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Design Thinking as the Secret to Digital Success

It’s no secret that digital transformation has fundamentally changed the way we do business. In today’s world, the technological possibilities available to us are improving at an increasingly faster rate. In order to integrate digital technologies into business practices, as well as to keep up to speed with the high velocity of change in this field, companies must be innovative and agile as a rule. Digital transformation is therefore indispensable in order to remain a top competitor – regardless of the size and field that circumscribes your company.


The transition from “Business as Usual” to “Design First” is no small task, and it often goes unrecognized of how one should proceed. This is where Design Thinking comes into play.


What is Design Thinking?

Design Thinking is a systematic approach to complex problems, addressing these problems from all categories of life. Many approaches to economics and praxis tackle the task from a purely technical level. In contract, Design Thinking centers its method around the wishes and requirements of the user, as well as user-oriented inventions. Design Thinkers envision the problem through the eyes of the user and thereby take on the role of consumer: it is a pivotal change of perspective.


Innovations and valuable solutions to problems are comprised of three fundamental components: (technological) feasibility, (economic) sustainability, and (human) desirability. Design Thinking takes the human perspective as the base of its goal-setting, creating innovative products, services, or processes. These offers are not only attractive, but viable and marketable. The creation of experiences lies at center stage in these endeavors.


With help from Design Thinking, you, too, can advance digital transformation from a customer’s point of view in 5 simple steps

Digital transformation will always present new and complex problems. You can use Design Thinking to promote digital transformation in your company. By the same token, you can optimise both your customer experience and your range of digital services.


Design Thinking is comprised of 5 steps: building empathy, defining your approach, developing ideas, building prototypes, and testing:


Step 1: Building Empathy

A decisive element of digital transformation is to create an excellent digital experience around your products and services for your customers. In order to do this effectively, it is critical to build deep-set empathy for your customers. This will help you to understand their motivations, requirements, and pain points. Observe how your customers interact with your product or your services. Find out what they are searching in Google and in the social networks. Evaluate their usage of your website or app. Take into consideration what types of questions they are asking your customer support representatives and what they are asking for. Go one step further and interview your customers directly, to find out how you can improve your range of services and customer experience.


Step 2: Define your Approach

After analysis of all the insights you gained in Step 1, the time has come to formulate a concrete way of looking at the problem. If, for example, you determine that many of your customers are interested in connecting with other customers for your product, you could describe the problem as the following: “How can we enable our customers to get in contact with one another, so that we can deliver even more value to our customers. The phase of defining your problem can very well be overwhelming – you will discover countless problems that require your attention. The goal of this phase, however, is not to solve these problems, but to break down the problems into individual pieces and prioritise them. Solving will come later.


Step 3: Develop Ideas

Now that we have defined the problem, it is time to develop ideas that can exact a solution. The central part of this phase is the implementation of a brainstorming session, taking advantage of the collective synergies of a group to develop a multitude of creative ideas. Harness not only the creativity of your closest colleagues, but also work the opinions of colleagues from every department into this optimal space. Be sure to avoid sorting through your ideas too early in this phase, and thus producing a variety of possible solutions before you have a chance to evaluate the scope of three decisive factors: technological feasibility, economic sustainability, and customer desirability.


Step 4: Build Prototypes

In this phase, you will experiment with myriad simple and cost-effective models, in order to test and validate your solution proposals. Prototypes should be tested on a small group of users. Observe how your customers interact with the prototype and collect feedback. Create a safe environment in which mistakes may be made, and learn from these to continue developing and optimising the model. This phase should be completed in small spurts. At the end of this phase, you should have a good idea of what does and does not work.


Step 5: Test

The continual testing of various prototypes is an excellent opportunity to keep improving the model. Every interaction with a customer is a learning opportunity to get to know these customers better and improve your interactions with them. In the testing phase, you will collect information that is necessary in order to reflect back on earlier phases of the Design Thinking process and to check your theories. As Leonardo Da Vinci once said: “Art is never finished, only given up.” Our motivation to improve the customer experience never ends–we should always be testing and optimising, in order to find new ways to improve our product.


In today’s world, digital transformation of the range of services and customer experience is a must–be it the website, newsletter, app, social networks, chat-bot, virtual assistance systems, platforms, or even digital configurations of individualisation of the range of services.


The Design Thinking Method is an effective way to solve problems, that transformation brings into your business. No matter whether you comply with the phases suggested above or you invent your own Design Thinking process, the use of user-centric methods will be helpful to integrate digital technologies into your organisation.

About the author

Stefan Soellner

Stefan Soellner is an expert in scaling for companies. He helps young ventures in the Berlin startup scene to disrupt their industries, as well as supports medium-sized companies in re-inventing themselves. 

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