Design Thinking

Imagine you are asked to help invent a new product. You have a brief that describes what the product should do, what it should cost and roughly how it might look. What do you do next?

At IDEO, the west coast design firm they would probably throw away the brief.

In the book  Change by Design by Tim Brown, the IDEO CEO outlines a process that focuses on the complete human experience not just the finished product when they work with a client. They want to understand how real humans interact with a product or service to understand it from lots of perspectives. They call this Design Thinking (not just design). 

Once the IDEO team was asked to help re engineer a train and instead of focusing on the engine, the track or the train, they went much further back in the process to see how people engage and interact before stepping on board. They want to experience “the train experience” not just riding the train. The engagement of buying the tickets, waiting in line and so on are all part of what Brown calls design thinking. Design thinking converts need into a demand.

Design thinking takes a product and turns it into the journey of your experience using it.

I started reading Change by Design to learn more about the firm who has always interested me. This summer, I have invited them to speak at an upcoming marketing conference in the wine industry called The Exchange. With a client base as broad as Google, Mattel, Pixar, Procter and Gamble, Mayo Clinic and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, their way of thinking about design and products can bring some fresh insights into a traditional industry like wine. Their multi-discipline approach to solving problems can enrich how our industry thinks about creation, bottling and consumption of wine.

Four core ideas from the book:

HUMAN NEED IS THE START: Design starts with humans beyond just where to put the buttons. What motivation or aspiration drives a need?

LEARNING BY MAKING: Building (prototypes) to help us think. The faster we do that the faster the ideas evolve.

SHIFTING FROM PASSIVE RELATIONSHIP TO ACTIVE: How does value beyond cash and objects and move to include the human experience.

DESIGN IS TOO IMPORTANT TO LEAVE TO DESIGNERS: Nurses and practitioners helped at Kaiser Permanente improve the way a shift change occurred for nurses. The new approach involves exchanging information in front of the patient and significantly impacted patient care all through a new design thinking approach.

Wide View
The big idea for businesses (large and small) is addressing innovation and problem solving from a wider perspective with the input of many stakeholders. If your companies is designing a product or service offering and are only getting input early on from internal stakeholders, something is flawed. But if you are involving fast movers or early adapters, you can start to truly leverage the power of a bigger group with broader experiences to help solve the right problem. And when that larger group has different proximity to a product, you enrich the input to understand the opportunities. 

I like this style of collaborative thinking and this book is instructive in explain how powerful DESIGN THINKING can be. I’d urge you to get a copy and listen to Tim Brown’s Ted talk on the topic. 

At IDEO, they have an expression, TOGETHER WE ARE SMARTER THAN ANY ONE OF US. Not a bad attitude for any company to embrace. 

Notes: When I'm not reading innovative marketing books, I am trying to unravel the mysteries of marketing. I wrote about IDEO once before in discussing the toy company that wanted a rocket that could go higher. You can read about it here. (Are you asking the right questions?) Won't you share my blog posts with a marketing friend? 


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