How to Re-Energise Your Teams With Design Thinking

Are your teams stuck in a rut? It’s not unlikely given the ongoing monotony of lockdown. So why not kick-start some innovation by introducing them to the design thinking process?

Great design doesn’t just apply to products. It affects the entire user experience, from store layouts to software interfaces and instruction manuals. Design thinking is a process that teaches engineers to think less like engineers, and more like designers, placing the focus on the user rather than the tech. Follow these 5 steps to bring design thinking into your team and get them re-energised:

1) Empathise

Who is your new product or service for? Design thinking always begins with the user. This seems obvious, but it’s incredible how often a team starts working on innovation from the engineering viewpoint. A genuine effort to understand your customer’s problems will automatically release empathy and a desire to solve them. But you can only really understand your customers’ problems by walking in their shoes.

Get your teams asking the right questions, such as: “how easy is it to use our product?”, or “what are my customer’s pain points?”, and then see for yourselves by visiting your own store or website, or using your own software or systems to find out. Even if the experience is excellent, your team will suddenly see possibilities for new products or applications.

One more crucial point about this stage: get every member of the team to do the testing, not just the customer-facing people. The financial controller, the IT developer, the legal compliance person – everyone. Set up collaboration areas on your intranet so staff have a dedicated space to share their feedback. Upload documents, videos, and notes as well to get a completely rounded idea of the issues your customers may be facing.

Create collaboration areas on your intranet to collect feedback


2) Define

Accurately defining the problem is a critical stage. Look at the feedback your teams uncovered – what are the actual issues? Trace things backwards. In a service business, there may be bottlenecks in an application process. Are these down to system issues or resource issues? With products, perhaps they fail in certain circumstances, or maybe competitor products just look better. Get the issues defined clearly. Go back to the customers and ask them, “have we understood what your issues and challenges are? Would you change the way we put this, or is there anything to add?”

3) Ideate

Now it’s time to brainstorm. Again, digital workplace software can be a real help, especially for dispersed or remote teams. Encourage all team members to contribute and allow enough time for everyone to think. Capture all the designs in one place (those collaboration areas you set up earlier would be a good start) and again, allow enough time for ideas to percolate. Be open to any and all ideas, and be creative in how you could solve them.

Capture ideas and encourage creativity across all teams with collaboration areas


4) Develop prototypes

Once you have looked at all the possibilities, resist the temptation to decide on one and start developing. Instead, focus on a few and develop some quick prototypes. These can be models or diagrams at this stage; the important thing is to ensure that your customers or users can understand them. Again, be open-minded at this stage and avoid putting any blockers in the way.

5) Test

Now’s the time to take your prototypes out to the market, and try them out on your customers. You can do this in different ways, depending on the nature of your business and the product or service you’re testing. For example, some companies have communities of heavy users who are happy to try new things, and others approach individual customers for their honest feedback. The idea is to see if your solution has solved the pain point you identified in step one. Marissa Mayer, VP at Google, is an advocate for this process:

The Googly thing is to launch [products] early on Google Labs and then iterate, learning what the market wants — and making it great. The beauty of experimenting in this way is that you never get too far from what the market wants. The market pulls you back.

Testing will often fail, but that’s good – it gives you an opportunity to learn. Go back to prototyping, or even to ideation, and try again. Then test again. Continue until something works, and only then take it forward into the formal product development process.

Design thinking is a refreshing way of approaching problem solving, and may be just what your teams need to feel re-energised and get motivated!

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