An Introduction to Design Thinking

Design thinking, according to Naiman, informs human-centered innovation. “Human-centered innovation begins with developing an understanding of customers’ or users’ unmet or unarticulated needs,” Naiman wrote in an article for the International Association of Business Communicators.

Naiman points out that large corporations are using design thinking to evolve the way they innovate. “The focus of innovation has shifted from being engineering-driven to design-driven, from product-centric to customer-centric, and marketing-focused to user-experience-focused,” Naiman writes. 

For the innovator, the design thinking approach looks to minimize the uncertainty and risk of innovation by using collective intelligence through a series of lenses to grow their understanding of customer needs. By also engaging with customers or users actively throughout the process using a series of prototypes to learn, test and refine concepts, you end up far closer to customer understanding through this dialoguing, exchanging and growing intimacy to help uncover their needs. Design thinkers rely on customer insights gained from real-world experiments and direct engagement not just historical data or market research.

The key today is to think like a designer in the way you lead, explore, create and innovate

If you want to change something from the present situation into a preferred one, design thinking helps you achieve this. It takes you through a process. It helps you reduce the risks by engaging with internal and external people seeking out a new solution that solves a need, problem or challenge. This comes through a series of prototypes to learn from, to test and then continually refine concepts to get them to the finished value adding point, taking away the issues.

Design thinking helps the innovator to gain greater clarity, to find viable, feasible and desirable ideas, design thinking should force user-centricity as central to innovators thinking. In its most simple form, design thinking can be thought of as building the series of conversions that draw out the needs, that eventually becomes the solution.

Design thinking can be highly supportive for continuously finding new meanings, both to products and new usages or services. It can help answer why a customer will buy (or why they will change behavior), it can clarify and make sense of things, and it can be the catalyst to bringing insights and concepts together. So, Design Thinking is an approach for Creative Problem Solving that is inspired by the way designers work.

To quote IDEO’s Tim Brown, “Design thinking is a system that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business can convert into consumer value and market opportunity.”

What makes up the design thinking process to help innovators?

Managing New Product Development (NPD) can be a daunting challenge and so it is critical to focus on what is important. Design thinking becomes a highly useful and effective collaborative strategy to identify and solve problems creatively. As it is a non-linear, iterative approach that focuses on user needs, articulating frameworks, and formulating a strategy its constantly addressing the direction, design, and development and encourages a “fast acting-learning” cycle.

To quote Soren Petersen and provide his visual below, “Better design metrics and decision-making in the product selection process could significantly reduce new product development failure rates. In addition, including design considerations before marketing investments are made would qualify as a game changer.”

Recognizing that the direction, design, and development needs are constantly looping back to validate against the user needs is central to design thinking. The earlier you involve design thinkers, and specifically in contributing to any product brief, the more you can provide valuable support in the NPD process.

A series of excellent posts by Peterson, such as “Design Thinking – What Is It in Practice,” Or “How to Manage Innovation With Design Thinking,” raise the importance of the value of design thinking within the innovation development process.

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