Have you heard of ‘Design Thinking?’
It's slowly catching on to the Nigerian market and just like with everything new and trendy that comes out, people latch on to it. Some know what it is, while others just try to sound cool.
And so you find everyone talking about it, but many not really knowing what it is.
So what is Design Thinking, and most importantly how does it benefit a business in Nigeria today?
Design thinking simply put is a methodology, or a framework for creatively solving problems.
To further explain the definition, I will share this success story:
In 2004, Bank of America was facing a problem many banks are all too familiar with, ‘how to get more customers to open bank accounts’. In their quest for a solution, they engaged an agency to help. After spending a few months studying the behaviours of customers, they discovered an insight around a certain demographic. They found that with mothers especially, there was a pattern to which they balanced their check books (at the time customers used physical check books to balance personal spending).
Within this people group and pattern, a solution was found. What ensued was the Keep the Change program, this program allowed the bank to round up customers’ expenses to the nearest dollar and automatically save it for them. So say for example, I bought fuel for $30.50, the bank would round it up to $31 and .50 cents would be saved for me. After a period, the bank matched the customers savings.
As you would expect, this was very popular with customers. The program currently has about ’12.3 million customers’ in enrolment, since it’s inception, with a total of 60% new customers, saving more than 2 billion dollars’.
As a customer of the bank then, I still remember the moment as a university student, when the banker told me about it. My jaw dropped! I quickly opened the account.
Design thinking allows businesses to not only solve problems creatively, it allows them master the discipline of understanding users' needs, even better than them. It takes from the designer’s process, using methods such as empathizing with people, experimentation and iteration, to come up with innovative solutions for businesses.
Companies, like Bank of America, Apple, Google, Pepsi and more, have used methods from this framework in one way or another to capture customers’ hearts and the market. The results are obvious for all to see.
Even global non-profits like the Rockefeller foundation have keyed into it. We were part of a group of consultants hired a couple years back to use design thinking methods to help the Rockefeller foundation crack the tomato production problem we suffer here in Nigeria.
Two most valuable practices of Design thinking I've found that would benefit Nigerian businesses are:
1. The learned practice of understanding one’s customers. I say ‘learned’ because companies can adopt the practice as they go, till it becomes a part of the company's work culture.
2. The second practice would be the manner in which companies can view the problems that come up. Re-framing a problem, or seeing a problem from many different perspectives, is critical to coming up with new solutions.
I know this may be a handful, so here are some handy notes to take away with you if you’re new to design thinking:
- Design thinking is a systemic method to solving complex problems using empathy, people’s actual needs as a starting point
- It gives businesses the chance to provide out-of-the-box solutions
- It requires buy-in from key stakeholders and top management in the company, as it requires more than just time and resources to execute
- The return on the investment, when done right, is worth it.
You can read more about it if you're interested.
Good design drives shareholder value