What is Design Thinking Anyway?
Here’s how IDEO — one of the first companies to really use design thinking for service as well as product design (and a company I’ve always dreamed of working with!)– describes design thinking:
Design thinking utilizes elements from the designer’s toolkit like empathy and experimentation to arrive at innovative solutions. By using design thinking, you make decisions based on what future customers really want instead of relying only on historical data or making risky bets based on instinct instead of evidence.
Design thinking hit the scene in a big way a few years ago, and although its origins are in product and service design, it’s become common for customer service consultants to use some of its approaches to strengthen customer experience. Today’s interview is a discussion of Design Thinking with CSPN Vice President of Business & Customer Strategy, Jessica Cryer.
I could have used some design thinking in my life lately. Please accept my apologies for this long-overdue podcast episode. (I explain why it is so delayed in the podcast.)
I attended two customer experience conferences this month, the CXPA Insight Exchange in New Orleans and the CSPN Conference in Toronto. In the coming weeks I’ll have interviews with the incredibly brave Graham Tutton, VP of Customer Insights at Comcast (you’ve got to be brave coming from Comcast to speak to 300+ customer experience professionals!), and Joe Blanchek, General Manager of the New Orleans Downtown Marriott at the Convention Center, who is full of great stories and ideas about how to improve customer experience.
Design Thinking Steps
Jessica Cryer describes the key steps in design thinking as:
- Figure out what is the problem we want to solve? (It might not be what you first assumed.)
- Observation stage – Time to do what I call a “customer safari”. Get out into the wilds and see how customers really use your products or services. At this stage you will also bring in other sources of customer data such as survey results, focus groups, and any other customer-focused research.
- Translate into insights – Data without insight is just numbers & letters. What does it tell you about what customers really want?
- Envision/ideate ways to improve things (a.k.a. the sticky note stage) – What do we envision as the desired end state or goal. Then, what incremental improvements can we make to get us heading there?
- Get Agile – Agile is another concept borrowed from a different discipline (programming) but now often applied in other worlds, such as customer experience improvement. Build prototypes, so you can test out your ideas without having invested everything in one idea that might not pan out. As Jessica put it, “You are not always going to get things 100% right the first time.”
Also in this episode
- The importance of involving customers at all stages in the process. What they perceive as the right solution may be quite different from what you came up with in the ideation stage.
- The challenges of (& motivations for) customer experience improvement in a regulated utility. There are two key motivations: first, even heavily regulated industries that had monopolies or near-monopolies can find their protected status swept away but disruptors (such as Uber vs the taxi industry). Second, customer experience improvements almost always result in developing more efficient and effective internal systems, so ultimately it will save you money and make your organization more profitable.
- Reasons why design thinking sometimes fails. Often it comes from not really understanding what design thinking is and how to do it right. A second reason is lack of internal (especially high level) support. And a related 3rd reason: Not making the ROI case, which leads to reason 2.
Sites Discussed in this Frank Reactions Episode