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Design thinking – successfully moving from insights to viability

When NASA began the launch of astronauts into space, they found out that the pens wouldn’t work at zero gravity (that means that an ink won’t flow down to the writing surface). To solve this problem, it took them one decade and $12 million. They developed a pen that worked at zero gravity, upside down, underwater, in practically any surface including crystal and, in a temperature, range from below freezing to over 300 degrees Centigrade. And what did the Russians do? They simply used a pencil!

In the words of Steve Jobs, “design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

When you stay up all night working on a new product or an innovation, or when people say they are in love with their work or passionate with what they are currently working on, I usual ask “ are you in love with your solution or the customer’s problem”?

There are different approaches to innovation, but the most ignored yet most important approach is from the angle of human interactions. We most times design the products from the factory and even in isolation from real world need. We design without including the customer in the process whereas it should first be from the mind of the potential user and customer. It starts from asking, what does the customer really want, how does the customer even think?

More businesses need to understand design thinking. Design thinking is a human-cantered approach to innovation that integrates the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.

A key step in design thinking is creating a mannequin of your customer first and having your product fit in way before launch. It’s having an incremental yet iterative process of production mainly from client feedback. It’s having a product-market fit. To thrive, we must make what customers want. It is important to know with empirical evidence that there are ready customers who truly want the product you have created and that they are willing and happy to pay for it. See if it meets their requirement and fitness for use with intense value. Test them by having them use the product way before launch.

Finding product market fit is not a one-day process. It can take weeks of carving your own statue of David. The statue of David is a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture created in marble between 1501 and 1504 by the Italian artist Michelangelo. The David is a 5.17-metre marble statue of the Biblical hero David, a favoured subject in the art of Florence. It is amongst the top 10 artworks ever done. But there are two processes necessary for carving your statue of David; Test Launch and Rework. Test launching demands that products be pre-launched to a small, controlled and diversified market. And then you note all their feedback.

To rework means to use market feedback to rework your product and finally make what people want. There are key quotes attributed to Michelangelo sequel to the successful production of the David Masterpiece that gives away the ideal disposition to making a great product. When they asked how he made such great images from mere carvings from large marbles, he said “I saw David in the marble and carved until I set him free”. In another statement he said, “I kept chipping away anything that didn’t look like David”. In the words of Christoph Niemann “Get rid of everything that is not essential to making a point.”

The best architect and bridge builder will do a bad job if he spends a lot time designing the bridge, but not enough time thinking about the people who are crossing it. It will cost more and even a rework. In project management, there are three main type of costs (prevention cost, appraisal cost and failure cost). Prevention cost and appraisal cost is always lesser than failure cost. Understanding how the market and customer thinks is key in deciding what to do. It is efficient too. It starts from seeing things from the mind of your customer. I can tell you for free that all customers for example are extremely 1. Lazy—2. Crazy–and 3. Busy!

If for example we know that customers are lazy, let’s provide more convenience with our product (this is what Sony capitalized on during the 80s when they started to make the TVs with the remote control and it helped them sell more before others could adopt the same concept). Customers are busy. If we know that customers are busy, why don’t we save their time or help them multi task as a major attribute of them using our products. I mean like knowing that people listen more to audio books while driving or taking a walk, if we know that customer’s want a milkshake, smoothie or coffee mostly to take away from the fast food joint, so how compactible is the milkshake cup with the side compartments of the car. In other words, since fast tracking is a consumer behaviour, we should ask how can we put our product to run parallel with other activities in their schedule that way.

Customers are crazy. Also knowing that they are crazy (as a matter of fact, we all are crazy and we all get bored from a rising coefficient of seeing or doing the same thing), we then should consistently deliver outlier products. To be practical wit” the concept of “crazy”, it turns out that if you see something over and over again, you start to ignore it. And so expectedly, marketers should know that the only thing more important than being better is being different. So, whether as a producer or marketer, it’s important to pique your interest by making funky little adjustments. Take for example, on a highway, if you change the speed limit to 57, or the start time of a conference to 1:52pm as again 2pm or hang a sign upside down, people will notice the message more. In one study, they found that a scientist dressed as a panhandler raised more money when he asked for 37 cents instead of a quarter. And so, selfish marketers will put ʇuǝƃɹn in the subject line of an email that couldn’t be less urgent.

Think about people than your product. In the words of Frank Chimero, “People ignore designs that ignore people”. Design thinking is about having a broader spectrum of all possible stakeholders thinking out the products. It’s a team sport driven by user centeredness. Design thinking draws upon empathy, intuition, inquiry, and reasoning to identify user needs, and then to imagine and explore ways of solving those needs. Jesse James Garrett, a renowned User experience designer once defined User-Cantered Design as understanding what your users need, how they think, and how they behave – and incorporating that understanding into every aspect of your process. It’s about inclusiveness and the application of an Agile Project Management (APM), iterative approach to planning and guiding project-processes. That means that the application of an innovative process is completed in small sections. Insights gained from the critique of iteration are used to determine what the next step should be in the project.

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