design thinking and how to apply it


Design thinking: what is it and how to apply it to your business?

Design Thinking is already used by major organizations to help them with their decision-making process. Learn how to take advantage of this approach for your business.


06/13/2017 | By Hotmart

What will we see in this post

What if there was an approach that helped you in the decision-making process, giving you a clearer view of all the available options? Not only this approach exists but also it’s already used by companies such as Nike, Procter & Gamble, and Apple, to solve problems and maximize profits.

We’re talking about Design Thinking. Don’t worry, in spite of the name, it doesn’t concern only designers though.

Right now you may be thinking: “Nike and Apple are major corporations, therefore, to use Design Thinking at my Company I’ll need a lot of money and employees”. Wrong again! Design Thinking isn’t about resources but the way we use what we already have in hands.

On today’s post, we’ll clarify these and other myths about Design Thinking and show you how you can apply it to your business.

You’ll also learn:

What is Design Thinking?

Where did this process come from?

What are the stages in Design Thinking?

Is it possible to apply Design Thinking to small business?

How can you use your buyer persona in Design Thinking?

What is Design Thinking?

To talk about Design Thinking, first, we need to understand what it’s not about. Design Thinking isn’t a methodology. The word “methodology” implies a ready-to-use formula and step-by-step guides to follow.

Design Thinking isn’t the solution. It paves the way to finding a solution, which will vary according to the problem.

Design Thinking isn’t about design, though it is inspired by this area of expertise.

So, after all, what is Design Thinking? In the words of Arne Von Oosterom, founder of the Design Thinkers Group:

Design Thinking is a mindset to develop and deliver innovative ideas, change and solutions to complicated problems. It is an activity-based process with a strong emphasis on teamwork and co-creation.

In other words, Design Thinking helps set goals and choose the best way to reach these results and, especially, keep and optimize them.

Where did this process come from?

Even though it has gained strength with the development of the Internet and new technologies, Design Thinking originated over 70 years ago, which means that it is older than most people who are reading this text.

According to the Interaction Design Foundation website, the idea of using new approaches to complex problems gained strength during the Second World War, an event that radically changed management, production, and design models, adapting those processes to mass production.

Engineers, architects, and even scientists started converging towards collective problem solving, propelled by social changes that had happened in that period, including the rise of new global powers and consumer patterns.

This way of thinking evolved until the early 50s, when the first Design Thinking references were applied to other areas of knowledge, such as communication and pharmaceutical industries.Over the years, other professionals realized that it was possible to restructure and modernize their existing processes by focusing on their medium and long-term objectives.

All this evolving process got to the implementation of the Design Thinking we use today, which is nothing less than three factors put together: what people want + what is doable in the market + what is technologically possible.

What are the stages in Design Thinking?

Let’s use this example of a digital Producer to introduce each stage in Design Thinking.

Matthew has an online course on vegan cooking that was selling well. However, he’s spending too much money on campaigns on ad networks, which makes the acquisition cost higher for his clients.

He then decides to stop advertising and his sales drop 37%.

Immersion: identifying a problem

To solve a problem, you need, before anything else, to know its origin. In most cases, entrepreneurs don’t even know they have a problem because they’re getting good results.

However, if they had a slight chance in their operational routine, they could get to even better results.  So, the problem is not always something huge, it might only be an opportunity to improve that you’re letting slide.

The immersion stage consists in assessing the performance of your company and the quality of your product, considering the point of view of everybody involved: people in your team, suppliers, and the end consumer.

For that, lots of research need to be done, interviews with consumers and trend hunting (Cool Hunting) but especially, you need to do an observation exercise. Observation is what sets apart what people really do/like from what they say they do/like.

But don’t you worry, you won’t need to stalk your clients on the street. Currently, there are tools that help you observe your client without the need to leave the computer.

In Matthew’s case, two problems may be happening:

People don’t see the value in his offer: Many users access the sales page but don’t feel comfortable enough to make the sale because they don’t understand how that product may help them solve a problem.

He is segmenting his campaigns wrong. Cost per Click is high because the ad is showing up to people who are not interested in the product.

Ideate: thinking of solutions

After you’ve identified the problem, which can also be an opportunity to improve, it’s time to brainstorm, which means, to suggest ideas without any judgment.

Don’t get too attached to the practical aspect! Just think of solutions that you believe could add value to your client’s purchase journey. Trust me, you’ll have enough time to check if your idea is good to put into practice on the next stage.

There are no limiting ideas on this stage. It’s important that there are more people brainstorming, especially those who can benefit with the solutions that are being proposed. At the end of this stage, don’t forget to document your ideas.

If you put a lot of effort into this stage, the list may be infinite!

Ideas that may help Matthew improve his sales or reduce his cost with ads:

– create online mini-courses so that people can get to know the product better;

– advertise on websites about vegan products;

– offer a tasting of vegan dishes in restaurants;

– create an interactive game on his sales page, etc.

Prototype: putting your idea into practice

The prototype is the stage to validate the ideas presented, analyze what fits your project and put your plan into practice.

Although this is the last stage, the prototype can take place at same time as other stages. How would that work? You have an idea, create a prototype, test on a smaller audience and assess the results. Depending on the performance, this idea can be implemented but it doesn’t stop you from testing other solutions to the same problem.

Matthew has decided to create an online challenge to increase his audience’s engagement. The winner gets access to the product. The idea has increased traffic to the sales page but he sold few units. In this case, he can figure out a way to optimize the game or move on to another idea, and so with every other idea.

design thinking: problem->solution


Is it possible to apply Design Thinking to small businesses?

With Matthew’s example, it was possible to notice that Design Thinking can be used by businesses of different sizes.

The difference of your business venture to Nike’s is in a number of resources you have to invest and the number of people involved in the process, which in your case is a lot fewer.

Making a thorough analysis before each decision may look like a lot of work but it’s exactly the opposite. Once you make empathic decisions, based on your client’s and partner’s perceptions, it’s a lot easier to provide a good purchase experience and, therefore, strengthen your online reputation.

Some tools can help you through the different stages of Design Thinking.

  • SWOT Analysis – it’s good to identify your business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
  • Benchmarking – Look for information about what companies in your niche are doing. It can help you identify opportunities to improve your business. Search engines (Google, YouTube, Bing) are your biggest allies to do this search.
  • Build a buyer persona, which is something we’ll show in details in the next topic.

How can you use your buyer persona in Design Thinking?

Every product or service is created for someone. If you start your business venture thinking only about your needs, you certainly won’t achieve good results, no matter how good your product might be.

And it’s here that your buyer persona comes in. Your buyer persona is a semi-fictitious representation of your ideal client, with her motivations, desires, expectations, and needs. This profile is created from research and data analysis, which identify the most significant characteristics of the people who access your page, buy your product or follow you on social media.

We’ve already written a complete post about it on the blog (I suggest you read it after you’re done with this one!) In this next topic we won’t go deeper into the concept of persona, we will show you how this character helps the Design Thinking process, answering to 3 simple questions:

When do I use the buyer persona?

Creating personas is especially useful in coming up with and validating ideas for a business. Consider the Ideate stage, for example. You need to assess the pains of your persona and understand her expectations, only then you can think of solutions that answer this demand.

In many cases, you won’t need to make any changes to your product but to the purchase experience, which will help you save some time and money.

How does the buyer persona influence the choice of the best strategy?

Usually, entrepreneurs have questions about the number of personas that their business must have. This number depends on how big your business is. However, the more mature your business is, the more information you will have to create different personas.

The biggest benefit in mapping the different profiles of your customer is being able to come up with personalized and efficient solutions to answer the needs of each of those groups instead of presenting a generalized solution.

In what way does your business benefit from having personas?

Better understanding what drives your user is key to innovate and get their loyalty. A happy client will always buy from you again or suggest your services/products to other people. It’s a cycle where everybody wins: the client has a good experience and you sell more.

Design Thinking works

If you’ve come to the end of this post, you have noticed that Design Thinking is an approach that aims innovation and problem solving from a more empathic perspective, therefore it works for any business model.

After all, every company’s goal is creating a lasting relationship with their clients and that starts by offering the best purchase experience possible.

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