22 Oct 2018

The Power Of Design Thinking

Article  Design
main post

Design thinking places the customer as the focal point of any solution/product or redesign, it seeks to answer questions regarding the pain points of the customer and how the business can empathize with customers by delving deep into their needs and by coming up with innovative solutions to those needs, this is the very core of design thinking.

I first fell in love with product design when I got my first Apple MacBook Pro, there was just something about the MacBook, the ease with which I could type, the speed and security, as well as the overall aesthetic design. I knew someone somewhere must have applied the principles of design thinking in its creation.

Being a creative person, I always have been fascinated with design, the quest to better understand design and how it works has led into a deeper understanding and appreciation of design thinking and its ramifications and impact on businesses. My first real appreciation of design was one of seeing design as solving problems, even complex ones.

Many of us, however, cannot differentiate between design and design thinking, whilst design is a craft of deep specialized skills often comprising, visual design, interactive design, motion and experience design, design thinking on the other hand is a process or methodology that is applicable to all industries and that is focused on creating new and innovative ideas to solving existing problems that has the customer as the central focus, this new thinking can result in new products or services, improved processes and productivity for internal operations or improved user/customer experience.

A classic example of design thinking that is well known and relatable is from Airbnb, the online marketplace that enables people list or rent short term lodgings. In 2009, the company was earning $200 a week, leveraging human centered insights, the company was able to narrow down to a specific problem, people were not renting properties because almost all of the rental listings had poor quality images.

The solution: several team members flew over to New York and took their own high quality rental images, the result was a 100% increase in revenue, the team was able to leverage design thinking methodology in asking the hard question what does the customer really need and how can our product provide that solution to customers. Today we still see those same mistakes happening within our real estate industry in Nigeria, where a N500M house in Banana Island is listed using crappy mobile phone images with very low resolutions.

Another example I personally like to argue with the team over at the agency as an application of design thinking methodology is happening along the stretch of road from Berger all the way to Ikoyi exit on third mainland bridge. 80% of our agency’s clients work on the Island. My everyday route for meetings and strategy sessions with clients is through the third mainland bridge from the office in Ikeja, as everyone recognizes, this route is notorious for traffic snarls especially during peak times in the mornings and after close of business in the evenings.

The biggest problem causing traffic on this route is the commercial bus driver who picks up and drops off passengers indiscriminately on the highway causing slowdowns during these periods. The current administration applying elements of design thinking, has designed and built special bus park exits that are off the main highway, allowing for a smooth flow of traffic at all major bottlenecks along that stretch of road. Whilst some may argue that this is more of a user experience design or human centred design solution, I say if it allows me get to and from the island in record time, cutting my commute time in half and making me more useful and productive then i’d say this is a solution that has design thinking principles and that has focused on the users of that stretch of road because when collective productivity increases then it benefits the state government in terms of additional revenues into its coffers.

Design thinking can be used anywhere and in all industries because at its core is a focus on customer problems and the most effective solution to address it, whilst this may seem to be a no-brainer, you’d be shocked how many businesses and brands today take little or no focus on the customer or bring empathy into the decision making process. We’ve all seen the viral video of the teacher who uses handshakes to connect with his students before class, I think this is also a clear example of thinking that follows this process and addresses the problems of “how can we redesign our school systems to elevate students engagements and academic outcomes” and i think the perfect solution here will be in getting teachers to really connect with their students, either through dance, handshakes or any other activities that the kids really like.

Design thinking always leads to improved user experiences, because it analyses a particular customer pain point critically and seeks to create solutions to address those problems directly, design thinking can also result in improved processes or new products/services and its impact on businesses can be felt within teams, across different departments or company wide.

Because design thinking places the customer as the central focal point of any solution/product/redesign, etc., the outcome is a product, service or experience that delights the customer and results in a better than average adoption rate of such products. Design led organizations worldwide like Apple, Amazon, Uber etc see significant revenue increases and fierce brand loyalties as a direct result of the application of design thinking.

If you’re a marketer, strategist or CEO and you’re thinking about how to differentiate your company, services or products and you aren’t thinking about experiences and design thinking, then you’re really missing out because the design thinking methodology pushes you and your team to get to the core of customer needs and once you can achieve this, you will be creating better, deeper engagements and experiences with your products, services or marketing and this is the definition of good business, your bottom-line grows and your customers are satisfied.

As a marketer, you can leverage design thinking in a variety of ways, customer journey mapping allows you to use visual tools to map the different touch-points between your brand and the customer along different phases of the experience across multiple channels. Consumers don’t care much about channels these days instead preferring consistent brand experience wherever and however they are interacting with your brand, by understanding customer motivations, marketers can begin to map customer journeys that will be the catalyst for new products/services or just better marketing campaigns.

Central to being able to use design thinking in creating solutions to customer problems is having a design led culture in your organization, we believe these questions will help transform your organization or team into a design –led one.

Understand the Customer: This speaks to really knowing what the customer wants, their problems and challenges and then recreating products, services and interfaces that help address or solve these problems. Key Takeaway: Start by mapping the customer journey with a view to understanding what motivates them, prompts purchase or drives interactions, then use design thinking techniques to reveal customer pain points and opportunities that your brand may leverage on.

Cultivate a design-led culture: Having a design-led culture speaks to having the talent, skills and capabilities to be able to uncover opportunities as well as take advantage of those opportunities. Key Takeaway: Start by getting a Chief Design officer or a senior design professional, let this personnel oversee solutions and products in conjunction with marketing, product development etc.

Look out for our next article on design thinking where we share insights on how we helped a client apply the design thinking process across its marketing and strategy teams to uncover a long standing customer pain point and develop an innovative solution to address this problem.

At Amplify Digital we are continually learning, iterating and implementing cutting edge digital technology solutions to solve some of today’s most pressing business and marketing goals for our clients, we understand the digital landscape in Nigeria and the digital customer of today, by applying a mix of creativity, design thinking and the latest technologies we continually push the boundaries of what is achievable. Feel free to reach out to us and together we can tackle some of the biggest problems keeping you awake at night.