The reason that Design Thinking (DT) is gaining traction is because it is a scalable, flexible and intuitive set of tools to help us think about problems and how to solve them. Simple. At a time when brands and businesses are struggling with an incredibly dynamic consumer and smaller budgets, a streamlined, leaner creative solution to problem solving is the Holy Grail – it’s the future.
The name itself, Design Thinking, is a bit of a misnomer. A friend who is an interior designer, whenever I talk about DT, always says that she uses it constantly in her work. To be clear, there is a big difference between Design Thinking, and thinking about design.
In fact, it is not so much Design Thinking as it is Designed Thinking. It is an approach to thinking. A way of thinking. A method of thinking. It is not about organising ideas as much as it is about organising the path to conceiving those ideas and testing them. How useful is this in a business context? The answer is, very.
As part of IBM’s “Smarter Planet” initiative, the company began using booths to showcase innovative ideas that were impacting their customers. There was a real concern that the booths were not helping raise awareness within their target markets.
The first step is empathy: Here we put ourselves in the shoes of our consumer to understand what it is they really want. To be clear, this process is not product-centred – we do not talk to our consumers about our product. We talk to them about their lives. This is a very important distinction for DT as opposed to product-focused research.
If we understand a person’s life, we can understand their problems and then build better solutions for them. Empathy is qualitative. That means that we’re not going to be sitting and looking at reams of spreadsheets and Facebook insights. Instead, we’re going to sit down with a handful of people from our target market, probably over a cup of coffee, and get to know them.