Launch Your Startup Right with Design Thinking

The following two-part series will introduce the principles of human-centered design thinking, and how this approach can help develop solutions for the challenges we face as creatives and entrepreneurs.

Unbeknownst to many, there’s a new mode of thinking within startups thanks to two major movements: the Lean Startup methodology and the Design Thinking approach. Both movements have a relentless focus on the end-user and customer feedback. When many existing businesses base their decisions strictly on numbers, it’s easy to become disconnected from what really matters — the people. Here, we’ll take a look at how successful businesses are built on innovative design that draws from a deep understanding of people.

In an era of startups, how do you ensure your product or service stands out from the competition? To truly propel your business to success, one must understand people and their decision process, as it is the jumping-off point. The d.school at Stanford University emphasizes that design must address important questions related to real people: What does our audience actually want? What does it really need? How can we empower it to overcome the most insurmountable challenges? Asking the right questions, at the right time, will also help minimize costly mistakes.

People-focused design thinking doesn’t just help solve real problems — it also has an impact on your bottom line. A Harvard Business Review article highlights the accomplishments of design-centric businesses through a Design Value Index. The Index reveals “15 rigorously-selected companies…[that] institutionally understand the value of design beat the S&P average by 228% over the last 10 years.”

The companies used in this index met the following criteria:

  • publicly traded in the U.S. for 10+ years,
  • deployment of design as an integrated function across the entire enterprise,
  • evidence that design investments and influence are increasing,
  • clear reporting structure and operating model for design,
  • experienced design executives at the helm directing design activities, and
  • tangible senior leadership-level commitment for design.

In order to achieve this level of design-led success, you first need to define your purpose. This is an embodiment that answers the questions we started out with earlier. It could be a complex brand manifesto stating the values you stand for and how you intend to champion them or as standard as a mission statement. Regardless of the shape it takes, you need to know what your purpose is and how to communicate it.

Also, by establishing your company’s purpose from the get-go, it will help establish brand equity and communicate its true value. As a result, all of the positive associations and awareness that you’re driving will be captured by the brand. Think Nike. Think Uber. This is imperative because it impacts…

Customer Loyalty

By breaking down the series of thought processes, we can determine how to go about establishing a loyal customer base from the start.

Through price and quality design, you can also achieve:

Cognitive Loyalty — A short-term focus on the costs and benefits of the product.

This is a short-term gain, of course, one that can be undermined by price discounts or slick advertising from your competitors. To gain a truly sticky customer base, the research shows a product must evoke something deeper.

Action Loyalty — An attitude accompanied by the intent to take action — the person will seek out their brand over the alternatives, even when the product costs significantly more in terms of effort or finance.

This type of loyalty can only be evoked by your brand. Keep in mind, brand includes design, user experience, advertising and all other points of contact people have with it. These connections are the things that move person’s loyalty from the fickle cognitive stage, competing on price, to the Action Loyalty stage where your competitors aren’t even considered. Every one of these connections, whether it be product design, logo or even the website’s tone should be working towards consistently building brand’s equity — the lasting resonance associated with the brand.

You may notice that the top design-oriented companies (the ones we swooned over in the collection/illustration) are also commonly known for something else — high levels of brand equity. Apple. Coca-Cola. Starbucks. They all lead with design thinking resulting in lasting brand equity. With that brand equity in hand, they compel the sort of loyalty you want — Action Loyalty.

The next part of the series will address your challenges as a startup and how design thinking is a viable solution.

Sources

Solving Problems for Real World, Using Design — NY Times Design Can Drive Exceptional Returns for Shareholders — HBR


Originally published at skyrocket.is on June 13, 2015.