How some of the biggest startups are using design thinking to hack their way to growth

One of the biggest reason Startups fail is because they are addressing a problem nobody wants a solution for. Either the problem just isn’t significant enough, or the timing isn’t right, but the epidemic is so bad that it affects 42% of all Startups. However, a lot of emerging startups are completely eliminating this problem from the process. How are they skipping a process that could potentially cost them the business you ask? It’s by using design thinking. Instead of making a product they think the consumers like, Startups are now focusing on problems that millions face every single day and are trying to find viable solutions for them.

What is design thinking?  

Tim Brown defines design thinking as “holding multiple tensions in your head and finding ideas that solves all of the problems at once.” He is the CEO and President of IDEO , a global design and innovation company. Through it, designers can figure out the desirability, feasibility and viability of the product they are planning to launch in the market. It should answer a few simple questions in order to work: What is the problem people are looking to solve? What can be done with the available technology to solve it? And how sustainable is it to turn it into a (hopefully) profitable business solution?

How to turn design thinking into a profitable business

Contrary to popular belief, working on an idea and making the real product without prototyping and making changes throughout is not the best way to go if you are a startup. The faster you make a prototype and put a product out, the lower the cost in terms of time and energy spent on the product. The amount of money spent on the prototype is also bound to be lower than the amount that would be spent on the end product. This leaves you time to explore other ideas and solutions if the original one doesn’t receive the desired response.

Prototyping also lets you test your product in the market and get feedbacks on it. Is it the solution people needed but didn’t realize they needed it? Is it just a great idea but the population just decide that it doesn’t change their life in a significant way to go out and buy/use the product? It is essential to have this information early on in the creation process so that you and your team knows what needs to change and evolve and what needs to be completely discarded.

Everyone who works for a Startup realizes that a certain product is on the making for the consumer and that it has the potential to make their lives better. However, most forget to involve them in the production process, which makes them loose out on valuable feedback.

Putting together the dream team

One of the biggest challenges of implementing design thinking is putting together a team that will help see the task to its fruition. Design thinking can often take the team through uncomfortable situations that they have to move past in order to achieve a desirable result. Therefore, all team members need to be very open-minded, curious, adaptable, able to collaborate with others, don’t mind being constantly challenged and easily adjust with changes. This may sound like much to ask from the team members, but it is essential for a great work environment as well as a great end product.

Members of a design thinking team don’t all have to be specialists in their fields. While they need to have a deep understanding of their field, there should also be people from vast walks of life who can reach out and connect to other people when necessary. While expertise is important, it is also important to have someone who sticks up for the consumer and their needs; someone who can put their foot down when they feel like the product isn’t as consumer driven as it originally set out to be.

Companies that have used design thinking

Sephora, a famous chain of cosmetic stores that features numerous brands realized, by analyzing user activity on their website, that most of the consumers watched a video on YouTube before making a purchase. When people saw a famous makeup artist use a product or talk about a product, there was higher probability that people went online and bought them. Looking at this trend, Sephora realized the market potential of YouTube and launched their own beauty channel to help promote the brands they featured.

Airbnb, the house renting application started when two of the founders were in New York and found that all the hotel rooms were booked. They came up with the idea of renting a place to sleep, rented an apartment and bought three air mattresses and put them online. Three people came to sleep on their floor, and they started the business.

As it is with most successful startups, they emphasized with their consumers and got a solution for a problem everyone was looking at but hadn’t realized it was there. When business didn’t pick up as they expected it, they analyzed the reason and realized the website needed clearer pictures. They flew to NewYork to meet with their initial users and took good quality photos of the rooms. They also took into consideration feedbacks from the first users and made adjustments where necessary. By doing this they implemented design thinking in their business and watched it take off.

When we think of Toshiba, we think of electronic goods like laptops and TV, what we do not think of is organic vegetables grown in climate-controlled rooms with special soil formulated with nutrients and fertilizers. By incorporating design thinking, they turned a floppy disk factory that was sitting idle for a decade into a farm and now produce over 3 million units of vegetables. Following their footsteps, companies like Sharp and Panasonic have also growing fruits and vegetables in their abandoned factories. Design thinking helped them draw revenue from an abandoned factory, giving it new life.

It might be hard at first to start implementing design thinking into a business but once you start, the benefits you can derive from it will definitely be worth it.

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