road work

Design Thinking lays the groundwork for solving complex problems

6 February 2020

Design thinking
Customer Experience

Innovation and digital transformation are at the top of the list for many businesses. However, there are many obstacles in the way from the dream of a unique customer experience to the reality of a complete digital transformation, as discussed in the previous blog in this series. Research shows that more than 80% of the initiatives for digital transformation fail or miss their ultimate goal. The biggest reason for this is that organizations are not always sure where to start, and frequently the approach is not ideally suited to achieving their ultimate goal.

The right lid for your project jar

The impact of the approach on how a project pans out should not be underestimated. Applying an appropriate methodology plays a significant role in the chances of success of a digital transformation process. Before starting on the project, there are choices to be made about the approach. These choices will determine the course of the project and create a framework for all actions required to achieve the objectives. There are a whole host of options, each with its own specific processes, principles and rules, as well as its own pros and cons.

It is important to keep in mind that there's no perfect “one-size-fits-all” methodology. Every project deserves an individual approach. The biggest challenge could be finding a methodology whose content best fits the objectives, the available resources, and not least the people within the organization.

It is nearly impossible to stay up to date with every type of approach out there. Methodologies are also regularly adapted to keep pace with the ever-changing digital world. The biggest question is where to start. First and foremost, don't get put off before you've even started: there are a good number of methodologies that have more than proven their worth, so they form a good reference point.

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Grappling with complex problems? Design Thinking can help

Today, innovation plays an ever greater role in our society, forcing companies to evolve in response or, if possible, to anticipate new trends or developments. This can produce a flood of new ideas that one way or another should find a place in the organization's strategy, and ultimately reach the customer. In this situation, you could do worse than considering Design Thinking as a method to facilitate the process.

Design Thinking as a method can help organizations to find solutions for even the most complex problems. It breaks down barriers that often stand in the way of businesses looking for the start of a solution. The key goal of Design Thinking is identifying a starting point, rather than achieving an end result.

It approaches the innovation challenges facing a business in a highly intuitive way, focusing on the needs of the customer. The customer viewpoint is considered alongside technical feasibility, profitability and the social context, leading to better products, services or processes.

Co-creation as a driving force

Innovation and improving the customer experience is a joint effort. Fortunately, co-creation is one of the basic principles of Design Thinking. Collaboration between stakeholders, technical architects, developers, designers and customers has an incredibly inspiring effect and makes it possible to gain insight into all aspects of the challenge. The creative energy and ideas that result from bringing a diverse group together will often lead to highly innovative solutions, and they are very beneficial for the growth of the organization.

Design Thinking is based on five logical steps, which are not necessarily sequential but can also occur in parallel or iteratively:

  • The process starts with the Empathize phase, in which the project team forms a picture of the right context.
  • In the Define phase the challenges are clearly identified.
  • All the ideas are brought together in the Ideate phase, which often leads to highly innovative solutions.
  • The Prototype phase is the time for experimenting with the most relevant solutions,
  • To refine or improve the ideas, feedback is gathered from end users during the Test phase.

The process aims to bring about improvements by developing ideas and by gaining insight in a positive way into the unfulfilled, unexpressed or even unconscious needs of end users. Each of the steps contributes to defining the right objectives, supports project teams in making the right decisions, and gives organizations a view of the way forward.

Everyone on the same page

There are a number of other benefits associated with this approach. Collaborating in co-creation, where the right people, the various relevant disciplines and know-how are brought together, significantly shortens the lead times for making decisions. Not only that, it gets the organization on the same page sooner. Everyone is informed about the project from day one and works towards common objectives, so the stakeholders in the organization are much more engaged.

It should be said there are also some less positive aspects of this approach, but the strength of the concept is that it is easy to apply. Co-creation demands time and effort on the part of those involved. It demands creativity, which for some people is not always in their comfort zone. It also requires time, which organizations may not always feel they have. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel: the effectiveness and quality of the results more than make up for the time and effort expended.

It may be true that 80% of initiatives for digital transformation fail, but with the right methodology the success rate of 20% is a lot easier to achieve. Of course, Design Thinking is just one of many possible approaches, but it can be a big help in breaking down barriers in the path from dream to reality.

Get further inspiration on this topic

Read the first blog (Make your customer experience even more digital in 2020: an expert's view at the trends) in this series.

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