The link between design thinking, innovation and growth

Many businesses aspire to achieve growth through innovation but successfully bridging the gap between great ideas and customer relevance can be a huge challenge.

Our guest blogger Andrea Durrant has an extensive background in business growth and commercialisation and below she provides some insights into the evolving area of design thinking and how it can be applied in business.

Designing growth opportunities
by Andrea Durrant

For many organisations, thinking about the future is part of the fabric of their work. Yet often great ideas fail, not because they are bad ideas, but because they do not solve a compelling problem for the customer.

To manage the increasing variety and complexity of market forces, speed of change, and technological disruption, we need to look to new ways of identifying growth possibilities and opportunities.

Traditional ways of researching the market and customers are no longer enough.  Using datasets based on historical data misses the future part of the equation.  The traditional industry standard of quantitative research tells only part of the story, and lacks the depth required to address today’s complexity.

This is where Design Thinking comes to the fore. So what is it?  Design thinking has been described by one of the original ‘gurus’ of the space, Tim Brown, as a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.

Wikipedia defines designers as “anyone who creates tangible or intangible objects, such as consumer products, processes, laws, games and graphics”.  Historically design thinking been used by ‘proper’ designers – people who are actually creating things, like furniture, houses, or cars.    But it has a lot to offer those in the business space too.

Regrettably, thinking about growth opportunities is not as simple as asking our customers about their needs, running focus groups, and creating surveys.   I love the quote attributed to Henry Ford: “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.”

Using the design thinking principles of deep observation of customers and markets, we can gain equally deep insights that deliver added thrust to our opportunity identification, forecasting, planning and product development.   Design thinking is a tool that recognises that the past doesn’t necessarily predict the future, and helps us see into the future.

In the words of Tim Brown, CEO and President of IDEO (Stanford University’s School of Design), design thinking is “an approach to innovation that is powerful, effective, and broadly accessible.”

It can help us uncover new growth spaces in our markets, or growth spaces in new markets.  It helps us to think deeply about customer needs and behaviour.  It can inspire new approaches to strategy and productivity, and the generation of original ideas, services and products.

If you are interested in learning more about design thinking email Andrea Durrant.


Posted: Saturday 31 August 2013

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