How do you plan to keep your business ahead of the curve and continuously remain relevant to your customers’ needs? The answer: innovate.
In the words of former Apple CEO Steve Jobs, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” But how does one achieve innovation in your business? Or better yet, how does one become inherently innovative? “The most secure source of new ideas that have true competitive advantage, and hence, higher margins, is customers’ unarticulated needs,” says Darden School of the University of Virginia Strategy Professor Jeanne Liedtka.
The path to innovation begins with developing an appreciation of customers’ unmet or unarticulated needs. Here design thinking emerges as a driver of innovation through its emphasis on a good understanding of the problem; a deep sensitivity to stakeholders needs; and a willingness to experiment, learn and refine. Design-led organisations such as Apple, Coca-Cola, IBM, Nike, Procter & Gamble and Whirlpool, have all used design thinking to differentiate themselves and become industry leaders through gaining an intimate understanding of what it is that their customers really want/need.
What is design thinking?
Design thinking is a co-creative, collaborative process that helps people and organisations become more creative and innovative by applying design principles, approaches, and tools to problem-solving. It has become essential to effective strategy development and organisational change. In an organisational context, design thinking often drives innovation through customer as well as employee engagement which helps to refine concepts, reduce wastage, cost and time to market. It improves performance and changes organisational culture to create a more collaborative, inclusive and effective workplace.
Here’s how you can apply design thinking techniques in your organisation to become more innovative:
Focus on user needs: Start with the world of users. Develop a deep understanding of your customers by understanding the hopes, fears and goals that motivate them. Develop all offers and solutions with the user in mind and involve them in prototyping and idea generation.
Experiment: Test and try things out iteratively. Test ideas and solutions as soon as possible to obtain user feedback. Don’t fear failure, encourage risk taking.
Diversify: Diversify your teams by incorporating individuals with different perspectives and from different fields. Create room for different personalities, and hire individuals with different backgrounds and of different ages.
Don’t jump to solutions before understanding the problem: Widen, challenge and reframe the problem. Repeatedly question and reformulate the initial problem until you have a crystal clear understanding of it; identifying a larger problem space helps create a larger solution space.
Visualise and prototype: Make ideas tangible through low resolution visual representations. Use rapid prototyping to test out your ideas quickly and cheaply in order to get feedback and learn.
Design thinking isn’t just a process for innovation, it is a way of doing business and creating value for customers and employees alike, it is a great approach to problem solving and certainly worth a try.
As one of the more niche management consulting firms in South Africa, we pride ourselves on solving complex business challenges powerfully and efficiently with our tried and proven partnered approach and methodologies.
Does your business need someone to help you become more innovative, let us apply design thinking techniques to help get you there? Get in touch to find out how we can assist you in this process.