Four Key Elements of Design Thinking

We have an expression in the office: “How did I surprise or delight a client today?” After all, that’s what they pay us to do. They ASSUME we can do the work, but how can we do it in a way that surpasses their expectations?

One way is to incorporate methods of design thinking. An approach to customer relationships, design thinking is a system many big brands are using in order to “surprise and delight” their audiences. Some of the most successful companies, including Apple, Nike, and Coca-Cola, are all successfully incorporating design thinking to provide added value for their customers.

Now, you may be wondering how design thinking can benefit your work. In this post, we will explore four key ideas that can help you utilize design thinking on your next project. If you decide you want to learn more, join us at DC Communicators on September 28! In the meantime, read on for our “design thinking” primer to help you adapt this new approach to upcoming projects.

1. Everyone is Different

Putting yourself in your audience’s shoes is the first and most important step to design thinking. To effectively reach your end goal, you must know the audience as a whole. You need to be aware of their needs, wants, hopes, challenges and perspectives. This process requires solid research as well as empathy, but it ultimately provides you with the awareness needed to meet your audience’s unique needs.

Remember – since everyone is different, every pathway to success is as well. For instance, there are different approaches to community management and measurement when working with clients in different industries. Since each client operates in a different field, they have different missions and therefore need their own unique pathway to reach objectives. In other words, no two clients should receive a cookie-cutter solution.

A great example of this approach can be seen in the way we address social media monitoring for different clients. For certain consumer clients it’s important to have up to the minute intel on how their audience is reacting. For example, if a new product is launched, community management helps control backlash and provide rapid responses to consumers. For non-profit clients, it might be more important to observe how the audience is engaging with the messages. Responses from followers are less likely to be urgent or crisis-based, and responses should be message-driven rather than resource-based. While both scenarios can be classified as community management, each approach is tailored to the specific client and industry.

2. Clearly Define the Problem

Think about where and how a client’s product or service can fit into the customer’s life and solve a need. Focusing on this at the beginning sets a strong foundation for the rest of the process.

Problems are the fuel that drives innovation, branding, and targeting. Oil of Olay knows that women in their 30s worry about wrinkles. AirBnB recognizes that in order to sell home stays, people need to feel comfortable in a stranger’s home. The bottom line is that they identified a pain point among the audience they knew intimately and moved ahead to solve it.

Because, ultimately, the problem – and solving it – become your driving forces. Referring back to the problem every so often keeps you on task and aligned with your goal.

3. Learn From Your Mistakes

One of the main challenges of design thinking is that the pathway to the goal is so undefined. Imagine going on a walk and at every turn you encounter a fork in the road where there is only one right direction to take. You are bound to choose the wrong road at some point and have to turn back.

It’s not important that you chose the wrong path. What is important is what you learned from that path, as it will define your success. As Jon Kolko of the  Harvard Business Review points out “Apple is celebrated for its successes, but a little digging uncovers the Newton tablet, the Pippin gaming system” and more products that didn’t quite make it.

4. Have Fun With It

A finished product is much more rewarding when you enjoy it along the way. Many research studies conducted by neuroscientists, such as Richard Davidson, show that a happy worker is a better worker. Having fun with a project will make you happier at work and therefore produce better results. When you allow your creative juices to flow it inspires great ideas.

The key to success in adapting a design thinking process is to respect the customer’s individuality. Consumers are not all the same, and neither are businesses. As such, every customer requires a customized response. The beauty of the process is that no two paths will look the same.

If you would like to learn more, join us at DC Communicators on September, 28, 2017 to hear from design thinking veteran Kelly Chmielewski, and figure out how your design thinking can benefit your organization.


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