How Design Thinking helps businesses?

Design Thinking. You may have heard the term before, but if you’re not sure how it can help your business, read on.

If you are from an established business looking to develop a new product or service, a Start Up wanting to de-risk your big idea or any organisation looking to develop a more collaborative culture then Design Thinking is worth thinking about!

Design Thinking is a human-centred innovation process, practiced by leading businesses to build better products and services by understanding user needs, generating new ideas and quickly testing solutions.

There are already plenty of great resources online that explain how the process works. In this article, I would like to focus on the business scenarios where I think design thinking can make biggest difference.

Scenario 1 – An established business looking to re-invent itself.
Many founders start their business by exploiting an opportunity at the right place and time. Spotting an unmet need and delivering a solution that sets their organisation on the path of growth. As time passes, competition catches-up, customer expectations change and new technologies emerge. Eventually, old ways of doing things no longer work and the organisation needs to re-invent itself to overcome the plateau. Established organisations tend to let their attention drift from the customer to internal processes, which makes it difficult to spot new opportunities. In this scenario, Design Thinking offers a systematic method of finding inspiration through user observation and research. The organisation re-adopts the start-up mind-set as it learns how to proactively discover customer pains and turn those into new product features or entirely new solutions.

Scenario 2 – A start-up seeking to de-risk their big idea.
Start-up founders can become very attached to their ideas and are willing to make big bets to bring them to market. The harsh reality is that due to a number of factors 80% of products fail at launch. Some of the reasons include releasing a product that nobody truly needs or failing to clearly communicate it to the right audience. Design Thinking offers a way to obtain early and objective user feedback through the use of rapid prototyping. Initial assumptions are tested quickly and cheaply allowing for course correction before incurring significant development costs. Testing with users also helps build strong links with the target audience, which proves very helpful at marketing stage.

Scenario 3 – An organisation wanting to create a strong culture of collaboration.
Creativity and teamwork are always very high on the list of skills sought by employers. But how can an organisation encourage and promote these in practice? Quite often, ideas are generated in one place and passed down from one department to another with little sense of understanding and purpose. Design Thinking creates a culture of collaboration by offering a way for people from different areas of the business to work together, contributing ideas to solve customer challenges. The interdisciplinary team cycles through the stages of researching needs, generating ideas and building solutions. This approach gives all team members (including engineers, developers etc.) a shared sense of empathy for the customer and shared knowledge of where solutions come from. This in turn leads to more purposeful and less ego-driven collaboration across the whole organisation.

Design Thinking is one of the many innovation frameworks offered as part of the Innovate 2 Succeed (i2s) programme. If any of the above scenarios resonate with you as a business owner and you would like to learn more about implementing Design Thinking in your organisation, please get in touch: Enterprise Europe Network can help.


Contributor; Lukasz Liebersbach | Oxford Innovation

Lukasz Liebersbach is an Innovation Advisor at Oxford Innovation. He helps companies understand the benefits of design and implement the design thinking approach. He runs workshops, conducts user research studies and facilitates creative brainstorming sessions that guide teams to develop “out of the box” solutions. His work is heavily influenced by experience gained at the Institute of Design at Stanford University, California (commonly known as The