Brainstorming the Design Thinking way

No idea is a stupid idea

In the world of uncertainties, the one thing that is constant is ‘change’. To strive for change there is a constant need to innovate. Innovation doesn’t just happen by chance, it needs right amount of effort to be pitched in the right quantity at the right time. Maintaining the right balance is the key. A slight offset can jeopardize the equilibrium leading to the failure of the product.

Professionals today are challenged with changing the status quo. Innovation was important but came quite late in the product lifecycle. The requirement before was to identify customer’s utility and develop a product around it. But that approach has now been replaced with identifying customer’s latent need which moves him up the Maslow’s hierarchy; the need to make the customer feel special. This attempt to move towards appealing to the customer’s emotional wants requires much more than just innovative thinking, it requires Design Thinking.

Design thinking, not too long ago, was left to the experts with a creative bent of mind and in the most casual of environments. But today this is becoming a part of the company’s culture which requires even the most inexperienced office colleague to be actively contributing towards the development of the product. This shift in the culture is being driven across the industries -from the big corporate giants to the mushrooming start ups.

Source: http://blog.readytomanage.com/design-thinking-centered-leadership/

Now let’s answer the 5W1H (What, Who, When, Where, Why and How) of this concept…

What is Design Thinking?

Tim Brown, CEO IDEO defines design thinking as a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibility of technology and the requirements of business success.

Source: http://www.ideou.com/pages/design-thinking

Here the main focus is given to the emotional connect with the product’s end user. Each value proposition is weighed against the emotional resonance it has with the customer and the ideas that survives through the tough test of time and the harsh yet constructive criticism from fellow participants sees the light of the day. These ideas include and not limited to product features, product design, GTM strategies, operations, supply chain efficiency and sales.

Who needs to be a part of this?

A design thinking workshop requires stakeholders responsible for product’s success from diverse background bringing in ideas and expertise from their respective fields, the diverse the better. These set of people need to come with open mindset, ready to have their ideas turned down while encouraging the wildest of suggestion that theoretically might seem improbable.

When to have these workshops?

The earlier the better. Every brainstorming session must be conducted the ‘Design Thinking’ way.

These session can happen at any point in time for any business problem at hand. These steps are iterative in nature and should be baked in as a culture in the team. Right when you are brainstorming for the product design to identifying various route to market to coming up with potential strategies to combat product failure.

Where to have these workshops?

Ideal place should be a closed conference room with adequate space for brain storming. There should be enough room to facilitate free thinking. The room should be stacked with enough stationery items like Stick notes, markers, chart papers, pens, highlighters, etc.

Why Design Thinking?

Much has already been said about why to move into this novel concept in the professional world. This culture promotes confluence of ideas from different facets of the organization coming together. Be it the fresh approach from the relatively inexperienced ones to the pragmatic theories from the experience ones. It encourages ownership and accountability across levels. And most importantly the openness with which these meetings are conducted fosters a healthy team bonding, where the entire team work towards the unified goal of business successes.

How are these meetings conducted?

Now we come to the most important part

Source: http://www.uvm.edu/~ekorsuns/design-thinking/
  1. First thing first is to the identify the pain point of the customer. Put yourself in your customers’ shoe to identify all the problems and potential latent needs.
  2. Next is to define the business problem. It is only after identifying customer’s need will you be able to identify the business problem. This would set course for the rest of the discussion.
  3. Here comes the most important steps — Ideate. Each one has to come up with multiple ideas to tackle the problem. Best thing would be to pen down even the craziest of suggestion. In such meeting there is no thing as a stupid idea. Every one should have the freedom to express themselves freely and openly without any boundaries.
  4. After having discussed through all ideas, the best one is chosen and is then taken forward to be implemented. But before that it is important to develop wireframes/ prototypes for the idea. Lots of tools exist today to help develop these prototype. It typically is dependent upon the situation and the budget at hand that would decide the platform.
  5. Once the prototype has been built, the next step would be to test the prototype. It could be tested through multiple ways, i.e. either with a sample set or by an A/B test, etc. End result is a ‘Go’ or a ‘No-Go’. If its a ‘Go’, we go ahead with the plan of action as discussed during the meeting and if its a ‘No-Go’, we are back to square one. It is very important to understand that some time the ideas might fail and we should be absolutely okay with it. What is more important is to incorporate the feedback that was collected in the process and repeat the entire process all over again.

This sums up the basics of Design Thinking. It is very important for each one of us to appreciate this shift in the industry and start imbibing them in our daily behavior. We should move from being task-oriented towards being goal — oriented. Always prioritize customer’s needs over anything else. This need not be specific to a product set-up. Same principles apply to a service or a solutioning industry as well. Adoption of these principles might not be easy but if done effectively will leave the customer ‘Wowed’.

Source: HBR article — https://hbr.org/2015/09/design-thinking-comes-of-age