Why design thinking is important for innovation

The business landscape is a rugged one and organizations need to be ready for it to suddenly change. Competition is strong and these days, you are not just competing with local businesses: it’s global. Companies are continuously looking for ways to innovate and differentiate themselves from all the others in the pack.

Having a steady supply of innovative ideas and processes is key if you do not want to get left behind. But how do you keep your teams engaged and motivated and in a position to keep coming up with great ideas? How do you negotiate the shifts in the business landscape?

A company culture that encourages thinking outside the box and uses the methodology behind the design thinking process will be more agile. Using design thinking to explore possibilities is one way to encourage innovation. Allowing teams the freedom to explore ideas and fail – rapidly and without repercussions – so that they can quickly move on to the next iteration and eventually come up with a feasible, valuable solution, sets a scene where the innovation process is encouraged and rewarded

So, how does design thinking come into this? And why exactly is innovation so important?

Why is it becoming harder for companies to stand out from the crowd?

The rise of the internet over the years has increasingly globalized the marketplace. The Covid-19 pandemic then further opened up access to online markets at unprecedented rates: everyone rushed to digitalize when global lockdowns came into place. Companies were forced to innovate rapidly to make this work, and those that lacked the ability or imagination to do so were left behind.

Companies are operating in larger markets

Companies are now operating in increasingly competitive and saturated markets. And while this means that small companies can more easily compete with larger ones, it also means that larger companies can now easily enter markets where previously having a local presence or reputation was all you needed.

Customer loyalty to established companies in many sectors can make it difficult for new entrants to these markets to grow their own customer base. This means that companies need to differentiate themselves in some way if they are to stand out enough to be appealing to their target customers.

Organizations often copy the successful strategies or products of their competitors. As soon as everyone starts to jump on the bandwagon you move towards a homogenous market. This means that eventually all companies in a certain sector are offering almost the same thing: so, how do you differentiate yourself from all the others in this case? New, innovative products or services are certainly one way in which you can do this.

And how do you differentiate yourself from other players in a market where people often see your product as interchangeable? After all, a battery is a battery, for example: how do you stand out?

Advertising and marketing messages can be confused and confusing

With the abundance of information available to customers, it is becoming increasingly difficult for companies to get their message across. Customers are bombarded with advertising and marketing messages, and a lot of them are not offering anything new or different from the others. And if prices can be a reason for competition between one product and another, are there other ways you can get people to choose yours and the competition’s? Do you need a new product or service, or do you need a new way of framing what you already have?

Why is innovation so important and how can design thinking help?

Innovation can help companies differentiate themselves from the competition. New and unique products or services can make you more interesting to potential customers. And people are always looking for new and exciting things, even if they don’t really need them! Or maybe you just need to reframe what you already have with an innovative way of envisioning or selling your products and services instead.

The design thinking process follows 5 steps or phases, and is focused on finding solutions that meet the needs and requirements of the target user. As it focuses on the user, solutions are more likely to appeal to the user than ones that are generic and have been created because companies assume they would appeal to their customers.

Differentiation through innovation

Creating unique and personalized experiences for customers can help companies differentiate themselves from the competition, among many other things. Innovative ideas can also be useful for companies who want to build a strong brand, so they will stand out and build their own loyal customer base.

The design thinking process helps teams to come up with these innovative ideas and work together to prototype and test their ideas so they can perfect them before they bring to the market. The five-step process involves empathizing with the end user, defining the problem, ideation of potential solutions, prototyping, and testing. It encourages creativity, innovation, and collaboration. It is particularly useful for complex problems.

Teamwork and collaboration to improve end results

Many businesses have recognized the potential of design thinking for teams to drive growth and innovation and improve the customer and employee experience. It is a highly collaborative process and works best when a diverse group of individuals are working together to solve a problem. Teamwork is key, so the better your teams work together and the more diverse the input, the better.

How does design thinking unlock innovative reflection and processes?

Design thinking is a human-centered design approach focused on understanding the needs of the end users and designing solutions that meet those needs. It can be used in meetings, workshops, and for training and development too.

Design thinking promotes teamwork and soft skills

The first step is empathizing with the user to understand their pain points, needs, and problems. Teams need to work together to research a subject and gain greater insight into their needs and problems. Often what a company thinks might be a great solution for their customers is not what the customer actually wants. Putting yourself into their shoes means using soft skills. And developing strong soft skills is helpful on many levels, not least for teamwork.

Once you have done your research, you need to take the information you have and use it to define the problem. This gives you a problem statement that defines the challenge in an actionable way and that focuses on the needs of the user. Good teamwork is essential to frame this statement in a way that meets all the needs highlighted by the problem.

Brainstorming for solutions

Once you have the problem statement you move on to the ideation phase. This involves creative idea-generating sessions in workshops or meetings. Brainstorming is a tested and proven way to generate a range of creative solutions that can be evaluated and refined later. It is important to remain open-minded and ready to ‘think outside the box’ in this step.

Teams need to be feel supported and able to offer ideas that may initially sound far-fetched without fear of ridicule or censure. A strong team will work better together and come up with more interesting ideas through strong teamwork. This has positive repercussions for any meetings or workshops that teams undertake.

The innovative process: creative thinking to get from idea to possible solution

While thinking creatively is the purpose of the brainstorming process, any potential solutions still need to be feasible. Teamwork can help move a seemingly unrealistic idea towards a potential answer. Once team members have identified a feasible, useful solution it can move on to the prototyping stage, whereby potential solutions can be tested and refined. Problems or flaws can be identified in these prototypes, and addressed in further iterations of the original prototype.

Once a team has found an apparently useful solution, the prototype is tested with users. Feedback from users is then used to refine the product or service that has been designed. By involving these multiple stakeholders in the design thinking process, teams can gain different perspectives and generate a wide range of ideas. A diverse, collaborative approach can lead to more innovative solutions as it allows different viewpoints and ideas to be incorporated.

Creative solutions that answer a real problem, not an assumption

The innovation process encourages empathy and teamwork. Teams empathize with the user and try to create solutions that are based on what they need, not what they assume they want. 

It also encourages people to explore different possibilities and take risks that they may not have otherwise considered. It is a versatile approach that can be used in a variety of fields: you just need the right tools and teams that are willing and open to using creativity in workshops and meetings in the pursuit of innovation.

Unlocking innovative reflection and processes leads to valuable results for teams

Unlocking innovative reflection and processes is a valuable tool that should be encouraged through teamwork. New ideas and opportunities can be found in innovative solutions and vice versa. Teams themselves can reflect on their work and processes to identify areas to be improved or changed. This can lead to new ideas and approaches. By continually refining these processes, particularly in workshops and meetings, teams can become more productive and generate better end results.

Learning to take a step back and reflect on the real problem, not a perceived one, can help teams develop new perspectives and ideas. Reflection on past projects and processes can help teams to learn from their mistakes and do better going forward.

Using design thinking in teams for all business areas

The design thinking process should not be saved for the creation of new customer products or services. It can be used comprehensively throughout an organization’s business areas and processes. It works well, as we have seen, even on the level of improving teams themselves and the quality of the teamwork.

Improve your employee experience with design thinking innovation

The employee experience is just as important as the customer experience, and the design thinking process can help to create and perfect innovative solutions that will help employees feel more valued and confident that they are in the right company. Unhappy, unengaged employees can cost companies a lot of money. And who doesn’t want to work in an exciting, innovative workplace?

People are employed to do a job. Make it more interesting and they are likely to do it even better. They are likely to do more than the required minimum. Making sure that teams work well together is a must. Introducing interesting ways to promote teamwork and ensuring you have all the right tools you need to do this is one way to achieve better outcomes.

Online solutions that help with teamwork and innovation

Using solutions like online whiteboards in workshops and for brainstorming can help give everyone in the team a voice and the opportunity to be heard. This is in turn likely to lead to greater engagement and more exciting, innovative ideas. Templates for brainstorming, customer personas, creative matrices: all these can help the creative process flow more smoothly, leading to opportunities for greater innovation.

Help your teams innovate with design thinking

There are many design thinking tools and processes available to companies for all types of scenarios. Collaborative tools like empathy maps, brainstorming sessions, and prototyping workshops can all help teams with the innovation process. Strong teamwork and design thinking can create amazing results for organizations, and help them continue to innovate and generate great new products and services that can make the difference in an already overly competitive environment.

You will find design thinking and brainstorming templates along with numerous ways in which you can help your team implement the design thinking process, work better together, and innovate on our resources page – why not give it a visit and see how we can help you?

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