Design Thinking for Product Development

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As innovation advisors, a design thinking approach underlies our work. We know design thinking improves the product development process and helps innovators develop solutions that have a more meaningful impact.

Why?

Because design thinking enables us — and our clients — to start with the customer or end-user. We identify problems that they’re having and develop products and services that satisfy market needs.

Design thinking allows us to look broadly for solutions — rather than looking narrowly through an existing frame of reference which leads to missed opportunities. When you look broadly, you can be more innovative and disruptive.

Before we share our top three reasons you should consider design thinking for product development, let’s start with a quick explanation of what design thinking is.

What is design thinking?

Design thinking is a mindset, a process, and a toolset that help innovators develop solutions that have a meaningful impact:

  • The mindset emphasizes starting with the customer to identify the problems they’re having that are worth solving.
  • The process adds structure and discipline to the inherently iterative nature of design thinking.
  • And the robust set of tools helps design thinkers execute each step in the process.

Identify problems worth solving

Design thinking immerses you in stakeholder pains and goals. You’re speaking with potential consumers and stakeholders who will be impacted by a potential product. You’re thinking about their pain points, their wants, and their goals.

Consider the stakeholder, the potential product, and your organization’s role in development. In doing so, you approach your work with a more global understanding. You have a better idea of who you are selling to, what’s important to them, and what problems they have that you can solve.

This leads you to consider solutions to the problem(s) that reach far beyond the development approach many companies use. When you consider product development using design thinking, you find a solution that is potentially more disruptive or innovative because you’ve identified benefits to the user or consumer, rather than developing a product based solely on what you can manufacture.

Design thinking helps you shift your mindset

Many of our clients have a specific technology, product, or service. They aren’t convinced they need — or want — to understand the consumers’ pains and gains. Rather, they want to know where they can sell their technology/product/service. We help clients change their thinking. We show that by focusing on end-user needs, organizations will find consumers and markets where the product or service is a fit.

When you understand your users’ needs, you create a way to showcase your technology in an ingredient, service, or product that customers want and that has a greater chance of success. Design thinking compels you to consider what you can make — to imagine the possibilities.

Iteration early in the design process decreases product development risk

It’s uncomfortable – but incredibly valuable – to repeatedly create concepts or prototypes before getting to the final design. Design thinking embraces early failure as a sign of learning and progress. And when you engage customers early in the design process with low-fidelity prototypes, you create opportunities to learn about your end-users and their needs and to rework your concepts. 

Iteration has many benefits, one of which is cost-effectiveness. When you iterate rapidly to search for the right problem at the beginning, test your prototypes with the end-users, and get feedback. You’ll spend less on the project overall.

We leave you with a quote that we believe highlights the essence of the design thinking process.

“If I had 60 minutes to solve a problem and my life depended on it, I’d spend 55 minutes defining the problem and then five minutes solving it.”

Albert Einstein

Otherwise stated: take the time to consider your problem before rushing to a solution.

Get in touch when we can help you solve your product development challenges.

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