Use Design Thinking When Starting Your Company

Use Design Thinking When Starting Your Company

Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that approximately 20% of new businesses fail during the first two years of being open, 45% during the first five years, and 65% during the first 10 years. Only 25% of new businesses make it to 15 years or more.

So what do those 25% companies do differently than the rest? There are plenty of processes and business recommendations available but one that is popular is called “design thinking”.

This entails knowing or empathizing with your customer. Learning insights that maybe you didn’t realize before and testing to see if there really is a need for your product or idea. Design Thinking is defined as the following: “It’s an iterative process in which knowledge is constantly being questioned and acquired so it can help us redefine a problem in an attempt to identify alternative strategies and solutions that might not be instantly apparent with our initial level of understanding.”

IDEO is a design firm credited with starting “design thinking” and which has thousands of breakthrough inventions, including several products designed for Apple. They talk about the importance of incorporating human behavior in all of their product design and services. IDEO describes it this way:  “This approach brings together what is desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable. It also allows people who aren’t trained as designers to use creative tools to address a vast range of challenges.” 

Following are the five stages of design thinking in order to test out an idea:

Empathize: In this stage, an entrepreneur focuses on understanding the market. She begins her investigation by questioning and surveying the market or the people that are most likely to use a product/ service. Shee understands the pain points of the people with the existing solutions in the market.

Define: The underlying knowledge of the customer helps the entrepreneur to define the problem better. She now understands what the customer dislikes and likes in the current scenario.

Ideate: Once the problem is defined, the company can begin ideation. In this stage, they map the journey of the user in steps. Once the company maps a user’s journey, it can then categorize the previously learned pain points and gain points of the user. The startup then prioritizes the most critical pain points that must be solved.

Prototype:  The most crucial pain points are the features with which prototyping begins. The first version of the product does not solve everything. Why not? Because the product is not tested. In every version of the product, one or two new features are added or improved, and then the product is launched. Key insights are received from users, and this feedback is then used to design version 2 of the product. And the circle repeats throughout the lifecycle of the product.

Test:  In this stage, a version of the product is ready. It is launched, customers buy and use the product, and feedback is received. This feedback is then used to design the next version.

At the core of Design Thinking is the intention to improve products by analyzing how users interact with them. Human behavior is the key. Design thinking offers a strategy for digging deeper to uncover ways to improve the user experience. Companies that apply design thinking have a better chance of succeeding than those who merely create products without assessing and validating market needs.

One designer, David Fastuca, wrote that design thinking can be looked at this way:

  • Design thinking is a human-centered approach.
  • Design thinking identifies opportunities by looking at prospective data and identifying gaps in the market.
  • Design thinking uses observational techniques to uncover problems and issues that people may not be aware of immediately.
  • Good design requires people to believe in possibility and to think in the abstract.

There are many different ways to test and ideate about any kind of idea. These steps can be overlooked when one becomes so married to the original idea. Being open to feedback and living in the customer’s shoes will help any company realize the obstacles as well as the opportunities in front of them.

Reviewed & Recommended:

One of my favorite articles by McKinsey defines ten key steps to follow in order to validate your idea.  If these steps are achieved and there are still doubts about your idea, it is critical to go back to the drawing board to figure out the human needs for your product or service.

IDEO, an internationally known design firm and known for working with Apple on several products, discusses in depth what it is and why it works:

What is Design Thinking? – IDEO U

This article by Forbes discusses each step in the design thinking process for your company:

How to Implement Design Thinking 


Courses on Design Thinking:

Design Thinking | Free Online Courses

Design Thinking for Innovation