You don’t have to be a founder to count on design thinking, or even a startup employee. Everyone from CEOs to intrapreneurs are turning to design thinking to hack problems and drive innovation. Design thinking is just another way to go about it.
Design thinking is a problem-solving method that puts the focus back on the customer, back on their experience. What problems are they facing? What might their frustrations be? How might every single customer experience go from so-so to exceptional? This goes for internal customers, too, by the way, as well as the less sexy aspects of business like invoicing, IT help desk and HR onboarding. All these areas present opportunities to be shaped and re-shaped by design thinking.
The process of designing goes well beyond just cool graphics or physical packaging. As Harvard Business Review puts it, design thinking is “empathy with users, a discipline of prototyping, and tolerance for failure chief among them—[it’s] the best tool we have for creating those kinds of interactions and developing a responsive, flexible organizational culture.” Perhaps designers have always excelled at putting the customer experience at the core of their design creation, but now businesses of all sizes are seizing the principles of design thinking to approach complex challenges of all sizes.
Whether you’re an intrapreneur or a startup founder, here are some popular design thinking strategies you apply to any problem, starting now.
- Take the time to truly brainstorm
Design thinking is all about being thoughtful—and being thoughtful takes time. Often, so many of us are moving so fast to solve issues, fires or not—that problems are not given the appropriate amount of time they deserve to truly come up with thoughtful, realistic solutions. Block time on your calendar to truly think through a solution; to ideate it; to walk through the details and the resulting experience on all sides. Slowing down means you miss less details, and the details matter.
- So, what’s your problem?
Nope, not being sassy here; it’s a legit question. What is the specific problem you’re aiming to solve? For example, if orders are not being delivered on time, is the problem related to your deliver partnerships or is there something internally that needs to be untangled? And, how is the customer being communicated to? Narrowing down your problem to a nuts and bolts version allows for you to become even more specific in your solutions. And, if you can put your ideas to paper and visualize the issues and ideas for solutions, that’s even better.
- Be open to new ideas and don’t overthink it
You’re not going to come up with the winning solution from the start. That’s okay. Collect any and all ideas. Block that part of you that wants to knock an idea down instantly. Let things marinate. Let your mind explore and wander a bit. Only after you collect several ideas—either from your own brainstorm or a group session—do you choose a few to explore, to test, to discuss.
Finally, do what startups do best and execute. Collaborate with your team, allocate the right resources and get to work. This requires super clear and clean focus. Few distractions. Everyone involved needs to know exactly what they are required to do and they need to be enabled and empowered to get it done.
Change the way you approach problems and change your results. You may find yourself surprised at the results you experience by leveraging this controlled yet highly creative method of problem solving.