The need for new concepts in product development
Our world is changing in an unprecedented way. Due to the high interconnectedness and globalization, the pace of change has increased radically. Social Media has transformed the way that people communicate, and the corona pandemic has shown the need for new technologies. As a result, society must keep up with several worldwide economical, technological, and social developments (Mack, Khare, Krämer & Burgartz, 2016). These rather turbulent changes in our daily life, but also in the business environment, can be summarized by the acronym “VUCA”. The term VUCA stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity and emerged in the late 1990s, introduced by the U.S. Army War College to reflect “a shift from traditional Cold War military conflicts to asymmetric warfare with agile, dispersed opponents fighting under different rules for causes we do not fully understand” (Kaivo-oja & Lauraeus, 2018, p. 38; Lawrence, 2013). In times of climate change, gender inequality and a pandemic, value-creating innovations are the key to face this VUCA world.
Therefore, organizations need new skills and be more innovative to succeed in this disruptive environment. They need to become more agile and efficient when it comes to developing new value-creating products (Euiyoung, Beckman & Agogino, 2018).
To achieve this and “change to a more customer-driven strategic development process, companies will need new ways of managing their portfolios and their investments in product and technology development” (ibid., p. 64). One way to solve complex problems and find innovative approaches is the Design Thinking approach.
The Design Thinking Approach
The Design Thinking approach becomes more popular in the business context and is being more frequently used by companies, in particular by the software industry (Araújo, Santos, Canedo & Araújo, 2019). But what is
t the Design Thinking approach about?
„Design thinking incorporates constituent or consumer insights in depth and rapid prototyping, all aimed at getting beyond the assumptions that block effective solutions. Design thinking — inherently optimistic, constructive, and experiential — addresses the needs of the people who will consume a product or service and the infrastructure that enables it“ (Brown & Wyatt, 2010, p.32).
This concept is not following an exact sequence of systematic steps. The process is about “getting to know” the problem and being open minded regarding possible solutions. Brown and Wyatt describe the process as three overlapping spaces: inspiration, ideation and implementation (2010). In those three stages, Design Thinkers would first focus on the main problem (inspiration), then generate, develop and test ideas (ideation) and in the end turn the best ideas into action (ibid.). Working closely with clients or consumers allows solutions to “bubble up from below”. The human centric approach is performed by a multidisciplinary team and can seem disorganized when applied for the first time (ibid.).
A highly effective and systematic Design Thinking framework was created by Google Ventures and has been applied to develop several award-winning products. This agile and effective 5-day process, called a “Design Sprint has been considered as an effective framework to validate ideas through rapid prototyping and user testing, and contains five stages: Understand, Diverge, Decide, Prototype, and Validate (Sari & Tedjasaputra, 2017, p. 392).
In the first phase the team members create a common knowledge base regarding a specific topic and choose a particular focus, goals or success metrics (Google, n.d.). In the sketch phase – or Diverge as Araújo et al. declare it – the team members generate several ideas, which they will narrow down to one Solution Sketch. In the following phases, the group decides for one specific direction and creates a prototype of the concept. In the end, the team will collect feedback by presenting this concept to potential users and finish the Sprint with a validated product (ibid.). Within this process, the greatest ideas are condensed and validated in a very short amount of time (Araújo et al., 2019).
It becomes clear, that the Design Thinking process can be used to help develop creative solution approaches, discover implicit requirements, and clarify what the client actually needs. This makes it a key building block for increasing the innovation power of your company and thus strengthen the customer orientation and satisfaction in your everyday project work.
While understanding the ideas of Design Thinking may be easy, it might be rather difficult to implement it into a company. Just allocating budget isn’t enough, using Design Thinking needs a change in culture and an innovative and experimental mindset. Making this change work is the responsibility of the company’s leadership. To many employees, change can feel uncomfortable. Therefore, it is absolutely necessary that they are supported with the right tools and techniques as well as time and space to practice the Design Thinking methods and ideas.
Author: Marina Mergen, Leitung Content Marketing, Tiba Marketing GmbH