Feature Design Thinking
THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF TALK IN RECENT TIMES ABOUT ‘DESIGN THINKING’, BUT WHAT DOES IT ACTUALLY MEAN? AND HOW CAN THE APPROACH HELP YOUR SMALL BUSINESS? BETTER BUSINESS TALKS TO SOME LEADERS IN THE FIELD TO FIND OUT.
ou may already be practising ‘design thinking’ – the concept essentially involves developing a deep interest in and understanding of the customer or end user you’re delivering a product or service for, and requires questioning the reasoning for and implications of certain decisions. Dr Peter Robbins, Head of Department of Design Innovation, Maynooth University, explains: “In every industry – from airlines to retail to mobile payments, when you analyse it, one company alone is positioned as the cheapest: the cost-leadership position. And, every other company competes on some sort of design. “Design thinking is a process which helps organisations innovate successfully. Innovation is the principal route to finding growth but innovation is risky, messy, costly and it carries a strong likelihood of failure. Design thinking offers a framework for creativity and this is particularly helpful in certain organisations that have a low tolerance for risk, for novelty and for creativity.” Traditional sectors like finance are now adopting a design thinking approach to understand and address customers’ needs. Lesley Tully is Head of Design Thinking at Bank of Ireland. She says that while banking is an old industry, it is undergoing unprecedented change, with the digital revolution moving from what was once an existential threat to a survival strategy for the industry at large. “The rise of disintermediation, open banking, Payment Services Directive 2 (PSD2), and blockchain all pose considerable challenges, and opportunities,” she says. “Fintechs and banks are successfully applying a design-led approach to shift mindsets. It allows them to surface insights, explore, iterate, test potential solutions, adapt and evolve business models. This radically shapes customer experiences to provide a genuinely customer-centric approach.” Whether a business uses design thinking to exploit opportunities or to solve problems, it can deliver a host of benefits because of its user-centricity. It encourages organisations to really examine customer insight and behaviour and to develop a deep knowledge of their customer.
Three years ago, Bank of Ireland used a design thinking approach to better understand the lives of its business and start-up customers. Tully explains that studying and talking to entrepreneurs helped the bank to address their needs, specifically their requirement for good quality, low-cost and collaborative workspaces. The result was Workbench, a free co-working space for both customers and non-customers to work, attend, hold events, meetings and collaborate with other entrepreneurs. “We recognise how integral design, but more specifically, design thinking, is when trying to understand our customers’ needs and behaviours. Design thinking helps identify possible solutions that respond to our customers’ problems and to satisfy and serve those needs,” says Tully. Design thinking encourages businesses to prototype ideas and makes innovation tangible. It means creating prototypes, getting them into the field and exposed to the target user. From there, the business can re-prototype, pivot or proceed based on real feedback.
12 SFA | BETTER BUSINESS
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Official magazine of Small Firms Association