Innovation and Design Thinking for the Post Pandemic Business Re-Grip!
The world has returned to normal; organizations are inviting employees to work back from the office premises, consumers have started stepping out of their homes, and companies are witnessing a rebound in the consumption patterns! In fact, there is a complete economic uptick if one must really acknowledge the same. However, with Covid gripping the world for almost two years, there are seismic shifts that are imperative for any business to undergo to sustain and stand out from the competition going forward.
One of the biggest impacts that covid-19 brought to each one out there is changes in our lifestyle and behaviour. Whether it be about consumption patterns, financial planning, expectations from the employers, or any other such realm. These behavioural changes have called for a deep reflection and relook at the ways organizations enable product, service or process to human interactions, bring out the new products and services, and ways they enable a product-market fit.
Historically businesses have been making the products & services and then found customers for the same. This approach has reaped substantial business benefits in the past, however, in today’s post-pandemic world full of newer choices, end consumers have become more aware in terms of the value (combination of utility and experience in consumption of the product or service) they get from every rupee spent. Consumers are now open to newer brands, willing to experiment, and thus easily switch to alternatives if they find it more engaging & give them a better experience while equally solving the product use case.
There is no better time for organizations to innovate and bring unique problem-solving products and services to the fore. ‘Design thinking’ with its human-centred ethos enables a seamless connection of business offerings with the consumers. The approach invites the engagement of every stakeholder involved, in problem finding in the first place instead of working on the solutions directly. It helps in answering key questions a business must know to innovate and distinguish from the competitors in their offerings.
What is Design Thinking
Design Thinking is an ideology for problem-solving with a structured non-linear process. The process is iterative and contains five phases. The approach is not limited only to the designer community anymore but is also found equally beneficial for business professionals, engineers, and other professional fields as well.
Design Thinking enables an organization to focus more on the people they want to serve, the human need behind doing or making something, and hence leads to better products, services, or an interaction process design.
The above approach model of design thinking focuses on building what’s desired by the consumers who are willing to pay and combines it with the economic viability and capability (feasibility) of an organization to build it.
The approach helps to:
- Build a deeper understanding of human behaviour
- Shifts our mindset from immediate solutioning to finding the root cause of the problem and then addressing the same
- Rule out assumptions-led understanding of the problem statement as relayed by a user
- Build a structured working periphery for solution development, this helps in rapid adoption of the solutions built
- Push towards experiments and test the assumptions while developing solutions
Five Phases of Design Thinking
- Empathize – One of the important points to remember is not to assume that you know a consumer or a user. There is an innate ask at this first step is to shed all the assumptions and instead observe, interact, and listen to the user on what they want, and what is that they need. We must make a deliberate attempt to make the user comfortable with opening up. The more we hear a user, the likelihood of gaining deeper insights increases. During interviewing sessions with a user one should avoid interrupting the user by acknowledging them verbally or any means while they are communicating their mind out. It’s highly important to just listen and let the user flow. One should also gel up in the whole ecosystem of the user as opposed to being an outsider who is interviewing. All of this just helps to build an open and trusted environment for the user to effectively relay their perspectives.
2. Define – This is a stage where we need to sense and apply our thinking. We must assimilate all of what we observed, and heard from a user and start to define a core problem area. We must ask ‘WHY’ to any of our understanding to dig a little deeper and come out concise on the problem to be solved. The insights should reflect deeper understanding of specific patterns, or behaviour exhibited by the user, something that’s more than a factual statement and captures the hidden details about the user’s life
3. Ideate – Once we have a problem understanding and defined action area, we must pull the right ideas and possible solutions that could solve the identified unmet need of the user. The ideation phase is very important and we should try and look for the most relevant ways to hit on the need rather than putting up more ancillary features or functionalities. The insights should trigger more divergent thinking among the team members for building novel & different ideas.
4. Prototype – This phase calls for creating a low fidelity model of the solutions that we believe will work and solve the unmet need of a user. We must refrain from building an actual product, services, or processes at this stage. One needs to be a lot frugal and agile at prototyping for accommodating changes that come from feedback in a later phase.
5. Test – Only one rule! Just take the prototype back to the user and again observe how they interact with the outcomes. There is just one rule – Does it make their life simpler and adds value? Note the reactions, comments, and suggestions. Link it back with the identified problem statement. There is always a chance that users might want to give specific inputs now when they have seen something tangible to solve their unmet needs. This time the insight from a user could be a lot sharper and that’s where the iteration will help.
“How do we travel the journey of understanding customers & their needs to making of successful business model & delivery that create market leadership?”
Having the right set of attributes & propositions is a must be, additionally, an offering should provide a rich user experience. User experience might last longer than the offering itself and thus can turn around the organization’s equity in the market. All of this can be achieved if we understand the most important stakeholder of the ecosystem, the ‘end user’ well. If we have understood what his needs are, the context where the user lives, and their pain points and have translated them well into actionable insights which ultimately becomes a business solution. Simply put it requires immersion in the user’s lives to build something which is of high value to the user and hence such a solution is easier to be adopted by the consumers as it took birth to serve their own pain points. Rapid prototyping of chosen concepts, user validation and iteration builds for the robustness of a product or a service.
Design thinking enables the maker’s community to rethink their existing product & services platform and it’s important to do so as it brings new business deliveries in place, it brings new eyesight to look at our own offerings when they are on sale to customers. Tim Brown, the CEO of IDEO a design and innovation consulting firm in his book “Change by design” has explained the detailed approach to design thinking and how organizations may bring about a change by adopting the same.
Not only the big organizations like Microsoft, Apple, Intel, PepsiCo, and Kaiser have been realizing the value delivered by this new language globally, but the start-ups such as Uber, and Airbnb have found it easier to adopt and make relevance to their customers by offering what their needs are and not just what they want. Companies in India such as Infosys, Godrej Group, and Wipro have also been recognizing the value that design thinking offers and the role it can play in building an organization’s core business strategy. Appointing chief design officers, to build design teams within, is surely a sign of how conglomerates from varied sectors are expecting bigger returns from collaborative & multidisciplinary approaches to design thinking in times to come.
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