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5 mistakes that Design Thinking can help you avoid


July 24, 2021

Design Thinking Milan

Design Thinking is a methodology for solving problems in an agile way. It is increasingly used in business transformation and to support innovation projects. It is inspired by a customer-centric approach through a mix of observation and empathy. The integration of a structured approach with empathic vision allows to analyse problems in an open-minded way, and to avoid a number of mistakes during the process.

Here are the 5 mistakes that Design Thinking allows you to avoid.

1. Design Thinking helps not to limit observation to theory

A careful analysis of quantitative data (e.g. benchmarks) is not enough to understand customer needs, not even when combined with qualitative data (e.g. questionnaires). Observing customer behavior in the field combined with an empathic approach is the only way to capture the real needs of customers. A common mistake is to just share opinions among experts without observing the behavior of target customers in real life.

2. Design Thinking helps deep-dive customer feedback

If the need to be met is generic it is likely that the proposed solutions, once implemented, will not be satisfactory because they will not be properly focused and/or too vague. If sufficient time is spent in breaking down a macro-need into its parts, the team will be able to formulate solutions focused on meeting individual needs and will be facilitated to propose detailed and actionable solutions, easy to prototype. For example, if you want to improve the air travel experience (macro-objective), it is important to take into account the factors that contribute to the experience, e.g. seats, service on board, lighting in the cabin and the benefits offered.

This helps not to lose sight of the various components in order to identify multiple improvements that meet the needs that emerge, both individually and as a whole, from an objective and emotional point of view. The customer is an individual, not a machine. In addition, in order to propose a solution that is really actionable, it is important to consider all project constraints (budget, space, time, target clientele, etc.).

3. Design Thinking makes the creativity sessions more valuable

Having a good raw material is a prerequisite for a good product. Similarly, without a good idea it is not possible to achieve good results in a Design Thinking process.. The time spent on generating original ideas is therefore well spent. A single brainstorming session is not enough: idea generation is the result of a divergence phase (free brainstorming) and a convergence phase (concrete formulation of the idea); more iterations of divergence and convergence are needed to formulate a solution. For example, an idea generated in the first iteration is often amended or enriched during the second, or the team will find out that the solution cannot be formulated because it is not clear enough. We can’t emphasize enough the usefulness of the time spent on creative thinking: the formulation of the idea – from thinking to an accurate description of the solution to be implemented – is a complex and articulated process.

4. Design Thinking helps not to fall in love with a solution

At the end of the concept phase the team may have identified an original solution and formulated it well. If a simplified prototype cannot be created, the idea must be amended or discarded. A frequent mistake is to keep an idea because the team members have ‘fallen in love’ with it and are convinced that it is the best idea. Obviously, this is not the case as everything can be improved. Often this happens because getting rid of an idea is associated with a loss of self-esteem. However, the opposite is true: whoever understands the need to get rid of the idea is a self-confident individual.

Another mistake is to use too many resources (e.g. financial) to make the first prototype as it makes it more difficult – even psychologically – to get rid of the idea if it turns out to be not the right one. A suggestion: fail fast fail cheap.

5. Design Thinking stimulates testing in real circumstances

Live testing – testing of the solution in one or more real-life circumstances allows to identify real strengths and what needs to be improved. During a live testing the customer perceives whether a solution is useful or not where he would actually use it, which involves his emotional sphere. For example, if I want to find a solution to improve the flying experience I can live test in an area of the airport in the presence of target customers, creating a Hangar where I simulate a plane interior with the new seats/ service on board – observe how the customers interact with them and collect their feedback within a real context. If we simply describe our solution to the prospect customers they would need to imagine it and each individual would be influenced by perceptions different than those experienced in a real circumstance. This does not mean that actions such as presenting the solution to a focus group and collecting feedback through interviews or questionnaires are useless, but they are simply not enough: live testing is paramount.

To learn more about Design Thinking or wish to enroll in our Design Thinking Course in Milan contact one of our experts or book a call.

The CleverAdvice Team

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