Design Thinking is a mantra now. Why? Companies have, since time immemorial, be plagued by one of two problems. Firstly, leaders choose to rely on data points to extrapolate into the future- this approach fails sometimes because scaling is a job done by human beings, and is not the same as moving from two production machines to ten or two cities to five. Secondly, they depend on instinct more than evidence. If Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman is to be believed, depending on instinct is the greatest pitfall we encounter when making long-term decisions.
Trying to bridge the gap between these approaches needs a new perspective. We need to realize that our growth strategy needs to align with and engage the people who will help us make that growth possible.
Enter, Design Thinking
Does that term make you want to let out a sigh? Well, everyone seems to be using the term today. But, what does design thinking really mean?
Thinking like a designer to design solutions that work in the real world is a daunting task, but one that our creative right brain hemispheres enjoy immensely. This is precisely the potential that design thinking aims to unlock.
You begin with immersion. Instead of market surveys and polls, you ask people about why they made a certain choice over another, equally appealing one. Then, you design the product keeping these behavioral attributes in mind. Next, you test the prototype with small groups of people to understand the scope for improvement. Then comes the launch, or scaling. Surprising, isn’t it?
Design Thinking Your Business Strategy
Delivery-driven startups, especially in the grocery space, are a classic example of scaling gone wrong in the Indian context. The business leaders used data from existing operations to explain why the model could succeed in other places too. Instead, a more prudent question would have been, “How much will people in place X be willing to have products home delivered, as opposed to place Y?” This is a basic example, but you get the drift. It is true even today that very few businesses put this much thought and effort into just validating their concept. The proof-of-concept is often an idea on a paper.
Don’t fret, though. Even verticals within businesses are prone to making this mistake. The good news is that there are means to course-correct and adapt design thinking into every aspect of the business.
Startup founders can begin with behavioral surveys and questionnaires to better understand their target market, as opposed to depending on past data and instinct. Learning and development is one area where design thinking has great potential. It can be used to rethink your HR policies, to design training that employees actually enjoy being part of, and to design performance management systems that are dynamic and reflect human values.
Start small by asking your employees, friends, and acquaintances what problem your product/ service expects to solve. Also, ask them why they would choose your product over another (you’ll have to dig a bit deeper here to get answers beyond faith and loyalty.) Always think from the perspective of the user who will ultimately attach value to your offering. That’s how you build a culture of design thinking into your organization.
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