Design Thinking for Business Innovation
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Design thinking is a popular new idea in the business world. Accelerated by the spectacular rise of Apple and IDEO, design thinking offers an approach better suited for dealing with the accelerating pressures for growth and innovation faced by so many firms and their managers today than business’ traditional analytic methods. But design thinking can remain mysterious for business students and managers interested in introducing this approach into their decision-making processes. Demystifying it is the focus of this course.
Though designing as a craft requires years of dedicated education and talent to master, design thinking, as a problem solving approach, does not. In this course, we work with the following model that contains four questions and ten tools:
The four sequential questions that take us on a journey through an assessment of current reality (What is?), the envisioning of a new future (What if?), the development of some concepts for new-business opportunities (What wows?), and the testing of some of those in the marketplace (What works?). The process of design thinking begins with data gathering: at the outset of the design process, designers gather a great deal of data on the users they want to create value for. They mostly do this through ethnographic methods like experience mapping, rather than traditional methods like focus groups and surveys. Farther along in the process, designers make their new ideas concrete (in the form of prototypes) and go out and get better data from the real world in a process that is hypothesis-driven. That is, they treat their new ideas as hypotheses to be tested. They surface the assumptions underlying their hypotheses and test them – usually looking for the kind of behavioral metrics that will allow them to iterate their way to improved value propositions.
Accompanying the four questions is a set of new tools to help business people achieve the same kind of disciplined approach to innovation and growth that they bring to the rest of their business.
Week 1: What is Design Thinking? We will begin our course by unpacking what we mean by design thinking and why it is more effective than traditional business methods when the goal is innovation in the business environment. By looking at the case histories of a set of successful growth leaders, we will explore how their mindsets and practices enabled them to achieve innovation and growth. Then you will be given the opportunity to assess your own mindset and skill set.
Week 2: Exploring Question 1 - What is? Examining what already exists is the first step in the design thinking process. This week we will look at some of the design tools used to accomplish this. As part of assessing What is? for instance, designers “follow the customer home” and explore their problems in life versus their use of his product, using an ethnographic technique called “journey mapping.” We will also look at tools like visualization that uses imagery to bring ideas to life and mind mapping that helps us make sense of the data we have collected.
Week 3: Exploring Question 2 - What if? Once you have thoroughly explored and looked for patterns in what is, you can look toward the future and ask What if? This question and the tools associated with it will be the focus of week 3. This is the creative part of the process - but it also contains a disciplined approach. Tools like structured brainstorming and concept development will help us move from the creation of a mass of unrelated ideas to the construction of robust concepts that are worth moving into prototyping and testing.
Week 4: Exploring Question 3 - What wows? In asking the What wows? question, we begin to bring together the customer and business cases supporting our new concepts. Typically, the “wow” zone occurs at the intersection of three criteria: customers have to want it, the organization needs to be able to create and deliver it, and doing so has to produce the kind of outcomes that help a business achieve its objectives. Designers create quick and dirty physical examples of products in this stage using the prototyping tool. They surface the underlying assumptions behind their new ideas to prepare to test them.
Week 5: Exploring Question 4 - What works? Now we reach the final stage of our design process - enlisting customers to help us assess the new idea, using the customer co-creation tool.