“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works”
A company’s life begins with an idea that can change the thinking and thrives with a thinking that injects the new normal, design. Design thinking is a business model that embraces the design process and applies design strategies to a business. It is a metaphor to thinking like the customer and the market. Market research has become the bread and butter of companies of all scales and sizes today. Therefore, small companies must study the markets they enter into, along with the economic factors effecting market function. A company’s success is determined by its action and propelled by thought, planning and careful decision-making.
Implementation of design thinking is not necessarily supported by technology. Imbibing purpose in key performance indicators also becomes a contributing factor towards the design thinking process. Small businesses experiencing a high growth potential must look for ways to market their capabilities and competitive advantage in niche markets. Design thinking instills nimbleness in organizational functioning, thus leading to a better analysis of market and customers.
The Design Thinking Process
Design thinking is not a solution. It is a path to solutions. It helps set goals and choose the best ways to reach them. The process of design thinking starts with immersion. At this stage, companies must identify their internal problems. Problems need not be huge for every design thinking exercise. They could be minor process changes to nurture organizational functioning and drive better results. Organizations must assess the performance of the company and the quality of their product or service, beyond the definition of just offering value to customers and markets. This exercise must be conducted, keeping in mind, the views of all stakeholders of the company, including customers, employees, middle and top management and shareholders. Customer interviews can be a good source of information identification, in terms of understanding process lapses internally. The immersion stage in the design thinking process, sets apart what stakeholders really want and what they are least bothered about.
Now that a company identifies its set of problems, it must involve the stakeholders to brainstorm ideas to identify solutions. This stage is called ideation. Ideation must include customers too, as they experience the lifecycle of products and services better than the companies themselves. Once the ideation process is complete, companies must document the discussions, highlighting all the solutions and the possible bottlenecks for their implementation. The process of documentation demands a good amount of time, as the document must speak the views of every stakeholder involved in the design process.
Prototyping is the basis of an innovative design process. It is the process of implementing an idea in the most purposeful and profitable manner. Prototypes inject innovation in the design process. However, businesses must be ready to seek failures and learn from them, at this stage. Prototyping also involves testing an idea on a smaller set of audience to gain an understanding of the market behavior and come up with multiple alternative solutions to a single problem. Businesses small or large, are created with a persona, which is majorly affected by the market persona. Since markets today are extremely volatile because of changing consumer needs, companies must always step up to evaluate the pain points or hot buttons of their potential customers. The best way to do this is to design a strategy to niche customer problems. Niche customer problems create niche markets and ultimately blue oceans with the most minimal competition to small businesses in their area of expertise.
Design thinking is extremely useful for high growth startups, as the process strengthens the operational backbones, considering the need for revenues and profits at the same time. Design thinking might seem like a process improvement strategy costing bucks to companies for research and analysis. But, it is an empathetic approach to solving potential problems through minor process changes. As it is rightly said, businesses can experience growth, only when they put themselves in the shoes of their stakeholders.