reason 70 percent of all strategic transformations fail.

While effecting a strategic transformation at any level, it is vital to know who it is that we are doing problem solving for. Who are the stakeholders? What do they really want? What’s the most impactful problem to solve? When we go ahead without empathising with the key stakeholders, we are bound to be in for a rude shock.

Walk a mile in my boots
Empathise, empathise and empathise some more! This is the foundation design thinking is built on. We need to “walk” in our customers’ shoes to be able to fully experience the world from their perspective. Without true empathy, we won’t be able to identify the “real” problem and in turn deliver game-changing outcomes. We need to know why – why is a certain product more popular than the other? Why do people choose a particular cab service over the other? With each answer, we need to dig further until we know the real reason why! Only when we can see, think and feel the way our customers do, will we be able to determine what would be game changing for them.

Empathy is the bedrock of meaningful and memorable products, services and experiences.

Because perfect is the enemy of good
Fail as much as possible and fail fast. As cliché as that is, here’s a fact: failing forward works.

During a large-scale transformation at a pharma chain in the US, where they were redesigning their store layouts, a senior executive of the company said: “Perfect is the enemy of good.” He wanted us to try out multiple formats and learn from them. My team and I did exactly that in a short amount of time, combining elements that worked well in a certain context to redesign their new store formats. That was my introduction to failing forward a decade and a half ago and it worked well.

The more you ‘do,’ the more you learn. Don’t go out looking to fail. Go out looking to learn. Create byte-sized learning opportunities and prototypes, put them to the test and learn from them. Basically, fail forward to succeed rapidly.

Because everyone loves a good story
Stories inspire and motivate! They help us connect with our audience and evoke emotions that trigger change. Storytelling is a powerful insight tool that can effectively communicate even the most mundane facts and figures in a clear and thought-provoking manner and captures the imagination of the audience.

When we think of new processes, products or experiences, it helps to bring them to life in ways that people can relate to. Don’t just create personas and journey maps, put them to play in communicating your ideas. Storytelling is one amazing way to prototype in an evocative manner. Tell stories. Seek reactions. Learn. Make it better and tell that story (again).

Because it is important to be at the intersection of being meaningful and memorable
In the words of Dieter Rams, “Good design is making something intelligible and memorable. Great design is making something memorable and meaningful.” It’s not about the big idea. It’s about how an idea translates into providing a memorable experience that also holds personal significance for the end user.

A large utilities company in Europe called us to help them with customer retention in the rapidly transforming energy market. Despite a well-designed website and apps, the company seemed to be losing ground. When we spent time with consumers, we learnt that they expected a lot more than just regulated tariffs from their energy provider. They wanted their energy company to be a one-stop shop for everything energy-related, which would help them be in control of their consumption of the utilities. It was not simply about the product or service, but about how it would eventually translate into a practical solution that actually delivers value to the consumer.

When designing, it is important not to get lost in the razzle-dazzle of slick ‘user interface’. Good design is not just about the looks. Both form and function need to come together beautifully to deliver an experience that is both meaningful and memorable.

Prateek Sinha, Partner and Experience Leader, Digital Services, PwC India

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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