Everybody (?) is talking about Design thinking

Date : 14 april, 2018

Maybe it’s just me, but lately I’ve come across the buzz words Design Thinking, Service Design and an increasing amount of variations of words containing the letters UX (User Experience) or CX (Customer Experience) more and more. And gratefully, the more I study it, the more I realise that design thinking fits very nicely with the tools and methodologies like business model canvas, value proposition canvas and Jobs-to-be-done that I already use on daily basis.

So what is Design thinking?

Design thinking is about understanding the needs of a customer, the behavior, the drivers and the context of where/when/how the customer tries to solve a job, and bringing that knowledge into a solution or product. Design thinking shifts the focus from a business-centric engineering solution (where we invent a product based on a number of assumptions and hope it will work for the customer), to a customer-centric solution based on exploration and understanding of the customer needs. The result being a much higher probability of actually delivering something that the customer will care strongly enough for, to hire/buy and use. Putting more effort in understanding the customer, will make you less dependant on luck for success.

Will focusing on design affect your business results?

In 2013 the Design Management Institute (DMI) decided to start measuring the difference in performance between design-focused companies and S&P over time to study whether investing in design brings value. For the third year in a row, as you can see in the graph below, the DVI-value shows that design-focused companies outperform S&P 500 by as much as 211%, good design drives shareholder value. Read here to learn more about the DVI.

Design Value Index 2005-2015

Whether you’re a CEO, a marketer, or a designer, here are three reasons why your company should invest in design thinking:

  • Improving your UX saves you money
    • A little up-front UX research can save you hundreds of engineering hours and thousands of dollars
    • Decreases the cost of customer support
  • Focusing on UX increases your revenue
    • Increases conversion rates
    • Improves customer retention and loyalty
  • Insisting on great UX drives competitive advantage and affects the bottom line. Just look at Dyson, Uber, Mint, Apple, IBM, and Intuit.

The empowered customer

My background is within marketing and sales, specifically within direct marketing and e-commerce to consumers, where successful business results always required delivering something the customer wanted/needed to be able to both get conversion and retention. The more I now work with B2B-companies, I realise that thinking about and focusing on the customer – or actually the end-user – is not done nearly enough. Bringing design thinking, and applying the methodologies surrounding it, to the B2B-world, could potentially have a huge impact on both new products and solutions as well as business models. But how do we get management to understand the value and need of it?

The empowered customer is slowly creating the shift within B2B as well, and with the growth of B2B e-commerce there will be an increasing understanding of other relevant KPI’s to measure – be it conversion, retention, shopping cart abandonment and so forth. It’s an easy area to apply design thinking and the results of optimising accordingly are visual and quick. This is one way of increasing the knowledge and importance of design and UX.

McKinsey is launching concept design sprints

Another sign of the increasing focus on design thinking, is when McKinsey and the likes are bringing the concept of design sprints to the market. McKinsey recently published an article on how concept design sprints could increase the customer experience innovation. It’s a concept based on how companies within 5 days can go through the steps of identifying a problem, coming up with a solution, prototyping and eventually, on the 5th day, testing it with real customers. An agile way of quickly testing out an idea and solution, learning from real customer feedback to be able to (with or without pivoting) launching a solution more likely to succeed. McKinsey is basing its concept on Google Venture’s design sprint concept, which in my opinion is brilliantly described in the Sprint book by Jake Knapp. McKinsey is thus not the first to bring it to the market, but the significance is that both the knowledge and the importance of design thinking is spread to much larger community, bringing credibility to the buzz word.

I look forward to participating in future design sprints and love the fact that it will be easier and easier to get our customers to understand and try out being more customer/end-user focused!