Design Thinking plays an important role in developing new products and services in digital world. Design Thinking is a creative side to problem solution. Earlier designs were incorporated at the end of product life cycle but nowadays it is integrated as part of architecture. Design Thinking requires visual and creative abilities to provide solutions and attract customers in the digital world. Well known methodologies are in place for design thinking to be developed as a process. Design Thinking is gaining prominence as organizations are shifting from technology centric to human centric approach for designing products. Design Thinking is more about thinking in future as opposed to analytical thinking which borrows from past history. Design thinking is increasingly helping in attracting new segments of customers who value aesthetics.
Designers resist the temptation to jump immediately to a solution to the stated problem. Instead, they first spend time determining what the basic, fundamental (root) issue is that needs to be addressed. They don’t try to search for a solution until they have determined the real problem, and even then, instead of solving that problem, they stop to consider a wide range of potential solutions. Only then will they finally converge upon their proposal. This process is called “Design Thinking.”
– Don Norman, Rethinking Design Thinking
Design Thinking also known as a human centered design process revolves around a deep interest in developing an understanding of the people for whom we’re designing the products or services with a No “one size fits all” Approach. In General, though there are several approaches, researchers have theorized as five phases of Design Thinking
• Empathize – with your users
• Define – your users’ needs, their problem, and your insights
• Ideate – by challenging assumptions and creating ideas for innovative solutions
• Prototype – to start creating solutions
• Test – solutions
Design Thinking in Digital World
• Design thinking is becoming an important pillar in digital transformations with companies realizing the importance and the need for human-centered designs to deliver user friendly and robust products and services. Integrating business and technical needs together to deliver what people require and in the way they require is the main approach for design thinking. This has become key part of corporate strategies who are seeking to digitalize and transform their products from traditional forms.
• Design Thinking represents a cultural shift in people’s expectations. Consider the revolution that Apple created with its smart phone and App store launch, which has raised the expectations of people significantly. The same mindset is applied in all the forms be it in any industry, take for example banks are forced to become more digital as they see mobile wallets and services taking more share of the digital wallet pie.
• Earlier in IT companies the focus was developing and testing software before passing it to product management. However, now they had injected design thinking into the software development process. As technology is increasingly woven into the cluster of business, technology companies be it a new entrant or an incumbent are considering user experience as a key factor in solutions for both employees and customers. These days you can’t have a service or a product that isn’t considering desirability, viability and feasibility in the process of development to get the output with the right combination of all three factors as shown in figure below.
Pros of Design Thinking
Design thinking will be useful when the same technology runs for many years and customers are bored of the products. It will be design thinking, which can give a fresh look and feel to the products, inducing customer to buy it while the manufacturers may not have to spend a lot on technology and innovations. This is similar to car manufacturers launching new models based on existing platforms, by just changing exterior design while the engine capacity, chassis and other engineering technology remains the same. Technological advances take time to implement and most companies keep tweaking products to make it faster and better to keep customer interest alive. Design changes are perfect to fill such huge gaps in feature implementation, to keep the consumer interest alive till the next wave of technological advance is available to them.
A good example of successful Design Thinking is Apple products. Apple is always designing the next generation products which is not only technologically advanced but meets many of the consumer’s unmet demands in sleekness, user interface and fonts. Even their electronics wearable devices are designed to appeal not only to the geeks but also to the fashion conscious consumers.
Many companies have benefited from Design Thinking that steered the business growth in the right direction. Here are few examples of how companies have benefited from this new age design thinking.
1) Uber: Remember the days when taxi hiring used to be cumbersome task, we need to call hours before and schedule for the ride to arrive at the right time, in spite of scheduling you do not have any information if the cab is going to arrive at the right time. But, when Uber entered, it disrupted the market with the launch of its cab aggregator service focused on user-centered design principles. By focusing on customer requirements, Uber was able to bring massive change in the traditional business model.
What the company did is, it created a visualization of taxi’s approach and solved many customer grievances with its ride hailing app, like
• Completely eliminated the risk of dodgers by creating a cashless payment drive.
• Put the responsibility on driver for exemplary customer servicing by giving customers the power to rate the drivers and the ride.
2) m-indicator: Residing in Mumbai and commuting by local trains is not a piece of cake. A lot of challenges are faced by a common man face including train schedules, arrival times, route changes and delays. M-indicator app is the solution to all the customer woes. Its owner, Sanjay Teke launched this app while he was still working in a firm. What he actually did? He visualized the problem that a common man faces to avoid peak hours. By providing the train commuters a view of the upcoming trains the app completely eliminates second guessing and loss of time. No wonder that today, it is the most trustworthy app that provides detailed information about how to go around in Mumbai.
3) Burberry: Once known as a fashion brand of the bygone era, the company pushed the envelope and created a niche market for itself by applying the design principles. What did the company do? In order to boost the revenue growth, the CEO of the company Angela Arhendts joined the social media bandwagon to convert millennials to its most loyal customers.
Burberry cultivated a social media environment of digital democracy, where users and the brand could collaborate freely on its designs and new launches. It not only attracted new customers but also strengthened its goodwill. The outcome? From 2011 to 2015, Burberry had posted a revenue growth of 68.1%.
On the other hand, Moto Razr is one good example of Design thinking failure. A highly successful model from Motorola, after initial years, started failing. This failure was mainly due to lack of design upgrade to their range of phones. They failed to adapt to newer demands of touch screen phone, sleek looks, 3G which were the unmet demands of customers needed to be fulfilled immediately. But Motorola was stuck for too long with their older fashioned phones, eventually leading to its decline.
Challenges faced in Design thinking
Design thinking is fundamentally very different from analytical thinking. This creates a problem where products and services in the digital world are primarily designed by engineers, trained for analytical thinking. Engineers are unable to think in terms of Design Thinking as they are more convinced by technology rather than design. But the customers, who eventually buy the products, are not always analytical. Customers come from different demographic, geographic and lifestyle segments. Customers can be youths, elderly, men, women, children, technologically savvy, or even naïve when it comes to technology. There are customers in mobile market, who buy products just for their look and feel not just for features. Some products sell not because of their technology, but because of bells and whistles offered, like multiple back panels of different colors or Different kinds of finish like steel finish or gold plated looks in mobile phones.
At an organization level, Design thinking is difficult to implement as organizations are afraid of losing their engineering edge in quest for Design Thinking. Design Thinking may fit in long term vision which gets obscured by short term needs to keep organization running and profitable. Designing a product is easier to outsource as building expertise in-house takes a long time. But outsourcing does not serve the purpose, as there is a need to integrate design with technology to make a successful product. In that case, Organizations will have to hire from diverse backgrounds like artists, sociologists and economists. The hiring will be a challenge as non-engineers may not be keen to work in engineering organizations whose core competency is engineering.
Adapting a Design thinking requires multi-pronged approach like changes in supply change management to changing perception of consumers. It may also require changes in internal process and delivery mechanism to adapt to rapid design changes in comparison to technology changes. Many organizations have failed to understand Design Thinking and strategically incorporate it in their organization culture.
Design thinking has become a very important aspect for organizations producing products and services in the digital world. Earlier there were handful of companies incorporating design thinking but over the past two decades more and more companies are embracing this as important part of their strategy. It is putting yourself in customer’s shoe to gain empathy and awareness about their needs. With these principles, companies can acquire users quickly and take customer retention levels to its peak.
Schools are also introducing courses on design thinking, not only at university levels but also at secondary school levels, in order to skill students for their future.
Organizations are adopting Design Thinking principles and exclusively training employees and investing in it. This shows the impact of Design Thinking in the digital world and it is definitely here to stay. Design thinking is being widely adopted in both product and service industry in the digital world. Even Indian companies like Wipro are relying on Design Thinking for driving the digital transformation and improve their customer focus. In today’s rapidly changing business environment, it is inevitable for companies to adopt to Design Thinking strategy to stay competitive and for their product to sustain in future.