Well, we all know this motto: Work Smarter, Not Harder. We know it, but working harder is so natural when things in business start going in a wrong direction. Can we do something smarter? Those people who have an ability (and a comfort position) to look at the business from another angle can spot the difficulties and radically change the situation.
While taking business decisions we rely on our knowledge and experience, but what happens when a problem becomes too complicated to solve by a conventional approach?
Strategy management, a new business solution concept designing, or just an inbound marketing content creation, all such efforts appear to be too complicated to find straight solutions.
Marketing professionals use specific methodologies to approach such assignments.
The nature of Knowledge
Scientific researchers prove that a human knowledge virtually consists of two parts: one called “Explicit”, and the second called “Tacit”.
The Explicit is a codified knowledge: we acquire it from documents, and databases as it is easy to verbalize. We all are aware of it; we can measure it, and document it, it is also relevant for transfer and storage. Interestingly the Explicit knowledge defines only 5% of our entire mental ability!
The rest 95% is known as the Tacit knowledge. It can be described as "know-how" and is not easy to share or store. Tacit knowledge appears to be a simple idea that cannot be codified. It consists of habits and culture that people do not recognize in themselves.
Understanding this mechanism of the hidden mental strength opens a space for professional creative methods in business. By incorporating them into their operations, companies found an additional source of a competitive advantage.
Five-stages Design Thinking process
One of the methods commonly used in marketing is Design Thinking. A fundamental idea for using this methodology in business is an intention to create (or improve) new products or services. In this process we appoint and engage people from various departments and disciplines; in other words: people who can share observations about customers, product market, or competition from different angles.
An interaction of people in the design team results in finding solutions that could not be found without such a collaborative approach.
If I had 60 minutes to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes defining it, and 5 minutes solving it” - Albert Einstein
Design thinking is often described as “outside the box thinking”. It is a proven methodology that has been adopted by many leading companies such as Apple, Google, General Electric or Samsung.
Probably the most prominent approach to design thinking is a five-stage model developed at Stanford University:
- Empathize (Problem Finding)
- Define (Problem Finding)
- Ideate (Problem Solving)
- Prototype (Solution Testing)
- Test (Solution Testing)
Almost every design thinking starts with a discovery phase. Here we concentrate on understanding the problem that we are trying to solve. We gather a substantial amount of information about how users interact with product or service, what are their needs and expectations. The more inputs we get, the better. The facilitator of the discussion should encourage all people in the team to share opinions and observations.
In the second step, we start to define a core problem(s). The better we describe and frame a problem the easier is to explore further opportunities and propose solutions.
Describing the problem from the perspective of our company may be not practical enough. Instead of writing “Our company needs to increase the market share in sales of security software to the public administration”, it is much better to say: “Public administration must employ new security software policies to comply with EU standards.”
Now is a time for generating ideas. We can utilize many techniques for this. In general, at this stage, people in the team are to create as many ideas on solving a problem(s) as possible. The best ideas should be described and shortlisted.
An interesting and funny technique helping to generate ideas is called “Worst Possible Idea”. In this method, a facilitator asks the team to create terrible ideas for the products or services that are being discussed. At the end of the session, the group tries to investigate attributes that make these ideas bad. At the end of a session, the team tries to turn those bad attributes into positive ones.
Prototyping turns the ideas and solutions described in the Ideate stage into the physical world.
A prototype can be anything that takes a physical (or digital) form. At this stage, the design team produces inexpensive, scaled down versions of the product. The prototypes may be shared with other departments or people outside the design team.
There is no need to spend too many efforts on building a prototype. The prototype(s) should be simple; and economical.
During testing, users can finally experience and react to our ideas. We chose the best solutions identified during the prototyping phase, and show it to target users. Now we can check whether the solution satisfies customers or not. Thanks to it we can learn more about the user and gather information to refine the prototype.
To sum up, the design thinking methodology is recommended when aiming unknown or complex business problems. It is a creative alternative and alternative problem-solving method to traditional, logical approaches. Leading international companies promote the design thinking to assure that they respond well to customers’ needs, improve user experiences, anticipate business change, or react to new market trends.
Internally, this concept promotes multi-disciplinary collaboration and a team approach to the problem-solving process.
In general, this systematic and rational methodology applies to most business challenges, so be not surprised that it gets the attention of business leaders in various industries, also in the digital world.