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4 ways to get your best minds thinking like designers (even if they’re not)

Lavonne Boutcher
Posted by Lavonne Boutcher on Feb 14, 2017 7:00:00 AM

The design process was once considered the sole domain of artistic types. Not anymore. It’s now being embraced by teams in virtually every kind of business and organization.

Design thinking is where design meets business strategy. It uses design principles to solve problems. And because it can be used by anyone, not just designers, it’s become a powerful tool for innovation. Businesses big and small are using it to fuel creativity and design products that solve real problems for their customers.

Here are four reasons the design thinking process just might be the creative spark your company needs:

1. It puts the focus on people

Design thinking is first and foremost a problem-solving approach that puts people at the center of solutions. The process involves five steps described by Stanford University’s Institute of Design as empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test. Each step is viewed through a single lens: the person using or experiencing a product or service.

As a facilitator and trainer, Hannah Feldberg-Dubin teaches teams how to use design thinking to solve customers’ problems. “The powerful part of design thinking is that it’s not you and me and all those people in the boardroom deciding what the solution to the problem is – it’s actually going out and asking other people what their needs, motivations and wants are.”

2. It provides valuable customer insight

The design-thinking process starts with robust customer-centered research. The goal is to not only define a problem but also reframe it into a practical solution people actually want or need.

To do that, teams have to learn how to empathize with customers. “Empathy is about truly getting on someone’s side to see their perspective on something in order to understand what problems, motivations or pain points they might be facing,” says Hannah. By putting themselves in customers’ shoes, it’s easier for teams to stay focused on solving the right problem as they work through the design-thinking process.

3. It energizes collaboration

We’ve likely all experienced brainstorming sessions that begin with much promise but end up falling flat. It’s frustrating having to walk away no closer to a solution than when you started.

Design thinking can change that by encouraging creative collaboration. Since ideation is such a key step in the process, Hannah spends a lot of time teaching teams different ways to be creative, so they can generate more and better ideas. She enjoys using technology products like the Nureva™ Wall and Span™ Workspace that enhance design thinking by enabling teams to share and evolve ideas on a large digital canvas as they work through the design process.

Design thinking makes work more collaborative and gives everyone an equal voice and opportunity to contribute. “It can really result in some interesting ideas that people are excited about, and what that does to invigorate a group of people or a company or team is really exciting.”

4. It fosters greater engagement

Design thinking fires teams up because they’re empowered to solve problems. They’re the ones asking customers what they want and then designing solutions that deliver the experience they’re looking for.

“It definitely encourages more engagement from staff because it’s a really interesting way to collaborate on ideas,” says Hannah. An engaged team is also more likely to “embrace change in a healthy way,” she says, adding that’s a big win for any company striving to be more flexible and innovative.

Unleash your team’s creativity

No matter what type of product, service or process your company specializes in, if it needs improving, design thinking can help you do it. With an openness to change and a willingness to be more creative, you just might find the solutions your company and your customers have been waiting for. “It’s appealing because it’s accessible and if done well, it renders interesting, unique solutions to things that we maybe haven’t thought of before,” says Hannah.

Topics: Design Thinking