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Last Updated on September 1, 2017

Think Like Steve Jobs: How Design Thinking Leads to Creativity

Think Like Steve Jobs: How Design Thinking Leads to Creativity

Outstanding companies such as Apple, Nike and Tesla are all design-driven companies. These companies adopt design thinking when they are creating new products and solving business problems. Companies that utilized design thinking experienced a 41% higher market share, a 46% competitive advantage, and customers who were 50% more loyal. They outperformed the average American stock market by 219%.[1]

Take Apple as an example, it wasn’t always the mega-success that it is today. In 1997, Steve Jobs conducted a major company overhaul.[2] He cut several product lines and pushed the company toward developing a distinctly Apple experience. To this day, all of the “i” products’ look, feel, and user-friendliness set Apple apart from its competitors.

Design thinking showed us that Apple was a company with a soul and vision, and the message continues to resonate with customers. Jobs not only conveyed to people what he was selling, but he also showed them why they needed it.

Everything that any profession does—from research and development, to strategy, to content creation—can be improved through design thinking.

Design Thinking Is for Everyone to Solve Problems Creatively

Problem-solving myopia leads companies through periods of stagnation and frustration. Things are usually more complicated than they appear on the surface, and focusing solely on problems robs companies of their abilities to take what is working and use it in creative ways.

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“Design thinking can be described as a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.” – Tim Brown CEO, IDEO

Design thinking can solve complex problems across systems, procedures, protocols, and customer experiences. This creative mindset requires you to focus on solutions instead of problems. Instead of staying stuck in the problem-rut, design thinkers always have an eye on the ideal future.

Problem solving in this manner involves looking at peoples’ needs and finding creative solutions. Design thinking forces individuals to use every tool at their disposal, from their intuition and imagination to their innate sense of logic and reasoning, to unravel complex issues and explore possibilities.[3]

When a solution is discovered, it is subject to change according to the needs of the company and its customers. Design thinking, as a rule, is never stagnant. It is an iterative and reflexive commitment to innovation.

Core Stages of Design Thinking

Although this is a vastly creative process, design thinking has several identifiable stages, including:[4]

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  1. Empathize
  2. Define
  3. Ideate
  4. Prototype
  5. Test & Evaluate

    We’ll take a closer look at these steps using a case study from the oral health aisle of Watsons, a pharmacy chain.[5]

    1. Empathize

    This stage involves by collecting as much information about a field as possible. You may process raw data, consult with experts, and get as much background as possible to envision a better future.

    By collecting data, Watsons realized that many shoppers visited the oral hygiene section of their pharmacies, but they often walked away empty-handed. Watsons developed a collaborative relationship with two other companies so that they could figure out why people weren’t making purchases.

    2. Define

    After you have enough background information, define what customers need. Conducting formal and informal surveys to gather customers’ feedback. Watch how people interact with the products and listen to how they describe the products.These observations allow businesses to figure out what people need and what is holding them back from getting what they want.[6]

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    The Watsons team interviewed shoppers and listened to anecdotes about their shopping experiences. Customers gave the company a variety of reasons why it was difficult to find the oral health products that they wanted. People said things like, “The shelf looks different every time I shop here,” or “I can’t find the product I’m looking for.”

      3. Ideate

      After you understand your customers’ pain points, work to reconcile the difference between what they expect and what you produce. Look for patterns from customer feedback and brainstorm solutions based on the information that you’ve been given. Staying focused on solutions allows people to come up with alternatives that hadn’t existed before.

      The team at the pharmacy reviewed all the data from customers and determined that most of them were plagued by the same problem. Many people claimed that they were not able to find the best product to fit their needs. In response to this, the collaborators decided that they needed to devise a system to make it easier for people to track down the toothpaste that was best for them.

      4. Prototype

      Design thinking requires novel solutions. The ideas may start as quick drawings or outlines, but they eventually become full-scale models. Along the way, incorporate feedback to remix and refine the solution until it is the best that it can be.

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      To make it easier for customers to find the perfect tube of toothpaste, Watsons and its collaborators decided that customers needed a “Quick Finder” system. They started out with rudimentary drawings, and consulted with customers and workers throughout the design phase. Eventually, they devised a prototype machine in which customers could input information about the product that they wanted. Whenever the system narrowed down the best products, it lit up a box around those products.

        5. Evaluate

        No solution is complete without testing to make sure that it effectively addresses the problem. In the evaluation phase, you run tests and obtain as much feedback as you can get. End-user input continues to be an important factor in this phase, but look at quantitative data also to ascertain if the prototype really worked.

        To ensure that the prototype for the “Quick Finder” addressed customer needs, the team consulted with customers and store workers to see what they had to say about the new tool. They also had to compare oral care sales before and after the implementation of the new design in order to measure its impact.

        Design Thinking Isn’t Just for Designers

        Anyone who needs to solve problems could benefit from adopting design thinking. It enables businesses to solve problems and come up with creative solutions by looking at issues holistically and addressing the needs of the end user.

        When you put design thinking into practice, you have more space to innovate and you improve your audience’s experience with your company.

        Reference

        More by this author

        Brian Lee

        Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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        The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

        The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

        It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

        Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

        “You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

        In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

        New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

        There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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        So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

        What is the productivity paradox?

        There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

        In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

        He wrote in his conclusion:

        “Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

        Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

        How do we measure productivity anyway?

        And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

        In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

        But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

        In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

        But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

        Possible causes of the productivity paradox

        Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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        • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
        • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
        • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
        • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

        There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

        According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

        Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

        The paradox and the recession

        The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

        “Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

        This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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        According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

        Looking forward

        A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

        “Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

        Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

        “Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

        On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

        Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

        Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

        Reference

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