Over the years there have been many companies transforming their product development in a way whereby they put the customer first. This new method of design thinking for clients cultivates empathy for users, promotes tests throughout the process, and emphasises iteration and prototyping instead of putting the focus on people’s gut instincts. Much companies are embracing this new method, and one of them is IBM – this company uses design thinking to transform its culture in the process and get ahead of the relentless innovation in digital technology.

Virginia M. Rometty who is IBM’s chief executive once said: “design thinking is at the center.”

Gregory Treverton who is also the Director of the RAND Corporation’s Center for Global Risk and Security said: “there’s a reason millions of people try to solve crossword puzzles each day. Amid the well-ordered combat between a puzzler’s mind and the blank boxes waiting to be filled, there is satisfaction along with frustration. Puzzles can be solved; they have answers.” “But a mystery offers no such comfort. It poses a question that has no definitive answer…it depends on a future interaction of many factors, known and unknown. A mystery cannot be answered; it can only be framed… A mystery is an attempt to define ambiguities.”

But, the main question be this is that how can design thinking drive business results? Read on:

Nurtures customer-centric product innovation

Design thinking makes sure that developers and others involved in innovation or production focus on the customers or market base they’re designing for in the first place (which are the end users and customers). Lara Hanlon who is a software product designer at IBM said in a recent Silicon Republic article “at IBM; we define design as the intent behind an outcome.” “We use design thinking to form intent by developing understanding and empathy for our users.”

Removes pain points in the customer journey

The design thinking process framework is a human-centered framework, and that is why it starts with empathy. Observing, engaging and listening with customers is a key step to the process. Product developers will be able to fully understand what their customers need and discover obstacles in the customer journey when there is empathy. Ryan Hart who is a principal analyst at Forrester said: “when you look at GE’s old DNA, it was very much about ‘How do we make money?’ and it was built on a highly siloed, very traditional manufacturing model”. “In 2010, GE did an internal audit and found out that it was releasing hundreds of products across multiple business lines every year, but had zero consistent user-experience strategies and was losing touch with its customers.”

Informs what not to do

Simpler is often better especially when it comes to better products and more seamless customer experiences. Design thinking can help business leaders practice necessary restraint, and this will help identify which features and skills should be dropped by focusing on the process. Also, ideation, prototyping, and testing are the latter steps in the design thinking process that help further validate the features, experiences, and processes that customers are looking for.

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