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How to Integrate Design Thinking Into Your Business How to Integrate Design Thinking Into Your Business
We spend a lot of time on Open Data Science talking about the technical side of data science and business but don’t be fooled:... How to Integrate Design Thinking Into Your Business

We spend a lot of time on Open Data Science talking about the technical side of data science and business but don’t be fooled: the human element needs to be there. Companies making the best use of data science still center the human experience in their business growth and plan — think Apple or Google. In fact, design-led companies outperform others to the tune of around 211%. Design Thinking humanizes the data you’re using and allows you to innovate solutions that work for people, not just ideal situations in a vacuum. It’s all the best parts of human desires with what amazing things technology is capable of doing. Integrating it into your business could be just the spark you need to build in momentum and jumpstart your innovation strategy. 

What is Design Thinking?

The process wants to understand people. It brings you to a level of empathy that allows you to anticipate what your audience needs and build products and services around that concept. It’s an iterative process composed of five stages:

  • empathize – understand your audience, who they are and what they want
  • define – fully understand one specific problem
  • ideate – explore a wide range of solutions to that problem and settle on one
  • prototype – build solutions out adequately enough for testing
  • test – iterate extensively by testing and revamping prototypes

Once you’ve fulfilled the process, implementation happens through customary channels, and voila! You’ve got your newest disruption.

Well, if only it were that simple, right? In reality, design thinking is not just iterative, but a series of full-scale trials and errors as you become better acquainted with your target audience and the intimate details of their day to day lives. These pipelines are never as simple as one might think, so launching smooth one just isn’t going to happen. 

Design Thinking for Real People

People spend more time in the solution space than they do with the problem. Empathizing with your client base isn’t possible if you don’t immerse yourself in the challenge. You run the risk of seeing only a solution from your perspective. It turns out — you’ve got blinders on.

Talking to your customers and observing their behavior through progressive iterations of your product is part of the design thinking process. Get out of your head and into the heads of your customers. What experiences do they have that are different? What surprises you? This is the space of real innovation.

You also suspend your judgment during the ideation process. “Hold nothing back except criticism,” as MIT puts it. The ideas you have will be wild; in fact, the wilder, the better. It’s this process of wild ideation that helps hone and refine possibilities outside your own experience and could land on something revolutionary.

For example, Gillette spent years dominating the razor scene only to be toppled by a little known upstart. What did that upstart have? Not a better razor. Not a more elaborate handle. They figured out the biggest problem Gillette’s customers were having, shopping for a new razor, and automated the process. Dollar Shave Club sold for an actual $1 billion just by pivoting from razor to process.

Design Thinking and Data Science

Data Science is helping us wade through big data, but without the human element, it’s easy to get decision paralysis. If you’re applying design thinking to this area of your business, the processes aren’t dissimilar. Both apply iterations and methodologies to frame a problem and find a solution. 

Design methodology applied to data science connects those human elements to your question framework. What does your data tell you and why? Your data is only useful if it leads you to real insight into your target audience. Otherwise, it’s just you trying to force results.

Implementing Design Thinking

If your organization doesn’t have a system of Design Thinking, you can change your company culture. Keep these things in mind.

  1. Move slowly: You might be tempted to launch fully into Design Thinking, but don’t try to change overnight. Introduce some initiatives as business values. Launch a pilot project with your data science team. Integrate teams to make better use of unique skillsets.
  2. Encourage failure: Failing is part of your iterative process, and without it, you’ll never get your new initiative to market. Of course, you’d love a slam dunk, but be grateful and learn lessons from small failures along the way.
  3. Work across silos: Both your teams and your higher-ups need to buy into the shift. If you belong to a small company, that may be easier to accomplish. If you’re in a larger organization, work bottom-up to get buy-in and top-down to facilitate the environment.

Design Thinking is a Business Value

Design Thinking isn’t just a methodology. It’s a change in the company culture that rewards ideas and builds real relationships with clients and customers. If your business values align with collaboration and learn from failures, your Design Thinking shift will be much easier.

Elizabeth Wallace

Elizabeth Wallace, ODSC

Elizabeth is a Nashville-based freelance writer with a soft spot for startups. She spent 13 years teaching language in higher ed and now helps startups and other organizations explain - clearly - what it is they do. Connect with her on LinkedIn here: https://www.linkedin.com/in/elizabethawallace/

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