Last November, 40 delegates attended our morning workshop at the Surrey Technology Centre to hear about ‘Design Thinking’ and how anyone can use it to innovate and grow their business. The event entitled Wake Up Design!, was a collaboration between ourselves, Oxford Innovation and Enterprise M3 Growth Hub. Lukasz Liebersbach of Oxford Innovation described the origins of Design Thinking and its potential as a unified framework for innovation, and FDK’s Simon de Kretser explained how any business can utilise Design Thinking, regardless of experience, industry or size.

Design Thinking is a process that can help anyone be more creative and innovative. David Kelley, founder of the design and innovation company IDEO, coined the term and set up the design school at Stanford University, to promote a collaborative and user-centric approach to problem solving.

A vital part of Design Thinking is to empathise with your customer or end user - seek to understand the problems they may face when using your products or services, but also find out about their positive experiences.

Interviewing customers (or employees or stakeholders for that matter) face-to-face can be much more effective than general market research in achieving this, as people can be encouraged to tell stories and share experiences that you may not have considered.

The problem with conventional market research is that whilst it can deliver a large sample size, you tend to get the answers you want, rather than the answers you need.

Observation is another key process. Only by watching people using a product or service and seeing the customer journey through their eyes, can you appreciate their stories and experiences and use them to create and innovate.

But, is Design Thinking only for those who consider themselves to be creative? The fact is that we all have innate creativity, but for many, it’s been suppressed over the years.

If you were asked to draw the person next to you, you’d probably feel embarrassed to show the results, whereas you wouldn’t have worried about it when you were a child, in fact you were probably very keen to show off your creations!

Giving people the opportunity to express ideas without fear of judgement is a fundamental part of the Design Thinking process and to do so, they need to be in an environment that encourages divergent thinking.

Encouraging fun and playfulness in the ideation stage will help make people feel more comfortable about expressing their ideas and even if they are a little too crazy to be viable, they might just spark another more practical idea (known as ‘the adjacent possible’).

Once you recognise that everyone in your organisation can contribute, you can also tap into a wider range of people and you may well find that the best ideas, stories and experiences come from the most unexpected of sources!

If you want to start implementing it in your business, a good way to begin is by simply running through the process of interacting with your products or services from a new user’s standpoint. Put your preconceptions and your knowledge aside and you might just be surprised at what you find. And remember, everyone is creative.

Oliver de Kretser

FdK Design Consultants

01483 685515


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