If you’re searching for articles on design thinking, then you’re probably interested in how to leverage design thinking in your organisation. And if this is the case, you’re in good company given the speed with which design thinking as a movement has spread.
Before we dive into how to implement design thinking into your organisation, it is worth stepping back in time and looking at where ‘design thinking’ as a concept came from. Ordinarily this wouldn’t matter but ‘design thinking’ as a term is much misunderstood, and much abused these days so a bit of history might shed some light on the roots of design thinking and the problem it is trying to solve.
Back in 2001, IDEO, the organisation that founded the design thinking revolution, had moved from designing beautiful products like the Oral-B toothbrush and Palm V’s new personal digital to assistant to tackling problems that were far removed from traditional design. The type of work they were being asked to do took IDEO from designing consumer products to designing consumer experiences.
To distinguish this new type of design work, they began referring to it as “design with a small d.” but this phrase never seemed to get any traction. They found themselves inserting the word “thinking” to explain what it was that their designers were doing. Eventually, the term design thinking stuck and the ‘design thinking’ revolution was born.
As an approach, design thinking not only focuses on creating products and services that are human-centred, but the process itself is also deeply human. Design thinking relies on our ability to be intuitive, to recognize patterns, to construct ideas that have emotional meaning as well as being functional. The design thinking process consists of three spaces: inspiration, ideation, and implementation. Inspiration is the problem or opportunity that motivates the search for solutions; ideation is the process of generating, developing, and testing ideas; and implementation is the path that leads from the project stage into people’s lives.
When it came to inspiration, IDEO understood that uncovering deep consumer needs was critical to the design thinking process: “Traditional ways of discovering what people’s needs are, such as focus groups and surveys, rarely yield important insights. In most cases, these techniques simply ask people what they want. Conventional research can be useful in pointing toward incremental improvements, but those don’t usually lead to the type of breakthroughs that leave us scratching our heads and wondering why nobody ever thought of that before.” To be fair, iconic figures like Henry Ford had figured this out many years earlier when he’d said, “If I’d asked my customers what they wanted, they’d have said ‘a faster horse.’” The important learning for IDEO was that although people often can’t tell us what their needs are, their actual behaviours can provide us with invaluable clues about their range of unmet needs.
And this is where Professor Clayton Astridtensen of Harvard University comes in. He’s the guy who coined the term market disruption, he’s widely recognised as the godfather of modern innovation theory and, importantly, he was the person who developed Jobs To Be Done theory: the methodology that is now widely used by the worlds’ leading organisations to uncover the causal drivers of customer behaviour.
So, if you’re looking to learn about design thinking and deploy it throughout your organisation, this is the place to start. Knowing how to get the inspiration phase right is in many ways the most important part of the process – it is foundational to the rest of the design thinking process. Leveraging Jobs To Be Done methodology to uncover the causal drivers of customer choice is where best practice innovation starts and it is something that we’ve pioneered in Australia and won awards for. But rather than us blowing our own trumpets, you can hear it first hand by listening to this short video featuring some of our clients’ thoughts https://youtu.be/e-JLHvr0vi8.
We love talking about this stuff so feel free to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org – we might not be able to meet you in person for a coffee during these challenging times but we can certainly join you for a chat and help you on your design thinking journey.