Design Thinking: A Useful Tool for Entrepreneurs and Small Businesses
I assumed design thinking was just a buzzword that some people were using to sound smart.
What is design thinking?
Design thinking is a global development mindset that’s a tool for decision makers to develop products, services, processes, and organizations for a better quality of life for individuals and communities. The process aims to answer a long-term question, based on what’s needed at the current time and the future, not what’s convenient or practical. In practice, it’s seen as an approach that demands a sustainable approach to the design of new products, services, processes and organizations. Now, if you’re not familiar with the term design thinking, you’re in good company. In fact, most people aren’t, according to Richard Baraniuk, author of Designing for Impact: A Handbook of Design Thinking. He states in a 2014 TEDx talk: “Designers haven’t explained why they do things the way they do.
The process of design thinking
Design thinking is a design strategy used by startups, big companies and established organizations to create value. It’s a process that is used to come up with innovative solutions to meet business challenges, implement them, measure the effects and then iterate based on customer feedback. The most impressive part is that this is not new. Mark Wilson, CEO of Zipline Aerospace, recognized the importance of designing and innovation in the business world and decided to work on a course called ‘design thinking’. Zipline is a startup that makes drones that are able to deliver life-saving medicine to remote regions. To do this, Wilson designed a design process from the ground up that involved all the necessary disciplines.
Design thinking as a tool for business
At the fifth Annual Five O’Clock Club on Innovation that took place in San Francisco, a series of panels focused on design thinking in small business and entrepreneurship. In particular, panelists discussed design thinking in entrepreneurship and how it could benefit any business. Panelists included Roger Martin, a professor of management at the University of Toronto. He is also the Chairman of the University’s Rotman School of Management. Dr. Martin has many notable achievements including serving on the council of the Prime Minister of Canada and the president of the World Economic Forum. He also has many awards and was named one of Canada’s 25 most influential people in 2013. He talked about the role of design thinking and its impacts on businesses.
Design thinking as a way of life
Imagine, instead, that you come to business after having spent years in industry, having worked in hardware and software design. Having to design products for the benefit of customers, instead of the benefit of companies or designers, in order to keep a job. Or imagine that you work in the building industry and have to try to invent, for your client, a product that solves their building problems, rather than developing a bespoke piece of their product based on their needs. Or consider a startup in a developing nation, where you don’t have access to big business resources and can’t afford to pay consultants to test your product. With these experiences in mind, what is it you’re trying to do? You’re trying to make a difference for people. You’re trying to change a business or industry.
I’ve recently learned that it’s an actual thing, and it’s incredibly useful for entrepreneurs and small businesses to get creative, make something that people want and then market it for a profit. So let’s do that. Here are some ideas I found useful for Design Thinking at both a high level and an in-depth design level. Design Thinking 101: The Basics Starting with the basics of Design Thinking is a good way to start. What does it involve? The process involves looking at customers as individuals and understanding what drives their behaviors and passions. Most importantly, what drives their desires and what they don’t like. If you can understand these two aspects of customers, then you’ve got a great starting place.