How to Use ‘Design Thinking’ to Help Businesses Connect

As consultants, we help businesses overcome challenges and innovate beyond them. But there’s no “one size fits all” approach to every problem. That’s why we must always be empathetic to the experiences and perceptions of our clients, and their audience.

This approach to client services is called design thinking.

As Kelly Chmielewski, founder of The Possibility Shop and design thinker extraordinaire, told us at a recent DC Communicators meeting, design thinking means understanding that “every customer requires a specialized response.”

Here’s how we can help clients excel at just that and form authentic relationships with the people behind the patrons.

Define the Problem

There might be a single root cause to the problem a business is facing or a perfect storm of them. The key for us is to define the biggest barrier between our clients and their base. There are a number of ways to get there. And once there, we must keep that defined problem at the forefront of everything we do as we seek to fulfill customers’ needs.

Here’s a great example: In the early 1940s, Edwin H. Land was on vacation when his 3-year-old asked why she couldn’t see the picture they just took. What was the defined problem? An annoying barrier between the present moment and a toddler’s memento! Soon after, Edwin came up with a solution: a camera that could print photos instantly. The Polaroid was born; kids (and grownups) rejoiced everywhere.

Generate Solutions

Start by incorporating a “Yes, and…” approach to brainstorming solutions so that possibilities expand rather than contract.

Brainstorming is key to innovation. So prioritize quantity over quality in the beginning. When we get too caught up in perfection, we refrain from sharing some of our most creative ideas out of fear that they might not be “good enough.” So break out the Post-It notes, put every idea on the board, then identify patterns to cull them down.

One great way to kick-off a brainstorm is to ask “How might we…” kind of questions:

  • How might we make this better?
  • How might we reach our destination?

Take a look at how far “How might we…” questions might take you:


Prototyping should be an iterative process, and is key to design thinking. By keeping the concepts of our solutions rough, we allow for feedback and comments that can develop good ideas into great ones.

A collaborative approach to prototyping also allows us to continue asking, “How might we..?,” a great way to keep keeping the problem–and customer–in mind.

Test and Empathize!

Test the solution, then test again. It’s crucial.

Testing allows us to unearth unforeseen challenges with our design thinking. Most importantly, it gives us another opportunity to empathize with the customer. How might they feel about the solution we’re offering?

To learn more about design thinking and how to implement it for customer success, book  a free consultation with us today.

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