“Innovation has nothing to do with how many R & D dollars you have. When Apple came up with the Mac, IBM was spending at least 100 times more on R & D. It’s not about money. It’s about the people you have, how you’re led, and how much you get it.” – Steve Jobs
Breaking down the decision making hierarchy, understanding the customer better, bringing a product to market faster, is crucial for companies in today’s competitive market. Ever wonder how companies like Apple, Google, GE, Philips, P&G, PepsiCo have been able to achieve this. It is the new wave in innovation that led these companies to witness unexpected growth.
Design thinking is a human centered approach to design better products and services by developing empathy and deep insights into your customers’ behavior and needs. It is all about involving end users from the beginning of the process to empathize in umpteen number of ways, with their experience you seek to improve. Design thinking lets you pick different ideas that means not solving a problem the same way you did before. It allows people to generate ideas without the fear of making mistakes. It integrates something that is technologically feasible and economically attainable.
Technology giant IBM has created its own version of design thinking called “The Loop” – Observe, Reflect and Make; reflecting on what has been created and constantly improve it. So far IBM has had 10,000 employees learn about design thinking framework and has developed around 100 products using the same. Some of Google’s great technological innovations like Google Wave (software) and Google Glass (hardware) witnessed massive criticism and failed to engage end users as the only thing these lacked was Design Innovation. Apple, the biggest consumer products’ company in the world, ironically gets its products assembled in countries like China and still is the leader. Only reason behind it is that APPLE DESIGNS.
Distinguishing characteristics of design thinking encompasses looking for simplicity in complexity, creating elegant solutions, serving the needs of people and most of all improving quality of their experience. Five basic steps of design thinking are Empathy, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test Empathize. Observing your customers and engaging in conversations gives you valuable insights into their thoughts, feelings, their needs and gives you direction for creating innovative solutions. Share important information and impressions of your customers with others in the team in a visual form.
Define – This is about bringing clarity to the vast information you have gathered about your user. It is critical to narrow down to a meaningful problem statement, an actual challenge that needs to be addressed. This should instantly inspire your team to put a number of ideas on the table. Ideate – It is about generating the widest range of possible ideas. Unleash your imagination and go beyond the obvious solutions. Carry more than one idea into prototyping phase to maintain your innovation potential. Prototyping lets you pursue different ideas before you to commit to one idea too soon. Make sure not to spend too long on one prototype and always build with the end user in mind. Testing lets you refine your prototypes and the solutions. Make the experience as realistic as possible for the users.
Wondering how to dive right into design thinking? Bring in cross functional teams. Invite a lot of people to participate in the meeting irrespective of what functional group they belong to and make them break out of their role. Ensure to create an environment that allows them to speak up and collaborate. Try not to grab 1st couple of ideas as they are based on resources already available to you, which by definition is not innovation. Judging and criticizing is absolutely a no-no as sometimes silly ideas give birth to genius ideas. As Thomas Edison said, ” There’s a way to do it better – find it.” CAN YOU?