Business Design — The Next Corporate Buzzword?

So, what exactly is Business Design? Is it designing businesses? Well, not exactly.

Business Design at its core, is a human-centered design approach that can bring added value to businesses.

After twelve weeks of business design exposure, I have learned the following three key personal discoveries that I believe anyone intrigued by the topic should be aware of:

1. Unpacking User Needs.

In a world full of companies thriving to create new solutions and ideas, we often question what is an invention or innovation? Inventions are creations of unique ideas while innovations are applying and using that idea. These two words are often used interchangeably; however, innovation is what makes the idea worth a billions dollars. After all, what is so exciting about an idea if it can’t be adopted into our lives?

We often see big companies and startups trying to come up with the most extravagant solution for their users, but does that really meet their users’ need? For instance, do you need something that wakes you up or gets you out of the bed in the morning to avoid oversleeping? Needs last longer than any specific solution as our underlying needs continue to exist while the solutions become obsolete over time. Many companies have for too long focused on crafting a solution rather than understanding what their users need and why.

To be as innovative as Clocky, companies need to unpack and go above and beyond the surface level questions about their users’ needs. This then brings us to the next section: Ask Away!

2. Ask Away!

Once companies have some basic understanding of the need or problem that their users are facing, the next step involves deeper questions like “Why are they doing this?" and “What motivates this behaviour?” These were probably the trickiest question that my team and I had to get to the roots of before doing anything else for our corporate project.

Now, there are some methods to answer these questions. One of them is observational research which requires one to be very keen-eyed on field. The researcher needs to observe a user’s environment at least two times to really understand the intuitive behaviour of the users which we might have ignored otherwise.

Image for post
Image for post
Figure 2: Fitting Room at a Clothing Store.

For my project, I visited a clothing store to understand my users’ spending habits. At first, I couldn’t find anything that stood out, but after a while I noticed something peculiar about the fitting rooms. What is the purpose of a fitting room? I thought it was pretty self-explanatory: trying out clothes to make sure they fit you. I then realized the obvious answer is not the only purpose. Fitting rooms serve as a validation tool to confirm any purchase. If you haven’t noticed, many fitting rooms now have a seating area where your friends and family can wait. Since we trust our network of friends and family, their advice and opinion greatly shapes our decision-making process. With their affirmation, you are more likely to make a purchase. I was able to extract this understanding by asking myself multiple questions and being empathetic to the individuals I observed.

3. Are There Different Versions of Your Problem?

Another version of the very problem stated above is: Are you solving the right problem? The process of reframing a problem is very similar to unpacking user needs in the sense that one is continuously redefining the problem statement in order to prototype the right solutions. Through empathy interviews, one can dig deeper to understand the pain points of their users in their own words by probing them with the “So, what?” and leaving the questions open-ended.

IKEA’s problem reframing is a simple example to highlight a new perspective of the problem. Both the problem statements are correct; however, the second statement is a much better problem to solve as it is more cost effective and essentially revolutionized IKEA’s business model. By spending more time on the problem reframing, solutions are not only easy to come by, but they almost always improve your business and leave an impactful footprint.

In conclusion, business design thinking creates opportunities for competitive advantage by focusing on the user. Defining their needs and problems through repeated cycles of the process allow for converging to a solution that is widely acceptable and desired by the users.

4th Year Rotman Commerce Student at the University of Toronto

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store