Design Thinking: the human-centered approach to business

Nowadays, Design Thinking is an incredibly popular buzzword. Brands such as Google, Apple, Samsung, Ebay, IKEA, have adopted this methodology and integrated it in their product development cycles.

Universities such as Stanford and Harvard have courses focused on teaching this approach. Also I was involved as a trainer of Design Thinking in the Design and Innovation Management course at Ca’ Foscari University, in Venice – Italy. But what is it exactly and why is it becoming so popular?

The three elements of design innovation

“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer's toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”

According to Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, the design and consulting company, based in Palo Alto – California, that uses the Design Thinking methodology to create products, services, and digital experiences, “Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer's toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”

The modern consumers are becoming extremely sophisticated thanks to the access to different channels, where they can gather real time information about products and services, as well as read and write reviews. This means that brands can’t afford anymore to “make people want what they make”. They have to renew their approach by creating “things that people want and need”. And this is where Design Thinking plays its role, as a method of meeting people’s needs and desires in a technologically feasible and strategically/financially viable way.

“By integrating what is desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable, designers have been able to create the products we enjoy today. Design thinking takes the next step, which is to put these tools into the hands of people who may have never thought of themselves as designers and apply them to a vastly greater range of problems.” Tim Brown, Change by Design, Introduction

That said, we can easily identify three main characteristics of Design Thinking:

  1. It is human-centered. It focuses on identifying and understanding people’s needs, to define the main pain points that they experience, which should then be analysed and solved by generating and testing ideas;
  2. It is collaborative. It promotes team work and diversity among team members, because it is by starting from the combination of different backgrounds, ages, experiences that original ideas arise;
  3. It is experimental. Each idea has to be prototyped and then tested with real people to understand if it really meets their needs.

Being the Human Network, here at The Ad Store, we apply Design Thinking to our projects as well as to our internal organization. We believe that it is an incredibly powerful approach to build empathy with:

  • users in a way that we can really identify their issues and, by ‘reading between the lines’ of what they say and do while experiencing a certain product or service, we can build a more effective strategy that really speaks to them and meets their requirements;
  • colleagues and teammates, so that we can build a more effective teamwork approach internally, and ensure that everybody feels involved and motivated while adding value to each project they are part of!

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