Design Thinking: Practical Starting Points and Activation Tips

The fundamental that design thinking exposes comes down to one word: trust. Through the use of design thinking tools, exercises, and methodologies, you are establishing a foundation of trust. This falls into the following categories:

  • The customer is being heard and understood, leading the customer to be delighted
  • A clear definition of success illustrates that the business is being heard and followed, with the direct outcome of increased success
  • Prototyping demonstrates that the delivery team is being listened to and followed, resulting in the delivery team meeting customer and business expectations

This article is focused on distilling the elements required to ensure you’re building trust with the key players. In turn, success becomes a byproduct of your work.

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Understanding the Customer

The first challenge is to understand the customer entirely. There are several tools you can use, but the first step is to interview customers. You will want to review with the business team who the typical customer is and whether they know of customers who would be willing to be interviewed. The next step is to contact the customers and arrange 30 minutes when you can speak with them. 

The goal of the customer interview is to identify two activities:

  • Why is the customer conducting business with you?
  • What problems or irritations does the customer have when working with you?

The goal is to create a path where the customer is delighted with the experience of working with the business. Following the end of the interview, you will want to thank the customer for sharing their expertise, and you should also offer a small gift to show your appreciation for their time. Following the interview, you will want to consolidate the results of the conversations you have conducted into the following tools:

  • Persona 

    A persona is a tool to highlight typical attributes, social behavior, technical aptitude and motivations on a single page.
  • User Journey 

    The user journey maps out the work of the persona for the day, week, month, or even year. The goal is to illustrate where there are barriers for the persona to be successful. 
  • Reframe the Problem

    Each barrier identified in the user journey is an opportunity to reframe the problem. The concept of reframing the problem is to pivot towards solving issues that directly impact customers.

The goals of these tools are to create a shared understanding of who the customer is, what motivates them, and what blockers prevent the customer from being even more successful. 

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What Does Success Look Like?

The next step is to build out tools that support success for the business. The work you have done in understanding the customer will form a foundation for each decision the business team will need to make. I have found that the most successful way to motivate the group is to do the following:

  • Get out of the office: The first action is to get out of the office either for a half-day or whole day. Find somewhere that inspires, such as a museum or art center.
  • Preparation: Send the team a breakdown of the customer persona and user journey, and be clear on what the problem is that needs to be solved
  • Example: Start the day with a short presentation that illustrates how competing companies are addressing the same issues you are looking to solve.

Following the introductions and the short presentation, you will want to conduct the following exercises:

  • Menti.com: Menti.com is an online survey tool that is excellent for capturing data from small and midsized groups. You can use the data as a baseline for future conversations.
  • How Might We: The concept for How Might We is to capture on Post-It Notes, with quick ideas to solve customer problems. No idea is too big or too crazy.
  • Scoring: After the “How Might We” exercise, you will want each person to vote for their favorite ideas. This will distill the views down to core solutions that the team believes they can achieve.
  • What does success look like? The final stage is to take each successful idea and define success criteria for the concept.  

You will have explored many ideas and agreed on a few that balance both the goals of the customer and the business.

Rapid Prototyping

The final stage is to visualize the ideas. Again, you will want to keep the prototyping cost-effective. The following are ways in which you can imagine ideas for pennies on the dollar:

  • Sketches: Using pen and paper, sketch up concepts on paper. The goal is to go through many designs with the client and make fast decisions. 
  • Wireframes: The concept of the wireframe is to create several screens for the final digital solution. There are many tools that you can use to develop wireframes.
  • Prototypes: A prototype should be a solution that demonstrates what the final product looks like

The objective is to develop a low-cost demonstration of the final product. Customers, business leaders, and other invested people can assess the solution before a single line of code is written.

Design Thinking is a Journey, Not a Destination

The work you have done up to this point does not stop when the development team builds out a working solution. When the final solution is built, you will want to go back and review with customers to validate the work you are doing is meeting their needs. In other words, there is no endpoint—only constant improvement.

Want to learn more about Design Thinking? Take our Design Thinking Course to learn how to adapt this methodology to increase your team’s productivity and quality.

About the Author

Matthew DavidMatthew David

Matt is a Digital Leader at Accenture. His passion is a combination of solving today's problems to run more efficiently, adjusting focus to take advantage of digital tools to improve tomorrow and move organizations to new ways of working that impact the future.

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