Success by design

Design thinking helps businesses get the most from the products, services and solutions they create. But it’s not something every firm can deploy overnight.  

We can all think of inventions that were touted as the ‘next big thing’, only to fail spectacularly. Google Glass, the Segway, the Sinclair C5, and many more.

Why did they fail? For one simple reason: they were trying to solve a problem that didn’t exist. Their inventors thought they’d find a market ready and waiting. But in reality, there was no demand for them.

Their failure suggests that they weren’t put through the rigours of design thinking.

Solving problems

Design thinking is a systematic approach to thinking about a problem and finding the best answer. It’s an effective process to follow when designing products, features, solutions and customer experiences.

The concept emerged from the scientific community in the late 1960s. It was adapted for use as a business methodology by David M. Kelley, the Stanford University professor and founder of renowned design consultancy IDEO.

Then in 2009, the IDEO approach to design thinking was formalised in the seminal book, Change by Design, by the agency’s CEO Tim Brown.

Fast forward to today. Digital giants like Uber and AirBnB use design thinking habitually when creating the appealing customer journeys they’re famous for.

The method 

The design thinking process has four distinct steps:

  1. Discover. Gather detailed insight on the problem, so as to understand it in-depth, gain fresh perspectives, and overcome cognitive bias when considering solutions.
  1. Define. Distil the findings from the Discover phase into a set of realistic hypotheses. Test these among your target users, to find out which represents the most viable solution.
  1. Develop. Begin developing the best solution from the Design Create a prototype, test it among users, and iterate it based on their feedback.
  2. Deliver: Quickly launch a minimum viable product (MVP) capable of driving value for customers and the business. Keep testing and refining this in response to user feedback.

The four steps are often depicted as a double diamond, like in the diagram above. Steps one and three require what’s known as divergent thinking. They open the process up to new information and possibilities, as you investigate the problem and create your prototype.

Conversely, steps two and four demand convergent thinking. Here, you narrow your down considerations to a solution and MVP.

Design thinking at The Unit

Design thinking isn’t a methodology that every firm can readily take advantage of. In our experience, many companies – traditional corporates in particular – lack the processes and abilities to implement it.

At The Unit, we it use routinely to resolve the customer challenges that clients ask us to help them with.

We put together multi-disciplinary teams to take our clients’ problems through the design thinking process in roughly 6-8 weeks. These teams comprise research, engineering, development, design, UX and content capabilities, with the client’s product owner overseeing the project. They may work onsite at the client’s premises, or at our offices in Brighton or London.

Using design thinking derisks the solutions we create for clients. And it ensures the maximum possible value for every pound they spend developing products and experiences.

Please get in touch if you’d like to discuss how our design thinking expertise can help your organisation.