Use design thinking to improve your business

You are a designer.

I can hear some protests now. You might argue that you’re not a designer. You’re a baker or a marketer or the owner of a small retail shop.

After all, design is something professional designers do. Engineers. Inventors. Architects.

Nevertheless, you are a designer.

It’s possible to argue that you’re not a very effective designer. If that’s the case, you wouldn’t be alone. You need look no farther than traffic gridlock and wardrobe malfunctions for proof.

However, if you develop a broader understanding of design, you’d not only see your own role as designer, but also how to improve the design work that you do every day.

Let’s start by adopting a modern definition of design

In The Sciences of the Artificial, Nobel laureate Herbert Simon called it “the transformation of existing conditions into preferred ones.”

Though this is a beautiful definition, it can be made even simpler: design is recognizing problems and solving them through creative thinking.

When you recognize that design is more than a profession, it should be easier to call yourself a designer. And once you recognize your design skills, you can affect more positive change for your customers and your business through focused design thinking.

Step 1: Know and empathize with your customers

If you can’t define your target market (or markets), you can’t empathize with them. And without empathy, you can’t identify their needs. If you don’t understand what your customers need, you can provide it. You see where this is going.

Imagine that you own a retail clothing shop that is experiencing little or no traffic. Your target market is thirty-something-year-old professional women. These extremely busy women may be working during your shop’s daytime hours. At the end of the day, they’re too tired to shop, and on weekends, they may be consumed with family activities. Of course they’d love to have new clothes, but with all of their responsibilities, shopping has become more of a chore than a fun pastime.

Step 2: Define the problem

If you skip step one, you may believe that the problem is that you don’t make enough sales or that you don’t get enough customers through your doors. However, by taking time to empathize with your market, you’ve learned what’s at the heart of the problem:

It isn’t about your or your store at all. The problem is that your target market can’t find time to visit your store. You might phrase that as a question to encourage possible solutions: How can busy women shop without feeling it’s an additional task to complete?

Step 3: Brainstorm LOTS of solutions

Lots. Of. Solutions. It’s important not to limit yourself or to shrug off some ideas as ridiculous. After all, the most ridiculous ideas sometimes lead to the most effective solutions. Pull in representatives of your market to help you ideate. Bring in other professionals – marketers, artists, party planners, stylists. A critical component of design is collaboration, so don’t be shy about asking for help as you brainstorm.

You might come up with dozens of ideas for this particular problem, such as:

  • Offer to bring selections of clothes to women at their places of business during lunch hours for mini-fashion shows.
  • Consider using a concierge approach to tailor outfits for women and deliver them.
  • What about an after-hours champagne party with a local DJ?

Step 4: Give it a whirl

Once you’ve got plenty of ideas to work with, try out a few of the best. Experiment. See what works and what doesn’t. Get feedback and use it to refine your ideas.

The beautiful thing about recognizing that design is a process that anyone can use is that you can begin to apply it to improve all sorts of conditions. Not just your business, but your entire life. The process works just as well to find solutions to your kids not picking up their socks as it does to find solutions for reducing waste during manufacturing or improving the CTR of a website.

What areas of your professional life would benefit from design thinking?

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  • Oh, I recognize this problem-solving process from my days as an English teacher. And your simplified definition of design as “design is recognizing problems and solving them through creative thinking” is exactly what a theater director (one of my passions) does.

    • jenniferdopazo

      I love when this cross-disciplinary examples happen!

  • Oh, I recognize this problem-solving process from my days as an English teacher. And your simplified definition of design as “design is recognizing problems and solving them through creative thinking” is exactly what a theater director (one of my passions) does.

  • Great post! Yes, defining the problem and brainstorming the solutions is huge!!! That’s what we all have to do anytime we create something especially when creating a course. Let me just say, for anyone thinking of building a course, I just launched mine and defining the problem and finding the solutions is key!

    You need to do your research/ homework ahead of time in order to have a successful post or course. Thanks again for this great post!

    • jenniferdopazo

      Oh Ed, I so appreciate your comment! I find it that this is the critical part of any project or endeavor.
      I’d love to hear more about your course? What is it about?

      • You bet! 😉 My course, Stupid Easy™ Ways to Kick off Entreprenuership, is about taking an idea, turning it into a business, and building a solid foundation.

        Basically, I walk people through the process of figuring out what idea they want/ should turn into a business, getting their finances in order, figure out what they could sell, where they can sell it and get them set up with accepting money. The course also includes a bunch of guides & templates including how to build a website on WordPress.

        So by the end of the course, you will have a business in place and be ready to start making money.

        It’s really something I wish I had when I started my business as it would have saved me a lot of time and truthfully money.

        • Love that idea Ed. Took a peak at your class’ page and loved it!

          • Hey, thank you! If you have any feedback feel free to share it with me. I’m always fine tuning things. 😉

            Have a great day!

  • Great post! Yes, defining the problem and brainstorming the solutions is huge!!! That’s what we all have to do anytime we create something especially when creating a course. Let me just say, for anyone thinking of building a course, I just launched mine and defining the problem and finding the solutions is key!

    You need to do your research/ homework ahead of time in order to have a successful post or course. Thanks again for this great post!

    • Oh Ed, I so appreciate your comment! I find it that this is the critical part of any project or endeavor.
      I’d love to hear more about your course? What is it about?

      • You bet! 😉 My course, Stupid Easy™ Ways to Kick off Entreprenuership, is about taking an idea, turning it into a business, and building a solid foundation.

        Basically, I walk people through the process of figuring out what idea they want/ should turn into a business, getting their finances in order, figure out what they could sell, where they can sell it and get them set up with accepting money. The course also includes a bunch of guides & templates including how to build a website on WordPress.

        So by the end of the course, you will have a business in place and be ready to start making money.

        It’s really something I wish I had when I started my business as it would have saved me a lot of time and truthfully money.

        • Love that idea Ed. Took a peak at your class’ page and loved it!

          • Hey, thank you! If you have any feedback feel free to share it with me. I’m always fine tuning things. 😉

            Have a great day!