A New Way to Think

In Creating Great Choices, Jennifer Riel and Roger L. Martin have much of substantial value to say about design thinking.

As they explain, “Design thinking begins with seeking to understand…For the purpose of designing products or services, the unit of study is the end user (typically the potential customer).” The process begins with a deep immersion in the user’s world of various behaviors. What the user does, hopes to do, etc. The tools needed by designers fall into three broad categories.

1. Observation: “ This is the process of watching people closely in their natural habitat. In business, observation includes conducting in-home visits with consumers…and observing shopping behaviors.”

2. Engagement: “Here, understanding comes from directly engaging with a person, asking for stories from her life. Stories are important, because they help illustrate real moments and can build a richer picture of an individual than you can gain from simply asking for opinions.”

3. Experience: “Sometimes, the best way to build understanding and empathy is to actually experience what another person goes through…Staffers at IDEO often create proxy experiences meant to build instant empathy. For example, to help some telecommunication executives understand how confused, overwhelmed, and, well, stupid customers often feel while in one of the telecom company’s stores, IDEO sent the male executives out to buy lipstick for their daughters. Bumbling through the process, feeling unequipped and grateful for any amount of help they could find, the executives finally experienced empathy for their own customers.”

All this is discussed in much greater detail in Chapter 3, Pages 40-59.

Creating Great Choices: A Leader’s Guide to Integrative Thinking was published by Harvard Business Review Press (September 2017).

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