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23rd March 2020

The Benefits of Design Thinking


The revolutionary problem-solving process

Habits and uniformity are an important part of business efficiency but they can hinder innovation and future growth. As one Interaction Design Education study illustrates;

“Humans naturally develop patterns of thinking modelled on the repetitive activities and commonly accessed knowledge. These assist us in quickly applying the same actions and knowledge in similar or familiar situations, but they also have the potential to prevent us from quickly and easily accessing or developing new ways of seeing, understanding, and solving problems”[1].

This is where design thinking can help. This revolutionary problem-solving process encourages business owners and their employees to think like designers in order to boost innovation. Design thinking focuses upon identifying the needs of a product’s end-user and draws upon a variety of tools such as brainstorming sessions, rigorous testing and feedback surveys. By ‘thinking outside the box’ businesses are encouraged to develop new products, services and business strategies that they never would have previously envisaged.


What are the key principles of design thinking?

Design thinking was first described by Nobel Prize laureate Herbert Simon in his book The Sciences of the Artificial (1996). Over the years there have been many versions of design thinking which embody the same principles. As IDEO CEO Tim Brown aptly explains;

“Design thinking is a human-centred approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success”[2].

Most recently, a five-phase design thinking model was suggested by the Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford which revolves around the following principles[3];

Empathise with your users

Define your users’ needs, their problem, and your insights

Ideate by challenging assumptions and creating ideas for innovative solutions

Prototype to start creating solutions

Test solutions

Since design thinking encourages people to ‘think outside the box’, these principles need not be followed in any particular order. Businesses are encouraged to host brainstorming sessions to ‘Empathise’ with their target market, ‘Define’ the unique needs and interests of their key consumers and ‘Ideate’ so they can develop insightful new solutions to pre-existing business dilemmas.

Companies are also encouraged to adopt a hands-on approach to ‘Prototype’ and ‘Test’ processes. By experimenting with new concepts, demonstrating them to focus groups, encouraging one-on-one interactions with consumers and conducting feedback surveys, companies can quickly ascertain the strengths and weaknesses of new ideas. Thus, businesses can continuously repeat the design thinking process until they have rectified any errors. Listed below are some of the main benefits of this design thinking process and their applications;


Focus on the end user:

Design thinking is ‘human-centred’ i.e. it focuses on the needs of your consumers. Hence,  you can cultivate products and services which customers will actively want to use. Once an idea has been generated from a brainstorming session with employees and external contractors, businesses are encouraged to utilise focus groups, feedback surveys and public product demonstrations to maximise understanding of your consumers’ real needs, interests and buying trends. A successful example of design thinking in action has been IBM. As Anne Quito of Quartz explained;

“In a recent project, an airline approached IBM to improve its kiosks to speed up passenger gate check-ins. While the engineers started by improving the kiosk’s software, designers went straight to gate agents to ask why the check-in kiosks weren’t used more effectively. Designers found out that female gate agents struggled to keep kiosks charged because their constricting uniforms prevented them from reaching electrical plugs behind the machines. By finding the root of the problem, IBM delivered a mobile app that significantly eased the boarding process and reduced airline costs”[4].


Take advantage of collective expertise:

By opening up your development process to new voices, you can foster a more efficient problem solving environment within your business. Studies have shown that 69% of design-led firms perceive their innovation process to be more efficient with design thinking. Moreover, a separate Adobe study reported that 71% of companies created approximately 10 times the number of assets in the space of a few years when they used design thinking[5].

In this manner, the design thinking process enables you to leverage the collective experience and expertise of your workforce in order to highlight and implement previously unseen possibilities. The ideas generated from design thinking liberate your employees to exercise creativity which will in turn increase their effectiveness in tackling daily administrative processes and meeting the needs of your clients.


Improve the quality of your products and services:

Design thinking encourages rapid prototype testing and generates feedback from actual users that can be used to improve products and services. This streamlined testing system enables businesses to create, finely tune and distribute higher quality goods in rapid turnover and for a reduced cost.

Ultimately, the rigorous prototyping processes of design thinking means you are interacting with consumers throughout the design and development processes so you will be more likely to meet client objectives and consumer demand. By the time your product is launched it will have undergone several rounds of testing and client feedback, which in turn assures the quality and value of your end product.

Encouragingly, 50% of design-led companies report more loyal customers due to these advanced design practices. This study also showed that companies who foster creativity enjoy 1.5 times greater market share[6].


Enable your company to evolve:

Exploring new ideas through design thinking enables you to evolve and expand as an organisation. This ongoing process of feedback, testing and evaluation enables you to continually improve your understanding not only of your target audience, but also of the inner workings of your company as a whole. In fact, 71% of organizations who practice design thinking say it has improved their working culture on a team level[7].

If you’d like to learn more about how to implement these design thinking principles within your existing digital marketing strategies then please feel free to contact our Cloud Ten customer service team today.


[1] interaction-design.org

[2] ideou.com

[3] interaction-design.org

[4] forbes.com

[5] cmo.com

[6] cmo.com

[7] cmo.com




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