Fueling Innovation through Design Thinking
Organizations must embrace new technologies in their product engineering efforts to stay ahead of the curve so they can win and retain customers. There is one attribute that will be the key in the coming decade to giving product teams a proactive advantage: design.
Traditionally, design has been an important function in the software engineering world, but in today’s heavily customer-centric environment, design is becoming more of a priority than ever before. The role of a designer is expanding, design mindsets are encouraged across product teams, and the design process is becoming more nimble in order to align with the dynamic needs of the market.
In his book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, Nir Eyal explains how a great product can change users’ behavior. When done exceptionally well, the design function holds the key in getting customers hooked on products by bridging the gap between the user’s problem or need and the solution. While this is just a first step that still has to be followed by efficient engineering, including development and testing, focusing on good design up front illustrates how a job well begun is half done.
Design thinking is being embraced at all levels of an organization to encourage empathy, action orientation, experimentation, and collaboration in the software development process. Design-based sprint processes are also becoming common. To promote design-driven engineering efforts, prototyping is a focal theme, bypassing the focus on gathering requirements. Early prototyping, engagement with end-users, and being receptive to market dynamics are all helping encourage additional agility, and the design element is the impetus in bringing about this change.
One-week design sprints include collective and individual brainstorming of layouts, informed decisions about which designs to prototype, one-day quick engineering to actually build the prototypes, and testing with end-users. These short sprints go beyond just a design thinking approach and enable implementing an entire design-driven engineering strategy.
Design thinking and design-based engineering will be essential to support the required agility in our workplaces. But design thinking is also one of the drivers to trigger the innovation needed to give an organization an ongoing edge in market differentiation.
Design thinking fuels ongoing innovation by encouraging a conscious thought process that centers on transformation of both digital and customer experiences. This could be around existing or new products, or even small features, but the whole idea of thinking from a design angle promotes creativity, user empathy, alignment with competition and trends, solving complex design challenges, and leveraging technology, all of which encourage innovation.
With the agility and innovation that design thinking brings, the process will be increasingly embraced not just by designers, but by everyone involved in the product development effort. The digital world will come to heavily rely not just on technology or design, but on both technology and design together.