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This article focuses only on the first process phase of the Design Thinking and User research process, which it deals with understanding your target customer group as well as their behaviors and feelings in order to get a clear picture of their daily goals and needs. This is essential before you can develop more precise solutions, tailored exactly for your customer.
Empathy allows us to feel what it is like to be in somebody else’s shoes— a prerequisite for customer-centric and lean innovation. The more we put yourself in the position of the frustrated customers, the better we will understand his pain points.
Involve observations, interviews, consulting with experts, and measurements to gain empathy. There are some open innovation toolkits available, of which I like Mozilla’s available and comprehensive library
Quick market and competitor research will help you to understand the industry and current opportunities with their strength and weaknesses. If your planning is to offer competitive products, the blue ocean strategy is one of the best ways to highlight your competition entry points and allows you to focus on product features you should focus on. Use this spreadsheet to start with the analysis right away.
It’s important to relate to physical as well as conceptual elements to avoid assumptions and make objective assessments.
To capture all your relevant information it’s best to create Personas. This allows everyone in your team to visualize key insights on your target customer group. Use Customer Journey’s to analyze every process step that your customer takes during his buying interactions with your company. Both methods allow you to make customer thoughts, feelings and behaviors transparent and will provide every team member as well as people outside the team with crucial information, where your customer faces problems. This activity can be done either with your existing products and services or any other competitive solutions which the customer is already using.
With Pyoneer our goal is to provide every Design Thinking practitioner with the right toolset. With our Persona and Customer Journey tools we believe to simplify applying Desing Thinking for everyone, whether he is an expert or a bloody beginner, and wish our solution takes this great customer-oriented framework into the daily work of more and more people.
Design Thinking and Lean Startup are totally popular, although these practices exist already for years. Gartner IT research estimates that by 2021, more than 50% of established corporations will be leveraging lean startup techniques at their business level to increase the pace and success of business transformation. Industry leaders like IBM or Procter & Gamble have trained their whole organization with the disciplines of design thinking, to become more innovative and especially customer-centric.
There are clear indicators that a transformation of organizations and especially operations towards a more customer-centered approach is happening. Design Thinking and other human-centered methodologies like Lean Startup or Lean UX have become mature. In this article, I’m going to look at management practices and why we believe a new era has just started.
Technologies such as mobile devices, social networking, cognitive computing, and the Internet of Things are changing the way companies design, manufacture, and deliver almost every product and service. It also significantly increased the pace of change in business as a whole, requiring organizations to become agiler.
This, of course, has a disruptive impact on Product Development and Innovation as a whole. Traditional industries with dominated market position and business models (keeping prices artificially high) don’t work in a digital world, with shorter and more frequent product development cycles, global competition and the rise of freemium services.
Customers and users are now connected via social media, which allows updating people in seconds about their experience with products, services or companies. An increasing number of consumers depend on their purchasing decisions on reputation and reviews. Shitstorms can ruin brand reputation within a couple of days, what marketing departments have built up over the years.
Digitization forces an organization to deal with completely new challenges and market preconditions. I know this isn’t highly advanced research, but I want to emphasise on the new requirements and settings for businesses and their organizations.
Digital Transformation is one of those buzzwords, that you hear by almost every company, although every transformation is going to be different for organizations.
You can define it, as the integration of digital technology into all areas of a business.
You can define digital transformation, as the integration of digital technology into all areas of a business.
It results in a:
To handle these changes, many different management approaches have evolved, claiming to be the best and most efficient way. Companies have understood that linear methodologies like Waterfall, which follow a sequential and linear process of development, doesn’t work. The model originated in the manufacturing and construction industries, both highly structured environment where changes can be too expensive or sometimes impossible.
With the need for shorter product life cycles as well as higher flexibility during development, agile project management has become the standardized way of managing projects. Agile refers to a manifesto, which was published in February 2001 by 17 software developers, who have to discuss lightweight development methods. It is based on an incremental, iterative approach, instead of in-depth planning at the beginning of a project like a waterfall. Changing requirements are expected over time and constant feedback from end users is encouraged. The goal of each iteration is to produce a working product.
While Agile was traditionally created for software development, it can also be used in many other projects and industries. Many practices in Agile, like stand-up meetings and visual management, are so common and can apply to any industry. It’s important to remember that Agile software development was born from the principles of Lean manufacturing and organizational learning.
There are subsets of Agile, like Scrum, which is one of the most popular process frameworks for implementing Agile. It follows a set of roles, responsibilities, and meetings that never change. But as agile, scrum also has its limitation on considering and integrating customer problems and needs.
During my interviews with leading enterprises like SAP, BMW, Lufthansa, and many others, to identify their philosophy of doing the digital transformation. “Our tech teams are applying Agile, product teams are trying to integrate Lean and with the increasing need of customer- and user-centricity we want to combine everything with Design Thinking.”
While agile and scrum helped teams to gain flexibility, speed and the ability of continuous improvement, this generation of project or product management is limited in its capability of understanding and integrating the customer in team activities. Human-centered development approaches add the most crucial dimension to the success of any company activity — the customer!
Put the customer at the center of everything — focus on customer value if you’re struggling to get an alignment as a team. Ask yourself on a regular basis:
Design Thinking helps teams to emphasize the customer problems and needs while Lean Startup helps with its build-measure-learn loop to identify the best-fit solution for the identified problems. Be aware that none of these methods are sufficient alone and only reveal their full potential in combination.
Successful companies nowadays neither stand out because of their most efficient production, nor their best engineers, sales managers, marketing commercials or whatever. It’s more their dedication to understanding the customer as well as their strong commitment to serving customer problems and needs.
Amazon is the best example of executing this practices in perfection, what helped them to achieve best-in-class customer satisfaction ratings and has enabled them also to dominate multiple markets (E-commerce, cloud web services, E-book reader). As more companies understand the real value of customer insights, the better they can target their business activities like product development, marketing or strategy in general.
Applying human-centered correctly helps companies not only to become more agile or flexible in their product development. It allows also to reduce waste in developing the wrong products as well as it helps to avoid investing money and resources into not required solutions. We believe human-centered has the opportunity to reveal the full potential of every organization and especially its employees. It helps them to alignment their teams towards customer value which will help to create successful products and services. This is why we believe no company can afford in future to disregard the relevance of customers and to avoid using human-centered methods in their organization.
Neither Design Thinking or Lean Startup nor agile or user experience (UX) are new for companies. To become successful in the future, I believe it´s a matter of how well companies combine all of those practices. Efficiency will be measured in who well teams have a common understanding of their customers, as it allows them to target their work more precise towards the desired outcome. Designers teams can create better user concepts, development teams can prioritize better on features based on the customer value and the manager will gain more confidence in taking the right.
What remains open is the question of how Design Thinking generates an interpretation of user needs that are so trivial and non-complex, that teams can build on this insight in further processing Agile mode. Is an interface between Design Thinking and Agile imaginable, which allows simple planning and makes sequential processing possible?
There is good news — Pyoneer is going to building this interface!
Pyoneers is going to build an SaaS-Solution for innovators who want to deliver products that solve real problems. You can sign up at pyoneer.io to get insider first looks at the product and updates on our upcoming release.
What would you think if there was a manual to create innovative products, experiences or services? I’m not talking about incremental improvements, like e.g. more pixels on your screens or few more horsepower in your car’s engine…
I’m talking about disruptive innovation, that change the behavior of users while improving people’s lives!
No worries, if you’re skeptical now! In general, innovation is all about humans. Day by day, humans create things for humans!
I want to share my experience from the moment I got into contact with Design Thinking to the moment where I have noticed a deep problem for a specific group of people. That’s when I came up with a great solution to this problem and finally, we grew into a rockstar co-founding team to run a Lean Startup now.
I’m excited to share this method and experiences with you. I practice, love, use, teach and learn from Design Thinking every single day at work, and in life. And I hope to inspire others to apply it in their daily work, as I promise it will guide you to the solution of problems.
Developing successful innovative business models, products and services have become one of the most important success rate factors for today’s business landscape.
82 percent of CEO’s of world’s leading companies have concerns about whether their company’s current products or services will be relevant to customers 3 years, the “2016 Global CEO Outlook” survey from KPMG found out.
Especially in times of emerging disruptive technologies, glutted markets, decreasing product lifecycles and continuously increasing expectations of customers. One of the main reasons is digitization and the enormous speed of change.
Design Thinking is one of the methods to achieve innovation! Most successful startups have successfully applied it and continuously develop their products and services with this framework (like AirBnb and Dropbox). It goes well beyond the plain “look & feels” of an object: it is actually a state of the art problem-solving methodology!
“Design Thinking is a human-centered model that encourages creativity and innovation to create a product or service that solves a complex problem for your target customer or user. It can help you innovate a new product, design a simple solution to a complex problem, or to get the whole team involved in generating design ideas so they feel included and believe in the process.”
David Kelley – IDEO founder
The challenges of modern business, it’s global and cross-industry aspect urged for new problem-solving frameworks, capable of producing extraordinary solutions. Design Thinking offered a win-win strategy: “human-centered design that is all about looking out from the inside—rather than outside in”.
Digital business transformation requires innovative, out-of-the-box thinking. Design Thinking is a natural fit as many enterprises seek to transform and, in some cases, reinvent themselves as digital businesses. It was developed by IDEO and is taught at the d.school: Institute of Design at Stanford and HPI school of design thinking in Potsdam – both founded by Hasso Plattner (Co-founder of SAP).
It involves massive collaboration and frequent iterations and has five very clear phases:
I’m going into detail on the Design Thinking process in some upcoming articles, that’s why I’m going to skip this for now.
The term “Lean Startup” was developed in the IT industry for software startups and became very popular with the book “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries in 2011. “Lean” principles were developed in the early seventies by Toyota to optimize production processes and reduce any sort of waste in the process. The Lean Startup process claims that the most efficient innovation is the one for which there is an actual demand by the users. Or put in other words: the biggest waste is creating a product or service that nobody needs. This concept is highly relevant for any strategy or method that aims at creating innovations.
Design Thinking and Lean Startup are not the same, but comparing them you’ll notice that they have one thing in common. It is all about the customer. Both methodologies try to identify customer needs in order to create appropriate solutions. The method of lean startup goes one step further: try to test core business assumptions early in the product development process, sometimes even before any product is built at all. Track your assumptions and learn from the insights that you have gathered during testing with your customer.
Continue this build-measure-learn cycle and make progress in an iterative way, while getting closer to the solution your customer wants to have.
At the moment I have to admit to putting all my energy and time into founding a company. It was also clear that perfect execution is required in everything we’re going to do. I knew it will be a super difficult and long way. There are many statistics of failing startups and the figure is around 90%. To become successful it’s not sufficient to have a good product idea or excellent salespeople. **The perfect balance of the right product, while serving the market with excellence and managing everything by an awesome organization, is required. **
When our founding team grew together, we’ve noticed to have a perfect balance of complementary skills – the most valuable achievement in the early days for a startup! We are convinced that we’re going to be successful, no matter where the future is leading us to, but finding a perfect set of founders is the main groundwork. Every one of us is somehow different and there are often some deep discussions. But we see this more as fuel for our spirit!
As we had founded a team, we knew that there was a growing market and had a solution for a problem so we decided to build up everything using Design Thinking methods. We wanted to execute in perfection from day 1! We created target groups, analyzed their behaviors, interviewed to understand their jobs and problems. In Lean Startup, everything is about validating your assumptions and hypotheses, so these steps were required in order to gain confidence if our tool was to solve their problem. Additionally, we created mockups and digital prototypes that we again showed to our target group to gain feedback about whether our solution is sufficient and viable for them.
As it turned out most of our assumptions were correct so we decided to build our solution – and to found our startup Pyoneer. It’s a Software-as-a-Service application for documenting, visualizing and managing all your innovation activities based on Design Thinking and Lean Startup methodologies. With Pyoneer we want to provide the right toolset for each process phase and guide the user through the process. We also want to enable access and full transparency of collected information and results for everyone – to help teams across the globe to convey the big picture in one place.
We are currently in the development and are going to release our first features the next weeks and are totally excited to see which feedback users are going to give us. We’re seeking this feedback, as it’s essential to get better and know exactly what our customers need.
We believe that if we keep listening, thinking, creating, validating, learning and always being open and transparent we’ll end up with the right amount of customer value and we’ll create a solution that people love.
As you can see we started with a Lean Startup culture and we will continue on this as we’re positive it will guide us to success! I hope I could inspire some of the readers and would be happy to hear your opinions. Stay tuned if you are interested in our path, we’ll be back soon!
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