Source: Carney, Sandoe & Associate’s

Design thinking is all the rage in today’s world. The term itself may imply that its application is relevant only amongst designers, but design thinking has become a popular, emerging concept in the corporate world. So what exactly is design thinking? By definition, decision thinking is an approach to solving design problems by understanding users’ needs and developing creative solutions to solve those needs.

Although its definition is rooted in the process that designers undergo to generate creative solutions, the concept has become as much of a mindset as a method. It has become, in its simplest form, relevant to all walks of life. It can be applied in any situation or any work environment. Whether you’re a suit on Wall Street or a software developer in Silicon Valley, creating fresh and novel ideas to solve problems are what design thinkers do.

The challenge of design thinking is how you can apply and integrate it with your business model. As an online design agency, we at Daza Design break down the five steps — patterned against Carney, Sandoe and Associate’s steps — of the design thinking process to construct a business model innovation.

1. Discover who the stakeholders are & empathize with them

The stark difference that separates design thinking from other methodologies is its inherent empathy of the users’ needs. Rather than designing for good ergonomics, the designer instead relates to the context and culture of the stakeholders involved. This phase is all about gathering data the surrounds your problem and the first (if not the best!) place to start is with people, your customers.

Stepping out of your company and conducting the research first hand — yes, this means you shouldn’t be outsourcing to a market research agency or searching on websites for user information. It’s of utmost importance to meet with all types of clients; satisfied, unsatisfied, potential customer to never-going-to-use-your services client — meet with all of them! It would also be wise to study your competitors and even outside of your industry.

Empathizing with the context and culture of the challenges that your company face will bear innovative ideas, ideas that will solve your customers’ needs. If there’s a universal barometer to the success of business, it’s taking care of your customers.

2. Interpret the context and culture of the data

After the discovery period and taking note of anything and everything that concerns that challenge your company faces, it’s important that you sift through the goldmine of information you’ve unearthed. It’s a pivotal moment to make sense of the data — after all, without interpretation and analysis, they’re simply just numbers.

Customer journey mapping is one of the best ways to understand the data you’ve uncovered. It presents a graphic design with information covering the trajectory of your customer’s experience. This powerful tool serves to help business owners not only understand their clients’ experiences, but also adequately expresses moments in their journey that may not be addressed by the incumbent business model.

By using a powerful tool like customer journey mapping, you should clearly understand what your customers’ goals are and how they wish to achieve them in the context of your services. At the end of this stage, clear opportunities should present themselves for you to seize.

3. Ideate new and novel solutions

This is the opportunity to begin developing ideas on how to take hold of the newfound opportunities presented to you in light of analyzing the data. Using another powerful tool such as the ‘Eliminate, Reduce, Raise, Create’ framework by Blue Ocean Strategy can help inspire you to develop new and original ideas. Considering the needs of your customers and also their pain points during the experience is another great starting point.

Other areas that will help inspire you, as we mentioned before, is learning and dissecting the business models of companies in and out of your industry. If you’re in web design, the simple yet effective brainstorming activity comes to mind as another avenue to explore new and innovative ideas for your web development. There are many paths that can lead you to a thoroughly successful conceptualization phase, just be patient and find the best method that works for you.

Once you’ve come up with a fresh new idea, it would be wise evaluate your business idea. Try these ten questions for starters and if you’re able to answer all ten positively, it’s on to the next stage! Although if you struggle with some of the questions, there’s no shame in going back to the drawing board. Success is an iterative process, it takes a lot of hard work and fine-tuning.

4. Experiment on ideas to isolate the best results

It’s now crucial that you test your innovative ideas. Focus on the ideas itself rather than your business model as a whole during the process as it’s important to first determine which of your ideas work best. Upon coming to that conclusion, you can then begin assessing how to integrate these freshly formed ideas into your business model innovation.

The lack of resources such as time and money can hinder your experimentation phase. It would be wise to take the appropriate time to prepare discovery questions that will provide keen insight that you can hopefully leverage into your business. It’s important that at the end of this stage that you are able to identify great ideas that will lead to your success. The next question would be how to make those ideas happen.

Design thinking has the users needs at the heart of its approach, therefore the best way to address how to make your ideas a reality is to reach out to your customers. Asking customers for their input is a valuable resource and can inject the spark needed to execute your ideas. Along the way, you’ll garner insights that will even help you identify further opportunities to better your ideas and business model.

5. Reflect on your results and continuously evolve your ideas

We’ve finally reached the last stage of design thinking. At the end of your journey, it’s your chance to sit down and reflect on the experience and its outcome. Just as the infographic explains, you just did something and it’s a relevant time to as ‘how do I evolve it?’. You must consider if there opportunities to improve your idea and further the experience. Depending upon your reflection, you may contemplate your ideas may need fine-tuning or you may even consider a collective revamping of your business model.

Follow what your introspection brings you. Even as extreme as some insights may feel, evolution and change is a natural part of the business. We can sometimes get comfortable with the status quo, whether that may be a good or a bad thing, it surely hinders our opportunities to explore new boundaries and become leading innovators in our industry. The most successful companies are pioneers of whom have learned to adapt to change, design thinking is another innovative approach that will help your business evolve into a success.

As a personal example, here at Daza Design, we apply design thinking in every aspect of our business, from logo design to web development and even our graphic design services. We like to discover more about our clients — learn about their business and their needs. From there, we analyze the information we’ve elicited from our clients and consider the context of their company and the culture of their industry.

Very common in graphic design services, we go into the next three phases: conceptualizing, testing and then fine-tuning our product. At a meta approach, we implement design thinking by reviewing the services we provide as a whole — constantly searching for new ways to improve the Daza Design product.