Design is an elaborate process. More than mere aesthetic, it considers all aspects of a product and how it fits into or improves the user’s life, satisfies his wants and needs, and makes him feel. It is, above all, human. So, businesses that incorporate design-thinking into their everyday operations have a competitive edge because they put the customer first.
Here’s how you make the design-thinking process a part of your startup.
Empathise with your customer
Devin Wenig, CEO of eBay, knows the importance of this. Because he frequently bought and sold on his own e-commerce website, he saw first-hand the need to differentiate his company from Amazon. He decided to focus on personalised shopping instead of speedy delivery. Since then, eBay’s shares have gone up 11 per cent.
So, do your research so you can understand your customer and design according to his needs. Talk to people. Better yet, be your own customers. Because you are creating a product or service for people such as yourself, you have a higher chance of succeeding.
Define the problem and ideate creative solutions
Back in the day before electronic fans and air conditioners, people kept themselves cool by seeking shelter from the heat and fanning themselves with paper and leaves. To make life easier (and cooler), what they needed was not better shelters or better paper and leaves. They needed something to keep them cool in the heat. That’s called defining the problem.
Once you’ve done that, begin brainstorming for solutions. In Josh Linkner’s Disciplined Dreaming, he mentions several of the best ways to brainstorm. There is “EdgeStorming” or pushing your ideas to its extreme to defy conventional wisdom. “The Blindfold” is to brainstorm around the topic without revealing the actual project. “The Opposite” involves brainstorming by flipping the problem around completely.
Robin Chase, founder of US-based Zipcar, utilised the last method to revitalise the failing rental car business back in 2000. While the typical rental car company rented their services at airports, he opted for the heart of major cities. And while the old guard rented by the hour and charged per day, Zipcar charged monthly membership fees. They changed the game by doing the opposite and earned US$100 million of revenue in just four years.
Prototype and test them all
Next, create working prototypes and audit them. Southeast Asian ride-hailing platform, Grab, tested out new features by releasing beta versions. Customers got to try out its GrabShare and GrabHitch features, allowing it to gather valuable intel to improve the new services.
Design thinking isn’t a follow-or-fail process. Instead, think of it as three-steps-forward-two-steps-back dance. Each step is a flexible stage that can be repeated and revisited. For instance, when issues come up from the prototype stage, you might need to redefine the problem and begin brainstorming again, this time with new knowledge.
Seth Goldman, the CEO of Maryland-based Honest Tea, can testify to this. In 2001, he launched a new drink called the Harlem Honeybush that, although made by farmers he admired, had a bitter taste.
It failed miserably because his customers wanted a drink that was enjoyable. He went back to the drawing board and created a new prototype that mixed inspiration and good taste. It was the recipe for success. That’s a great design thinking.
Ideas are worth nothing if you don’t execute them. So, get out there, think design, and be prepared to make a real difference.