Smarter innovation through Design Thinking

Research demonstrates that companies that shape products and services, in a co-creative process with their end users, can benefit from as much as a 32% higher revenue growth than their competitors, over 5 years. It’s little wonder that Design Thinking — a solution-oriented methodology, in which issues are defined directly from listening to the needs of the end user — is gaining ground. Bas van Dun and Dylan Fanego, digital strategy consultant and UX designer at iO, explain: "Sometimes the solution does not lie in the app or website that you initially had in mind".

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Five-step plan

1. Empathize with the user

In the first phase you gain insight into your users. You can get to the heart of the matter with user interviews, observations, and market research. The trick is to really immerse yourself in their world. Who are they? What do they want? What are the issues they commonly encounter?

2. Define the problem or challenge

In the second phase, you analyse the data and insights you obtained from the first phase. Clustering of themes provides a clearer picture of the issue. The original question "How do we gain 6% more market share with our healthy meal box subscriptions by the end of this year?" for example, becomes “How do we show that healthy eating is easy and affordable, so that more people subscribe to our meal boxes?"

3. Think in terms of possible solutions

In the third phase, you will identify as many solutions as possible for your problem through brainstorming sessions. At iO we often do this in multidisciplinary teams with strategists, designers, developers, and stakeholders to get the widest possible range of solutions and ideas on the table.

4. Create prototypes

In the fourth phase, the best ideas from phase 3 are made into simple prototypes. This can be, for example, creating a landing page or developing a basic page for an application or check-out.

5. Test these models

In the final phase, prototypes are subjected to user tests and feedback is collected. Where can we modify or improve the service, process, or functionality? Is it possible that you have to go back to the prototype phase? Or do you even have to go back to the define phase?

Dylan Fanego: "Ideally, these five steps are linear, but experience has taught us that this is a dynamic process, and you often need to jump back and forth between the various steps. The steps mainly offer a launch pad in terms of working method.

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Many advantages

The five-step plan of Design Thinking offers many advantages:

You reveal the question behind the question

Bas van Dun: "We notice that it's quite common that organisations lack a solid idea of what the real problem is. They come to us with the request for an app, but is that what their users need? Maybe they would prefer new functionality on the current website. Before we dive into the development process, we use Design Thinking to identify the question behind the question."

Ideas quickly become concrete prototypes

Dylan Fanego: "We don’t just stick post-it notes on the wall. We start by developing the ideas into frameworks and concepts. This means you can easily start testing with users, collect feedback and make adjustments where necessary."

You come up with stronger ideas

Bas van Dun: "Those who use Design Thinking to solve one problem often come up with more innovative ideas than those that use a traditional approach. Another benefit of this is that you work more efficiently and in a more targeted way. All this leads to taking fewer risks and the development of more usable results."

You validate ideas before you invest in development

Dylan Fanego: "In Design Thinking you empathise with users, and you know exactly what their needs, doubts, and goals are. The user tests give you the reassurance that what you are going to develop is already validated with the users."

By iterating rapidly, you learn faster

Dylan Fanego: "This is simply because of the interaction between design and validation, you learn quickly what works for users and what doesn't."

More and more popular

More entrepreneurs and businesses can see the added value of Design Thinking. A recent research report from Forrester found that executives saw improvement on several fronts. Work was completed faster, and business strategies that were coordinated better emerged. In Design Thinking 75 percent less time is spent on R&D. Another benefit is that you receive immediate feedback from the user. We also see positive results at iO. There is much less chance that you will develop a solution that does not appeal to the users, so your organisation carries less risk. Are you curious about what Design Thinking can do for your organisation? We would love to talk about this with you.

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