Earlier this year, we hosted an on-site event here at the Dialexa office. We wanted to bring guests and clients in to discuss how important design thinking is for both product development and business transformation as a whole.

We called this event “Less Guess” because design thinking is all about understanding users and taking the guesswork out of product development.

If you liked this article, listen to Dialexa’s Head of Research and Design, Steven Ray, on Custom Made talk about how to avoid Experience Rot:

Here, we’ll go through some of the key points and takeaways from the event. Or, you can check out the recorded presentation to hear all the practical insights into design thinking for business transformation.

Part 1: The Trends Leading to Design Thinking

Apple changed the game when it comes to design. Now, the world’s biggest brands are following in Apple’s footsteps as design changes the way we build products and the way we organize companies.

We can’t let design thinking become just another buzzword. While “IoT,” “blockchain,” “mobile-first,” and more can be dismissed as sales jargon at times, design thinking is a true, systematic approach to problem solving.

The last thing you want, is to come up with a technical solution to a complex problem without thinking about the user. Because the greatest solutions in the world don’t matter if no one will use them.

In this first section of the presentation, I walk through the reasons why design thinking is so important, the growing acceptance of design in the enterprise space, and how proper research takes the guesswork out of your projects.

Part 2: The 4 Key Principles of Design Thinking

One reason a term becomes a buzzword is that people embrace the 30,000-foot view, but can’t dig deeper into the principles necessary for practical application. The same is true for design thinking.

That’s why Part 2 of our presentation featured James Utley, Design Architect at Dialexa, walking through the 4 key principles of design thinking. In successful product development, design thinking is:

  • User-Centered: We don’t make assumptions when approaching problems. Not everyone has the same experiences with products, so we have to take strides to understand users with an open mind. At Dialexa, we use observational research to get a more well-rounded perspective of users.
  • Collaborative: In smaller startups with just a few employees, it’s easy to stay connected to key stakeholders in the product development process. But as the enterprise scales, product, sales, marketing, support, and development all become silos. Design needs to be a strategic partner with the business, working closely with each group to align the product vision.
  • Iterative: Continually validate your assumptions so you know you’re building something that meets the vision. In the past, balancing time and budget meant taking a top-down approach to development and sacrificing iteration to an extent. With the Double Diamond Process Model, we can enable rapid iteration and overcome top-down challenges.
  • Problem-Solving: When people realize that design thinking is a fairly simple process, they start to question how powerful it can really be. However, the right implementation can affect everything from strategy to the development of specific features. And it’s not just valuable for consumer products—this approach can solve larger social issues, too.

When you understand the key principles of design thinking, the next question is: “how does this all apply to me and my hundreds of products?”

Part 3: Enabling Business Transformation

The final part of our presentation is all about using design thinking to modernize the enterprise architecture at large. Sarah Reid, VP of Design Research at Dialexa, explains how you can apply the design thinking steps—empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test—across even the largest product portfolios and enterprises.

The key, she explains, is to leverage design systems, which are products for designers and developers that empower them to rapidly create conceptual and production work with a coherent pattern across multiple experiences at scale. Design systems are adaptable, giving you the flexibility to capitalize on trends such as:

  • Designing for the micro-moments of people’s lives, spending more time spotting patterns and the uniqueness of user situations.
  • Going beyond screens to design for audio/voice inputs as well.
  • Focusing on how design and technology interface with physical environments (like within a retail store app, theme parks, or venues).
  • Using mixed realities to personalize experiences and help users make better decisions.

The 3 Main Takeaways from the Less Guess Design Thinking Presentation

There’s a lot to unpack from this design thinking presentation. But if you’re looking for the main takeaways, here are 3 ideas we hope you will get out of Less Guess:

  • Design thinking is a human-centered way of solving complex problems.
  • We (at Dialexa) believe in just enough pragmatic research to help us move between stages rather than spending too much time gathering more information than necessary.
  • Design systems accelerate the transformation you see in an organization. Each lesson is leveraged across the organization to scale transformation—not just isolated in individual product teams.

If you want more information about all of these ideas, be sure to watch the whole presentation. We’d love to hear what you think.

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