Adapting in Business
Authored by: Lindsey Goldstein, Creative Director
How Brands are Switching to Design Thinking
There are two factors any company needs to succeed – growth and innovation. Sounds pretty straight forward, right? However, those who have been responsible for managing these objectives are probably experiencing a mini-panic attack thinking about it. Business growth and innovation can cause a stressful environment, one which places a mountain of pressure over your head to produce the next great idea. Traditionally, brands tend to look backward and analyze data of what’s been done in the past before focusing on how they can improve. There isn’t anything wrong with evaluating the past, but this methodology has one gleaming error – it doesn’t shed light on what your customers don’t know. For example, people didn’t know they needed an app that would send a complete stranger to their exact location to give them a ride, but Uber created that, and now we can’t imagine life without this transportation convenience. Uber, however, wasn’t conceived after doing customer polls to identify a need for an app. Instead, they used a methodology that Professor Jeanne Liedtka at Darden School of Business calls, “design thinking.”
What’s Design Thinking?
Design thinking is a way of problem-solving that mixes left-brain creativity with right-brain analytics. It is important to note that creativity, in this context, does not refer to how well you can draw a giraffe or even master Photoshop. Here, it refers to brainstorming new ways of doing things to impact the customer journey or customer perception in a positive way. So how do you start with finding new ways to help your customer? It begins with empathy. Putting yourself in the customers’ shoes and understanding the complete scope of user interaction with your brand help create a human-centered approach to problem-solving. Empathy is at the core of what design thinking is all about. It plays a role in each part of the process and should always be at the forefront of every decision. With this in mind, image yourself as the customer. What is their first impression of your brand? How might they discover your brand? How would they go about ordering something on your website? Review different scenarios and the actions a loyal or potential customer might take.
Next, identify challenges your customers may be facing during their experience. What is the obstacle preventing them from purchasing a product? What is the pain point during this journey? What is going through their mind when they walk past your store? The best way to define the current landscape of the customer journey is asking “what is?” By defining the “what is,” your team can then ask the question, “what if?” In a design thinking process, this next phase is all about ideation. The “what if” prompt often helps transition the conversation of what it is today to what it could be tomorrow. Approaching ideation or brainstorms this way may assist with bringing multiple solutions to the problem because let’s face it, there isn’t a “one size fits all” answer to achieving growth and innovation. Don’t fall victim to wasting time trying to figure out the one answer that will change everything. Instead, leave it open-ended and hear out all options. Brainstorm thousands of “what if” questions, then as a group, narrow the list down till you are faced with 1-5 ideas that you wish to explore further.
This exercise is exactly how P&G revolutionized the mundane task of floor cleaning. “Historically, product developers focused on improving the detergents used to clean floors. With the help of design thinking, they asked the basic question: what is the job to be done? This resulted in an important insight: What the customers really wanted was cleaner floors, which could be achieved through means other than better detergents—a better mop.” Thus, leading to the billion-dollar brand and best-seller, the Swiffer. (Batten Briefing, January 2015 @The Darden School Foundation; Resource Link)
The last phase of design thinking is prototyping and testing. Going back to the Uber example, consumers might not know they need something until they see it in action. Take what your team developed in the ideation phase and create it. If it is an app, develop a beta-version for testing. If it’s a product, mock-up a prototype that can be used. If it’s a service, roll it out to a small sample of people. Design thinking enables you to take risks at a small scale because at the end of the day, the only way you know you hit a jackpot idea is seeing how it affects your audience in real life.
What’s the Benefit?
Overall, design thinking provides a framework on how to grow and innovate, allowing your business to adapt to new challenges and obstacles that impact the customer journey. IDEO adds that design thinking is “relying on the human ability to be intuitive, to recognize patterns, and to construct ideas that are emotionally meaningful as well as functional.” Furthermore, Professor Jeanne Liedtka states, “the most secure source of new ideas that have true competitive advantage, and hence, higher margins, is customers’ unarticulated needs. Customer intimacy – a deep knowledge of customers and their problems – helps to uncover those needs.”
How Do We Use It?
At MonkeyTag, design thinking is how we approach a lot of our work. For example, we had a client who was looking to modify their sales training process. Our team put ourselves in the field sales managers shoes by conducting a focus group to discover the ins-and-outs on how they were introduced and educated on new products launches. Through this exercise, we were able to define the complications with how information was being communicated, which was primarily printed collateral materials. These struggles included lag-time for materials traveling through the mail, issues distributing content with sales staff, and frustrations surrounding organization and housing collateral materials in a way that would be readily available to sales staff. The solve of all of the field sales managers’ woes – create a digital platform for all product materials. This would allow our client to update product launch information in real-time, in addition to hosting information on all previous launches.
Last year, our team went through the prototyping, testing, and launch of the new website, which was a huge success. Field sales managers now have one place for all materials, and better yet, have even more education materials than were previously shared, including how-to videos, product messaging, and promotions details. We continue to review the functionality of the website to discover ways to improve the experience with each new product launch – always starting with how our audience interacts with the site to strategize what’s next.
As technology evolves, peoples’ perceptions change, or as your company is looking to make its next big move, design thinking will put you in place to adapt better and more efficiently. Design thinking enables you to pivot your business strategy to align with current trends or face unidentified barriers of entry, and more importantly, it improves customer experience. We at MonkeyTag foresee the design thinking methodology picking up even more steam in 2019 as brands look for new ways to innovate. It has influenced how we currently approach client problems and provide creative solutions. For us, the unknown is not intimidating, but a challenge worth exploring.