“Design Thinking”- Is it worth the time and effort of entrepreneurs?

As entrepreneurs, I am sure you all are well aware that selling new methodologies for improving one’s skills as an entrepreneur has become a form of entrepreneurship in itself. Some of these methodologies are well worth the investment of your time and effort, having the potential to become a key asset to your business. Others are simply creations of snake oil salesmen. After having reviewed a recent article explaining the elements of “Design Thinking,” which was developed at the Institute of Design at Stanford, I strongly feel that this methodology is the former. In order to make the most effective use of your precious time, I will explain how the meat and potatoes of this methodology can assist you in designing your next big product.


Know Your Target Demographic

One of the key components of Design Thinking is to have empathy for your target demographic. Essentially, this means learning who your target demographic is and what they want. This is accomplished in three steps: observing, engaging, and immersing. First, observing your target demographic means finding out what type of people they are and how they behave. Second, engaging takes observation a step further by actually conversing with your target demographic to determine if they are truly the right audience to design products for and, if so, identify how their worldview and emotional needs can help you design the right products for them. As the third and final step, immersing yourself means creating scenarios in which you place yourself in your target demographic’s mindset in order to stay one step ahead in designing your products.


Define Specific Needs of Your Target Demographic:

This step involves taking the information you learned about your target demographic and clearly defining their needs and your vision for addressing them. For example, in the model below, the percentage of total households with broadband internet could be indicative of widely shared needs in certain states; an entrepreneur may use this data to determine that, as a demographic group, citizens of Tennessee or South Carolina are in need of faster and more efficient internet service (which is typically what broadband provides).


Brainstorm:

After having defined the needs of your target demographic, you will need to allow all possible ideas for products to gush out. Additionally, try to think of as many innovative ideas as possible that will make your product stand out.


Testing Prototypes of Ideas:

Some of the more noteworthy ideas that resulted from the brainstorming process need to be tested in the real world in some way. At this point in the methodology, this testing will be relatively risk free, as these prototypes are only intended for the purpose of learning and narrowing down models of products. Such testing could occur without even leaving the office, as shown by the gentlemen in the GIF below who are seemingly testing out the sturdiness of their robot’s leg before proceeding further.


Testing with Your Target Demographic:

At this point, you will actually be placing your products on in the market. Unlike the earlier testing of prototypes, risk of a net gain or loss will be involved. However, you should still look to learn from your product’s results no matter the rate of sucess or failure. The manner in which your target demographic interacts with your product should influence your designing decisions for future products. The graph below represents annual sales over a period of 15 years. If, for example, during any of these given years Apple sold personal computers with multiple design features, they would be wise to take note of which features were favored with their target demographic and which were not. They could then make sure to include those features on the next generation of personal computers and even improve upon them.

Final Thoughts on Design Thinking for Entrepreneurs:

If followed correctly, the guidelines within Design Thinking act as a clear-cut blue print for sucess in designing products. With that in mind, it is why I highly recommend that every entrepreneur adopt this methodology.