How Design Thinking Can Help You Ask the Right Questions (and Get the Right Answers)

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Remember when Amazon was just the largest bookseller in the world? After expanding its products to “everything” and streamlining its fulfillment and delivery process in the late 1990s, Amazon became the world’s largest retailer.

And you may not know that long-running children’s toy Play-Doh began its commercial career in the 1930s as a device for removing charcoal residue from wallpaper. Another successful pivot I would say.

While some might say that these developments were obvious, it is often overlooked that the detailed research, careful planning, and thorough behind-the-scenes work that led to the Pivot’s decision and implementation. In any case, these transformative changes could not be achieved without asking the right questions beforehand.

To ask the right questions, you need to build a diverse and highly skilled team and employ one of the most important techniques for managing any project: design thinking.

The power of the fulcrum

The design thinking concept has been an integral part of the business world for decades, but has gained traction in recent years as a powerful technique for organizations to deliver innovative solutions that satisfy customers. It leads them to the truth quickly and hopefully faster than the competition.

Many successful entrepreneurs would say that their most valuable resource is time. And it’s true – in today’s busy and competitive business environment, time to market is of the essence. The “new normal” of business is that “never normal” should be our guide; Market conditions are constantly changing. As such, business problems need to be addressed now, and design thinking provides a proven process for solving these puzzles both pragmatically and creatively.

If you’re looking to apply design thinking to your strategic planning process, here are some key considerations to get you started:

See also: How Design Thinking Can Help Foster an Entrepreneurial Mindset

Does your value proposition meet a “must-have” customer need?

Are you producing the product or service you desire or simply have offered in the past? Or the ones your target customer base demands? If it’s the former, you’re not on the road to sustained (or growing) success.

Identify and understand yours most importantly Customer. If there are a lot of them, focus mainly on one. Learn why they are buying, what they are willing to pay, the value they see in the product and when they will see it (aka “purchase triggers”). Sharp analysis and design thinking give you the insights to pinpoint the leading (or lagging) indicators influencing purchasing decisions.

Have you assembled a diverse team with the experiences and perspectives to identify all relevant challenges and opportunities?

This is where you’re looking for different thoughts and perspectives – people who have applied completely different “patterns” to similar problems. This is the only way to move from answering relatively simple questions (“Are we making the right product for the customer?”) to even more critical and potentially transformative questions (“Are we actually targeting the right customer?”).

As new ideas emerge, design thinking helps you identify and refine your hypotheses so they can be tested and ultimately validated the best answer for now. In today’s never-normal environment, it’s not about the long-term solution; it’s about a flexible stream of answers that work together to bring long-term success.

Attract people to your team based on their depth and breadth of proven experience with experiments that have previously overcome barriers or stumbling blocks. Your experience and intuition will be valuable and hopefully will complement your own on your way to the best solution.

Also see: How a diverse team can bring more creativity and engagement to your business

Can you accept ambiguity?

Today’s entrepreneurs need the resilience of yesterday’s telemarketers. You need to know in advance that your life will be of “structured.” Learning through failure” which ultimately leads to success. If you don’t view failure as learning, you won’t be around long enough to be successful.

Long gone are the days of planning schedules, be it annual or quarterly. In today’s business environment, entrepreneurs need to constantly iterate. Fortunately, design thinking can help individuals who take the risk of starting something from scratch make decisions with incomplete facts and data at their disposal.

If you wait until you find the “perfect” solution, you will never get the answer and your business will never grow. This is why it’s so important to work with a diverse group of teammates to uncover a broader range of pivot options. With a diverse team, you’re better able to maximize the data you have and then explore your options from every possible angle.

See also: Design Thinking is not a process, it is a way of thinking

Are you ready to “present and rebuild, present and rebuild”?

It’s important to have strong opinions that are kept loose. Strong opinions move you forward. Keeping them loose allows you to pivot as the facts on the ground change. Design thinking is not a one-off project. You are looking for the right answer for today’s environment; It’s unlikely to be the right answer forever. So you have to train that flexibility muscle over and over again; Apply design thinking over and over again by asking and answering the right questions through iterations and experiments. Times are changing and your business needs to adapt. Design thinking is a surefire way to reduce the likelihood of being left in the dust.

Using your design thinking skills and embedding them in your strategic planning process will give you the tools to redefine the way you work. Only by making sure you’re asking the right questions can you address the right challenges and arrive at the right solutions to increase the value you offer your customers.

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