The Design Thinking Approach to Business
Updated: May 19
How to consciously create meaningful products and services for customers’ needs
When you view your business through the eyes of a customer, what do you see? That is what a design thinking approach to business is all about–creating ideas to address customers’ unique needs and desires; everything is viewed through a human-centric lens.
A design thinking approach goes beyond thinking about the product or service itself and asks what the human need is behind what’s being offered. This deeper level of thinking is central to entrepreneurs and businesses that want to generate bold and innovative ideas. A successful business is successful because it adequately serves people by providing a solution to their wants and needs. The entire design thinking approach is interactive–you want to be in constant awareness of your target market and their changing needs.
The following prompts are a guideline for integrating the design thinking approach into your business.
Want or Need
They will help you stay conscious of the target audience and how to best serve them throughout the innovation process.
Who is your target audience?
In order to best serve your audience, you must first understand them. Clearly identify your client/customer base. This includes narrowing down the demographics of the group as well as observing them and their behaviors. Why do these people behave in the way that they do? What problems are they experiencing? Why are things the way that they are? What is working well, what is not working well, and why? Inquiring with an open perspective and learner’s mindset will help you better understand the world at large and how you and your business can contribute to it in a truly meaningful way.
What do they want or need?
To fully understand people, you must know their wants and needs–what drives them? What problems stand in the way? These two questions are the heart of the design thinking approach. Get to really know people; talk to your target audience. Conduct user interviews. Gather as much information as possible. When you know what people desire as well as clearly defined roadblocks that are in the way of achieving those desires, you can find and offer those solutions.
What is the problem you want to solve?
Reflect on your observations to gain clarity about the specific problem you wish to solve. What common themes do you see? Group and cluster like-ideas. Then, synthesize the information–this process will help you identify the most prominent problem that needs to be addressed. While you may want to, you can’t solve all customers’ problems. Center your energy on one impactful issue; do one thing well versus tackling multiple solutions. The end goal of this phase of the design thinking approach is to convert the defined problem into a tangible, human-centered statement, rather than focusing on technology, monetary returns, or specifics of a product. Remember, it’s about the people you want to help!
What are the possible solutions?
You know your target audience, their wants, needs, and the obstacles that they face, now it’s time to ideate solutions. Brainstorm, think creatively. There are infinite solutions to solving any problem. Design thinking is creative problem-solving, and it’s at its best in this stage. Challenge yourself to think outside of the box. How can you solve the issue innovatively? How can you best serve the people in need?
How can you give your idea legs?
Take your top idea(s) from ideation and design a prototype; bring it to life. A digital or physical prototype springboards you from ideation to the material realm of reality. Creating a scaled-down version of the solution in question allows you to get feedback from users in your target market–critical to maintaining a design thinking approach. You will identify the solution best suited to solve the problem through trial-and-error.
How do customers feel about your product?
Test the solution(s) by sharing your prototype with consumers and get their feedback. It is an essential opportunity to make sure that everything about your idea is centered around the people who will be using it. Both positive and negative feedback is valuable here–use the information to flush out the details of your design and refine it as needed. Listening to the feedback is how you build the best prototype possible and ensures that the final product you launch is aligned with your target market’s needs and desires.
Your intention for business changes when you view it through the lens of the customer.
The end-user is top-of-mind and informs every decision that you make when you are focused on serving them. The design thinking approach is a powerful mindset that will transform your business and, in turn, the world around you. We contribute to a better world when we authentically serve others