Demystifying Design Thinking

Blog /Demystifying-Design-Thinking

For many people, the phrase design thinking (DT) conjures up images of art-school grads painting multi-colored canvases, or, in an IT context, designers deciding on color schemes for a new mobile app. However, for enterprises embarking on a digital journey, there is a renewed appreciation of DT, bringing it new prominence on the techno-buzzword list.

Coined at MIT in the 1960s, DT described a contrarian method for designing (and building) things, with the user as the center of focus. Popularized by the D School at Stanford and IDEO, among others, DT has come to mean a design and build approach that favors early, deep user-behavior observation and interaction to understand a problem. It emphasizes ideation based on creating requirements from observing users, using rapid prototyping methods, and designing multiple iterations based on user feedback to arrive at highly usable solution.

Software design and engineering teams tend to approach business problems by breaking the problem statement into smaller components, architecting a solution based on detailed functional requirements, and designing and building each component and the architecture in which the components will coexist.

The user enters this traditional process only at the beginning (to provide functional input) or the end (during usability testing). Whether development follows a waterfall, plain iterative, or agile method, the user is still at the periphery rather than the central focus.

These projects typically met functional completeness and/or financial targets, but they rarely met usability goals for user communities. Non-design-thinking-based IT projects suffer from a low return on engagement (ROE)—a measure of how a customer or internal employee will engage and transact with the product, service, or brand and for how long.

Today, enterprises desperately seek to establish long-term brand engagement while cutting costs and improving speed to market. Established enterprises hope to achieve these objectives by harnessing digital technologies: building mobile apps, developing dashboards for big data analytics, migrating to the cloud, or integrating social sentiment into enterprise decisionmaking.

They face an uphill battle, in part because achieving such a goal is not possible without embracing DT. DT skills create tremendous user empathy, ensuring adoption from even the most finicky users. A DT approach can also dramatically speed up time to market for new products or services and help companies adapt to changing business cycles. Most importantly, DT can save an older enterprise from disruption by nimbler startups, for which DT is a core competency.

Incorporating DT

The first step toward incorporating DT as part of an enterprise mindset is to build awareness of it among digital practitioner teams and management through workshops, hackathons, and (where possible) formalized training and onboarding.

The second step is to change the way delivery teams are hired, staffed, and structured. Teams must be multi-disciplinary, with information architects, visual designers, and user experience specialists closely collaborating with technical architects and coders. Teams must be required to involve user communities throughout the process.

The third step is to refine design and development methodologies to include techniques such as scenario conceptualization and user journey mapping (tracking user context through a scenario). Next, create a devops technology environment for continuous design-test-build approaches.

Finally, in additional to financial and functional metrics, establish and track additional metrics for success, such as customer satisfaction scores, a usability index, a return on engagement score, customer lifetime value, etc.

DT is both a mindset and paradigm. When employed, it can be truly transformational, and now is the time for enterprises to embrace DT to build better, more sustainable brands while remaining relevant to loyal customers.

Post Date: 11/5/2015

Vivek Mehara - NTT DATA Vivek Mehra

About the author

Vivek Mehra leads NTT DATA's Digital Experience practice in India, helping clients realize the business value of digital investments for competitive success. He has over 20 years of consulting experience in IT strategy, systems integration, and digital technologies implementation. Previously, Vivek served in leadership positions at Wipro/Nervewire, Pioneer Investments, State Street Global Advisors, and Cambridge Technology Partners.