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  • Vivien Koh

Design Thinking for Business Innovation

Do you feel like you’ve hit a wall when it comes to accelerating your business growth? Are you struggling to come up with newer and better ways to increase your revenue? If your answer is a resounding YES to these questions, design thinking might be the panacea for your problems. A study done by McKinsey found that organisations that regularly followed design thinking practices see a third higher revenues and 56 percent higher returns than those that don’t. It is not surprising that design thinking has been adopted by many of the most successful businesses in the world with the likes of IBM and Google. In this article, you will learn more about what design thinking is, why it works and how you can incorporate it into the day-to-day practices of your business.


💡What is Design Thinking?

You’ve probably heard this buzzword being mentioned frequently in conversations, seen it plastered everywhere, but what exactly is design thinking? According to global design and innovation company IDEO, design thinking is a human-centered approach to problem solving or innovation—anchored in understanding customer’s needs, rapid prototyping and generating creative ideas—that will transform the way you develop products, services, processes and organisations.


Though often taught as a step-by-step approach, design thinking is not at all a linear process. It is an iterative approach which involves alternating among the different phases to derive new and better solutions that we might not have thought of before. Empathy is the first step in design thinking. We have heard from the ground up that in recent years, many of our customers have found that driving sales performance hasn’t been easy and when Covid-19 hit, it became real that they have not transformed fast enough. Using our design thinking driven 3DM (Discover, Design, Deploy & Measure) Consulting Framework, we have helped many of our clients to reimagine and transform their business models.


💡Why Does Design Thinking Work?

Design thinking comes in handy when dealing with problems that are ambiguous, challenging to define or unknown. Consumers oftentimes don’t explicitly tell you their needs, wants and behaviours because they aren’t aware of their actions, prefer not to give negative feedback or are unable to verbalise their thoughts, and when the topic at hand is viewed as sensitive. Therefore, design thinking would enable you to discover the existing and potential problems that your consumers are facing by observing real consumer behaviour, thereby allowing you to come up with relevant solutions.


Moreover, design thinking allows you to transcend dominant ways of thinking in order to develop innovative solutions, a skill that is extremely valuable in our VUCA world. We get to solve our clients’ problems by using design thinking so as to avoid Falling in Love with our First Idea. Hence, design thinking empowers us to go beyond our traditional ways of thinking to come up with creative solutions through a fresh perspective.


💡How to Effectively Execute Design Thinking?

Now that you have an idea of what design thinking is and why it works, we will walk you through the various phases of the design thinking process and deep dive into the very first stage: Frame a Question.


1️⃣ Frame a question

As a leader, it’s important for you to ask triggering questions that would inspire your team to put themselves in the shoes of the end user. By doing so, you wouldn’t feel the need to have all the right answers and it would also enable your team to reach their maximum creative potential. Asking thought-provoking questions would help your team to broaden their perspective, thus accelerating your digital and business transformation.


If you wish to uncover the deepest, darkest desires of your consumers, you would have to keep asking why. Probing further into the behaviours of your end user would allow you to come up with a solution that’s more innovative and targeted to their needs. A good way to frame your question would be to follow the Goldilocks principle. If your question is too abstract, there might be insufficient context given to guide your team towards the right direction. On the contrary, if your question is too specific, it might not inspire your team to think out of the box. Hence, it’s crucial for you to strike a good balance between the two so that your team will have the bandwidth to explore and think up innovative solutions.


2️⃣ Gather inspiration

In this phase of the design thinking process, you would first have to collect the relevant data from your consumers through careful observation of their behaviours. Once you have gathered this information, you should synthesise the data by constructing the customer journey and building customer personas. Finally, it’s critical that you draw meaningful and actionable insights from the above. You might even uncover surprising discoveries from these findings such as the unaddressed pains and opportunities of your consumers.


3️⃣ Generate ideas

It is commonplace for people to adopt a convergent mindset and come to a decision based on just one or two ideas. However, if you embrace a divergent mindset and generate a great deal of diverse possible solutions, you will have a larger pool of ideas to explore and choose from, thereby allowing you to step beyond the obvious and come up with more impactful solutions. Here at VK Transformation, we find it extremely effective to ask “How Might We” questions which have the potential to spark productive ideation sessions, leading to innovative campaign ideas.


4️⃣ Make ideas tangible & test to learn

In the last (but certainly not the least) stage of the design thinking process, you have to tangibilise and test your ideas. We can’t stress enough the importance of prototyping and testing as doing so would allow you to gather useful feedback from the relevant stakeholders, thereby enabling you to validate assumptions, improve on your idea, and to refine and recalibrate the business model. At VK Transformation, we frequently utilise a combination of our bespoke Business Model Transformation and design thinking frameworks to pivot or expand our clients’ businesses.


Stay tuned for more nuggets of knowledge on the remaining phases of design thinking in the upcoming weeks! VK Transformation has successfully transformed B2B and B2C brands using design thinking. Chat with us here: https://www.vktransformation.com/contact-us to learn more about how we can help you accelerate your business model, digital branding, marketing and sales transformation.


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