If you've heard about the power of design thinking to drive value creation in any business, not just those involved in creating physical products, but aren't sure quite sure how, here's a short primer.
Design used to be associated solely with appearance and aesthetics, with being 'on-trend', where it's value in driving consumer demand is clear. If you consider the marque of car you drive, or the brands of clothing you favour, you probably didn't choose them based solely on a rational basis of price and functionality. You chose them because there was something about the way they make you feel, something in their meaning to you, something in their design. And for that you were prepared to pay a premium.
Where design thinking excels is in its ability to uncover people's true motivations, and from thence to develop solutions that are desirable, offer meaning, and connect at an emotional level.
In the digital age, where we are often overwhelmed with choice and complexity, design thinking has proven a valuable differentiator in the development of otherwise commoditised service offerings. Designing the customer experience that surrounds the product or service can lead people to delight in it, enhancing lifetime value.
Fundamental to design thinking are:
- Design research - which uses finely honed, ethnographic techniques to uncover deep insights that traditional qualitative market research and focus groups may never truly discern.
- Problem re-framing - which embraces a diversity of perspectives, and demands flexibility of thought in order to move beyond the most obvious problem statements in pursuit of the heart of the matter.
- Prototyping with customers - Early and ongoing customer validation enables prioritised development of those elements that customers value most, and dramatically de-risks the development process
The deep insights uncovered through the design process lead you to build emotion, meaning and identity into your product or service, wherein lies value to the customer, and your source of differentiation.
The upfront investment ensures that more significant resources aren't squandered building valueless features, often shortening the project duration, all of which ensure you capture more business value.
Design tools and processes contribute intangible value, to the 'goodwill' line on the balance sheet. In great companies, this designed 'brand value' often far outstrips the book value. And, like many intangible, knowledge assets, the more areas to which you apply design thinking, the larger the return.
Where innovation is concerned, to focus solely on minimising cost is to miss out on the vastly greater value that design can embed within a product or service - the intangible value of beauty, simplicity and experience. And though our accounting methods struggle to quantify it, the market certainly doesn't.
Design delivers the market value that separates the most desirable brands and businesses from the rest. Those with products and services that people love.
It's people who drive innovation and therein lies the real power of a human centred and agile approach to innovation: executed well, it drives employee engagement through collaborative, purpose driven activity, in addition to delighting customers and driving business growth.