Prof. Dr. Christian Müller- Roterberg is a professor and lecturer in technology, management, and entrepreneurship at Ruhr West University. He heads the university's graduate program in business management. Prof. Dr. Müller-Roterberg has also been involved in a number of startups and IPOs. He is author of Handbook of Design Thinking
Everything You Need to Know About Design Thinking
IN THIS CHAPTER
Getting to know the design thinking approach
Comprehending the method
Understanding the principles
Implementing design thinking quickly
Do you want to invent something, design something, or implement something new? Design thinking offers you a method to develop innovative products, services, methods, business models, and concepts. This chapter gives you an overview of the potential, the basics, and the principles of this approach to innovation. You'll learn how to proceed with design thinking and what you must consider when carrying out the individual steps. You'll form a team and manage the collaboration; organize the project work by structuring a logical order for the tasks; assign resources; and respond flexibly to changes. You'll even learn about the importance of your work environment - from office floor plans to furnishings - when it comes to supporting the creativity of your team members.
This Is Design Thinking
Design thinking is a human-based approach to innovation that aims to establish creative ideas and effective business models by focusing on the needs of people. The basic idea behind design thinking is that you apply the approaches and methods of designers to the development of innovations (this is what the word design stands for) while also engaging in a systematic, fact-based analysis of the feasibility and economic viability of these innovations - just like what a researcher does (this is what the thinking part of the term stands for).
Designers start with their customers' problems or wishes and consider them from the perspective of their target users. With this knowledge, designers develop the first user-oriented ideas, visualize their creative solutions at an early stage, and then design prototypes. They quickly request their customers' feedback and change their concept on this basis. Step by step, the designers approach the best solution for their target users. The approach and individual methods of the design are supplemented by a mindset that purposefully analyzes the feasibility and economic viability of the product during development. Like a researcher, you set verifiable goals for each step, make assumptions, and test these assumptions with the help of observations and surveys regarding their validity.
More than just design
The shaping and design of material products is just one application area. You can use this approach for all areas in life and business. Maybe you want to enhance your customer service, introduce new ways of executing your business processes, or change the corporate culture. Then you're dealing with many-layered issues. When you have no simple solutions, design thinking helps you find an innovative solution.
More than just a workshop
Design thinking is a process consisting of various steps - individual steps you complete multiple times. During the process, you rely on group work in the form of workshops as well as individual work.
Provide variety. Complete individual work after a workshop phase. This increases motivation, and you can more easily tap into your team members' different kinds of potential. When it comes to individual work, you can utilize the expertise of team members who don't feel comfortable with group work.
You complete various forms of group work and supplement them with results from the individual work. The team members work individually to conduct interviews with potential customers, and then everyone presents their results in a workshop. The group evaluates the results together. This leads to the creation of new assumptions about your target users or potential solutions, which the individual team members can then test in surveys.
More than just brainstorming
Brainstorming for the creative idea is just one phase in the design thinking process. The idea here is to fully comprehend the problem and understand your target users. Analyze the starting situation and make assumptions that you investigate with observations and surveys with potential customers. Creative phases with a lot of design freedom alternate with phases in which you summarize your results and focus on the priorities.
More than just methods
Different methods can help you during the individual phases of the design thinking process. You can describe your target users with the Persona method, where you come up with a profile of your target audience, made up of the most important characteristics, modes of behavior, problems, and preferences of that audience. With the Customer Journey method, you can analyze the individual steps that the customer experiences while using a product. However, you must apply creative techniques that have assisted you when searching for a new idea as well as the various methods you may have made use of during the creation of the prototype. You can test your assumptions and ideas by applying methods from experimental research. The right application of the right methods is crucial for the success of the project.
The methods are just one factor. In design thinking, you have to keep the 5 Ps in mind:
- Practices: You apply proven methods from various disciplines, such as design, market research, ethnology, psychology, engineering sciences, and strategic management.
- People: You assemble a team that contributes different competencies and perspectives.
- Principles: You follow principles that determine the team's approach and position - mindset, in other words - and that serve as a guideline for the team's collaboration.
- Processes: You're flexible and you handle the different work and decision-making processes in an agile manner.
- Places: You offer places for group and individual work that encourage creativity and also enable focused work.
Seeing What Design Thinking Can Do
It takes new ideas to handle social challenges such as climate change, population growth, food security, health, mobility, or energy supply. These ideas are the foundation for economic growth. Some ideas develop into worldwide standards, and others cover niches in local and regional markets. Design thinking supports you in your creative work regardless of whether your question deals with a big or small problem, and it provides you with possible solutions. The approach can be used for all kinds of questions. These might be new products, services, business models, or social and organizational concepts.
Developing new products
New technologies such as artificial intelligence or nanotechnology definitely offer opportunities for new products. When it comes to product development in these areas, however, the difficulties don't necessarily lie in the limitations of the new technologies themselves. Difficulties arise when you have to recognize the right application areas of technologies in order to present the greatest benefit for a large number of people. You have to know who might be the product's target users and which of your potential customers' needs you might satisfy. Design thinking can help you find applications that promise success.
New ideas don't have to come from the high-tech area. At General Electric Healthcare, people noticed that children were afraid of the high-tech equipment, such as the magnetic resonance image scanners (MRI) used for diagnostic imaging procedures. Some of the children had to be sedated before the examination. Engineers subsequently tried to view the entire examination process through the eyes of a child, which led them to completely redesign the equipment and spatial environment. The walls in a children's hospital were painted to look like a pirate ship, and the exam table like a shipwreck. The exam procedure was designed as a child-friendly, role-playing game, in which the even the equipment's background sounds were integrated as an adventure game.
Creating new services
Service innovations involve changes in how the services are delivered - a new service for customer consultations, the automation and digitization of business processes, or new payment options for customers, for example. The potential of service innovations is often underestimated. Services involve particularly in-depth exchanges with customers so that a human-based approach like design thinking can offer numerous ideas when it comes to improving and redesigning services.
As early as the 1940s, the brothers Dick and Mac McDonald already used an approach similar to design thinking. While observing their customers, they realized that the truck drivers who made up a significant portion of their customer base wanted to have simple food served quickly and often ordered the same meals. The brothers limited their meal selection and offered mainly the bestselling hamburgers and French fries. At the same time, they improved the processes in the kitchen and service area. They also redesigned the dining spaces in their restaurant, with the result that only 30 seconds passed between the order and the food delivery.
Designing new business models
With a business model, you describe the way in which a company creates added value for certain customers, how it produces this value, and how it generates permanently growing revenue from it. The introduction of the freemium principle (a...