How Design Thinking Can Drive Digital Transformation

Technology is changing customer behaviour and shining a spotlight on the experiences they receive. If your business is going to evolve to meet today’s rising customer expectations, you can’t expect to do it the way you always have. Instead of traditional analytical thinking, where a solution is considered upfront, something else is required. Design thinking flips the whole process on its head by looking at the problem first and exploring all avenues before pushing forward with a solution. By putting the user first, design thinking can drive digital transformation to deliver the solutions your business actually needs to succeed. 

The Evolution of Design Thinking

Analytical thinking has been the backbench of problem-solving for decades. During the Industrial Revolution, challenges were often predictable, linear, well-defined and long-lasting. So, coming up with solutions by using logical reasoning was a perfectly sensible approach. In contrast, today’s rapidly evolving digital world is full of complexity; it’s unpredictable and chaotic. An analytical approach just isn’t sufficient to deliver the right solutions. 

The concept of design thinking came from a problem-solving approach developed in the 1990s. The aim was to help designers better understand any given situation and ask questions about why they were trying to solve the problem in the first place. Design thinking uses logic, creativity and reason to explore possibilities that will deliver the desired outcomes for the end-user. 

Design thinking requires a huge amount of research to unearth why rather than how customers are experiencing problems. It’s about finding out what people do instead of what they say. By doing this, designers can anticipate future needs that users haven’t even expressed yet. It is once these issues have been unveiled that innovative solutions can be put forward to solve them. The difference is that they solve the core problem rather than what simply appeared to be there on the surface. Design thinking is all about the need to define the problem before you can define the solution. 

Why Businesses Need to Digitally Transform

Digital transformation aims to use technology to improve business functions and how customers engage with its services and products. While the return on investment will depend on many factors, the aim is to achieve three main things:

  • Increase productivity and efficiency – using technology to work more efficiently has huge power to transform any business and save time and money in the process.
  • Remain competitive – if certain companies within a market are digitally transforming, others take the risk of being left in their wake if they don’t follow suit.
  • Improve customer experience – today’s customers expect highly intuitive, personalised experiences and interactions through multiple touchpoints. 

The problem is that businesses can easily become fatigued with their digital transformation efforts. There are skills gaps, integration between systems, siloed and unusable data and more standing in the way. However, before the innovation and technology agenda, it should be the user experience that is the key driver. Connecting employees and customers to intelligent technologies has the power to deliver all the other benefits of digital transformation. However, it requires a mindset of innovation and collaboration.

Viewing Digital Transformation Through Users’ Eyes

As we’ve discussed, there are several motivations for digital transformation. However, when the technology or business requirements lead the way, they can take your journey to a very different place. The digital world requires radical business change, not just in terms of implementing technology but in how you decide upon the solutions themselves.

It’s very easy to get caught up with organisational needs, technological desires or simply listening to the data. And a lot of those things make sense. However, to truly commit to design thinking, businesses need to adopt a mindset that starts with empathy for the user. In this way, while the business can look at what is technologically or economically possible, it is people that drive the change rather than technology. For digital transformation to be a success, you need to:

  • Focus on the user – the cornerstone of design thinking is that the end-user should be the focus throughout.
  • Use Real-world data – research should be done using real-world rather than historical data or demographics. 
  • Engage the business – considering different perspectives on user and business issues is fundamental to get the whole picture; design-thinking should be a company-wide initiative.

Design thinking is a fundamental tool that, when viewed through the right lens, can deliver powerful transformation opportunities. It allows you to humanise and simplify complicated technological infrastructures and refine potential outcomes. By focusing on the right problem first, design thinking helps to deliver meaningful solutions. 

Does Design Thinking Always Lead to Success? 

While design thinking is a powerful tool that can certainly drive digital transformation in the right direction, it isn’t a magic pill. It can help businesses confront complex challenges with multiple possible solutions by defining which problems to solve. This leads to a wider range of possible solutions that should meet user needs and increase engagement and adoption. 

However, experience is needed in design thinking to ensure that the user stays front of mind at all times. This is why it’s so important to use the right framework or methodology. Users, whether they are customers or employees, should be key contributors to the team throughout, providing inspiration and insight. It won’t work if different parts of an organisation aren’t working cohesively together. Design thinking requires collaboration to identify core issues and develop successful solutions. 

Can Your Business Stand Out With Design Thinking?

For design thinking to help you stand out from the crowd, digital transformation can’t be a one-off task. Instead, it should empower you to continuously redesign your business, building innovative and efficient solutions based on user needs. If you are able to adopt this mindset, then you’ll be on the right path to a more successful business both now and in the future. 

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