Design thinking has received a great deal of attention over the last decade, and organisations in all sectors of the economy are seeing the value in design thinking, especially in the rise of complex systems and technology. But what is it, and how do businesses use design thinking in their digital transformations?
Here's a list of what we'll cover in this post - feel free to jumpt to bits you're interested in:
- What is design thinking?
- What are the benefits of design thinking?
- Tips to introduce design thinking process into your business
- What is digital transformation?
- Why is digital transformation so important?
- How does design thinking help your digital transformation?
If you don’t think your organisation is creative enough to implement design thinking, then think again.
Design thinking isn’t about your knowledge of design concepts or which colour palettes go together, but it’s about designing tools and processes with the end-user in mind.
“Design can help to improve our lives in the present. Design thinking can help us chart a path into the future.” - Tim Brown, Executive Chair at IDEO
Design thinking is both a process and an ideology that is used for practical and creative problem-solving. It is based heavily on methods and processes used by designers, but it has evolved from a range of different fields, including engineering and business. You can also apply design thinking to any field, not just to design problems, which makes it really awesome 🙌.
As mentioned before, design thinking is extremely user-centric, focuses on humans first, whilst seeking to understand people’s needs and to find effective solutions to meet those needs. This focus encourages businesses and organisations to consider the real users of their products and services - meaning that they are more likely to hit the mark when creating meaningful user experiences. For the user, this means better and more useful products that will improve their lives.
Integrating design thinking into your process and business can add tremendous value, ultimately ensuring that the products you design are not only enticing for customers but also viable in terms of company budget and resources.
Here are some major benefits of using design thinking at work:
- Significantly reduces time to market
One of design thinking's primary purposes is to help with problem-solving and finding visible solutions, which can lead to a significant reduction in the amount of time spent during the design and development stages.
- Great ROI and cost saving
Getting successful products to market faster ultimately saves your company money. Design thinking has been proven to yield a significant return on investment. A recent report from Forrester states that design thinking can deliver an ROI of 85% or greater.
- Can be applied to the entire company
A great thing about design thinking is that it’s not just for designers or the design industry. It leverages group thinking and encourages cross-team collaborations no matter your team or industry.
- Fosters innovation
Design thinking is all about challenging assumptions, establishing beliefs, and encouraging all stakeholders to think outside the box. Fostering a culture of innovation that extends beyond the design team.
- Improves customer retention and loyalty
Being able to put the user first wills ultimately help boost engagement and customer retention in the long term as you find opportunities to delight and solve pain points in their journeys.
- Invite everyone to participate
Everyone should have the opportunity to share their voice. While this might lead to a longer meeting, it’s important to hear all perspectives because you never know who might have the best idea until you ask.
- Accept differences - but don’t let them become excuses
Not everyone at every meeting will be super creative or strategic and that is fine. Being able to work together despite different strengths is all part of the fun. Some may just need more encouragement than others.
- No judging
Establishing this safety net early can help people feel comfortable to speak up and say anything. Even the most outlandish or silly idea can be transformed into something genius, or even be a trigger for an offshoot idea from someone else.
- Make collaboration barrier free
Design thinking is all about the process and being able to have a facilitator to guide parts along is great but don’t use this role to restrict.
- Give the floor to others
If you’re (the facilitator) leading the session, be careful not to take over the conversation. Give space to those who have worked towards fixing the problem, engage and praise them for their participation. Making this a safe space allows everyone the opportunity to speak up.
- Be better, not perfect
Be OK about delivering something better and not perfect. Design thinking is all about prototyping, iterating and being able to correct things so you can deliver something better to market.
Did you learn something new? Stretched the boundaries of other processes and thoughts? Highlight the time saved, resource savings, increased efficiency, the ability to work with others outside your comfort zone and anything else you’re proud of to various stakeholders.
Find out more ways to implement design thinking into your organisation with our ebook, The Design Thinking Workshop Kit.
Digital transformation will look very different for every company and can make it hard to pinpoint a definition that applies to everyone.
“Digital transformation is the process of using digital technologies into all areas of a business resulting in fundamental changes to how businesses operate and how they deliver value to customers.”
Beyond that, it’s also a cultural change that requires organisations to continually challenge the status quo, experimenting often and to get comfortable with failure. This sometimes means walking away from long-standing business processes that companies were built on in favour of newer practices that are still being defined.
A business may take on digital transformation for many reasons, but by far, the most likely reason is that they want to grow and adapt. In the wake of the pandemic, a company’s ability to adapt quickly to supply chain disruptions, time to market pressures, and rapidly changing customer expectations, whilst additionally staying competitive and relevant has become even more critical than ever.
Digital transformation will vary widely based on each organisation’s specific challenges and needs, but here are some areas and companies that have greatly benefited from the process:
Enrich customer experience
Just like design thinking, the primary focus of digital transformation is about improving the customer experience. Companies that are using customer feedback in their designs to help drive growth are being rewarded in both products and service-based industries. Businesses that are at the forefront of the digital revolution will earn much more authority, trust, and respect from customers.
For example, Lowe, an American retail company specialising in home improvement, started its experience design process by mapping the real-life customer journey based on shopper behaviours in-store. It was a great way to clarify information to stakeholders, but it was also helpful in identifying potential opportunities. Ruth Crowley, former vice president of customer experience design, used design thinking to collaborate with the digital team by helping them understand the needs of the customer. As a result, they made the site easier to navigate and kept customers longer on, resulting in a 1,100% increase in hits the first week, and a further 780% increase in the second week.
Encourage collaboration across the business
Having a digital transformation can be a daunting task for a workforce from leadership to junior employees. All processes and strategies, down to the core structure and company culture, will need to be looked at.
However, with encouragement, this can be an amazing opportunity to work and learn together. Fostering open communication among all team members breaks down any communication barriers, positioning you to transform the employee experience by fostering efficiency, innovation, and growth.
A great example of this is the ‘Design Ambassadors’ program by Spanish banking giant BBVA. They created this program with the idea of creating hybrid employee profiles capable of applying the principles of design thinking in BBVA’s different business areas worldwide. This experience has already allowed the introduction of improvements in the processes and ways of working in many teams. Some have introduced new methodologies and have been able to design a more effective way of doing things for the simple fact of having spent more time analyzing the needs of the client.
“The most innovative and exciting products on the market are those created at places that incorporate design in every part of the organization, not just the creative department.” Rob Brown, Global CMO of BBVA.
By setting people clear roles and responsibilities and putting an ‘owner’ in charge of each transformation initiative has been proven to be exceptionally effective. A report from McKinsey also highlighted that companies who “balanced the expectations it sets for individuals with its expectations for larger groups and for the organization as a whole”, were also more likely to beat performance expectations.
Infosys is a global leader in digital services and consulting. The company wanted to increase opportunities for innovation and optimize their employees’ problem-solving skill sets. By learning to harness the power of design thinking they have been able to empower and change the mindset of its 170,000+ employees. The company has also been running client workshops based on design thinking. In just 10 months, Infosys has trained 36,000 employees, including 500 executives, on design thinking principles. This change in mindset has enabled their employees to think differently about clients’ problems and come up with the right solutions.
“We found design thinking to be a refreshing approach to problem-solving and plan to use these tools to help bring agility and creative confidence back to our workforce.” - Forrester's Leveraging Design Thinking.
Increases agility and innovation
Businesses work well in environments where there is constant learning, testing and iteration – this process helps reduce the risk of big, costly mistakes whilst still allowing exploration into other avenues. Design thinking sets them up to develop more unique and creative solutions to people’s needs.
“The most successful companies consciously foster a culture of sharing early work with outsiders and celebrating embryonic ideas.” - McKinsey’s Business of Design.
In late 2018, Microsoft released a major gaming innovation: the Xbox Adaptive Controller. With larger buttons and additional ports where users can plug in their own specialized controllers, the device made Xbox games accessible to people with a wide range of disabilities.
The Adaptive Controller kicked off a revolution in-game and controller design that promises to give a whole range of inclusive products and experiences. Logitech later joined to develop the Adaptive Gaming Kit, a fully customizable collection of add-on buttons that players can plug into their Adaptive Controller based on their particular needs. In the spirit of design thinking, Logitech worked with therapists at gaming disability charity Special Effect to appreciate the pain points affecting differently-abled gamers. It was from that experience that Logitech went with a customizable product, rather than a one-size-fits-all solution.
Pursuing a digital transformation strategy to position a company as a market leader can be challenging, as both internal and external factors can complicate and hinder progress. Challenges may include resistance to change, lack of a clear vision, inflexible development processes and data overload.
But this is how design thinking can be such a game-changer for your business especially used in the context of digital transformation. By integrating disruptive technologies into your business practice, design thinking can substantially increase the chances that your digital transformation best serves your customers.
One of the most important components of design thinking is its reliance on prototyping and testing. A key advantage of digital technology, which helps you to launch extremely easy and cheap small experiments throughout your process. With the results, you can analyse the data and feedback to make appropriate changes. It is this ease of testing and iterative attitude that makes digital transformation that much easier and effective.
Well, there you have it, by embracing design thinking into your digital transformations your organisation can leverage the latest disruptive technologies to better serve your customers and your organisation.
To find out more about taking the next steps to design thinking and the processes of it, download our ebook, The Design Thinking Workshop Kit, to get started.