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Six Ways to Be a Design Thinking Disruptor

Are you an extremely efficient organisation in what you have always done, but sales are lagging or plateauing –  so you cut your costs and prices? Perhaps you’re a product only based organisation, and your customers are continually asking for more of you? Or are you an organisation that hasn’t changed for a long time, and you can feel entrepreneurs nipping at your heels?

If you answered ‘YES’ to any of these questions, you might be a target for competitors or ‘disruption’.

The world is changing, and your consumer is changing – their expectations are incredibly different to what they were ten years ago. Perhaps it’s time to look at what your customers really want – to flip your current business model and shift your perspective to focus on what your customers want rather than what the business wants. Design thinking can help.

New technology and ways of working means that small, agile organisations, including startups, can often disrupt the market by providing something entirely new and different. Think about the things that a customer uses all the time but which don’t truly satisfy their needs, and no one has asked.

1. Focus on Customer First and their full experience

A company can propose a value proposition; however, the customer is the one who will tell you if what you’re proposing is of value. You should be providing solutions that help customers do the jobs that need to get done from their perspective, which also means something to them. Include the customer in your vision – create a customer-first policy for any decisions.

2. Be able to talk about and explore feelings – people don’t usually do what they say

Dive in, deep in, and really understand what is important and has meaning to your customers, today and tomorrow. Not just how they use your products or services today. Think about their situation before and after your product or service is even touched. Why are they searching for a product? What do they do after they have interacted with your product? Look at the whole system that’s involved, not just where you currently fit in.

Ask the soft questions: “How does your customer feel? What are they thinking at a particular moment?”

3. Reframe what you thought was the problem

Customer immersion highlights low points and frustration areas–when a customer is “putting up with a situation” because nothing else is available. It’s great to know your customer’s frustrations and what isn’t working – this is your opportunity!

What really is the customer problem that you need to solve as an organisation? Why isn’t it being addressed now?

4. Propose a Future that Challenges the Status Quo

Propose a future that challenges the status quo – that’s what disruptors will do. Don’t think the status quo cannot be changed –mobile phones are now navigation devices or used to access apps, not primarily used to make phone calls.  Create a future that builds on the opportunities or needs of your discovered customer – creating satisfaction and meaning. Be optimistic.

5. Co-Design through Rapid Prototyping

Share this proposed future with your customers and non-customers – let them have a voice. Understand their big picture and even suggest a controversial view on the current world – perhaps a process that is 4 steps instead of 25, software that is open access – by anyone, anywhere, moving into a new market.

Playing in your future world is how you will discover insights and get to know the value proposition that is important to your customer. Prototype your new business model using stories, your new service by role-playing. Remember, products enable a lot of services – what does the product really mean to your customers? Is it the product or what it enables that is important? Let them tell you. Make sure your starting prototypes are third horizon focused and rough – enable your customers to provide input.

6. Collaborate

Change and innovation is a team sport – engage across traditional silos. An organisation needs to create cultures of collaboration – create teams that are not usually working together, for example, in a hospital team including doctors, nurses, cleaners, executives, payroll. Not only will you discover a diversity of ideas and understanding, but these teams will also build strength and drive leadership behaviours and culture across the organisation.

These are the six elements of Design Thinking. Ensuring that your organisation has the capability and embraces the principles of Design as ‘business as usual’ will help you lead disruption, not be swallowed up by it.

Think both internal and external customers and be design-led to be the disruptor, not the disrupted.

As an organisation, continue to be efficient and productive, yet at the same time change how you understand and create the future for you and a delightful future for your customers.

One last word. Your organisation’s capability should come from within. Look for programs that focus on real teams working on your actual organisational and strategic challenges. Programs that focus on coaching and mentoring as key elements are important.

Written for Hargraves by Jane Cockburn. Jane focuses on building design-thinking capability within organisations and transforming how they work today.

For innovation coaching and support, contact us.

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