Design Thinking as a Strategy for Innovation and a look at the role Empathy plays in the process

Design Thinking as a Strategy for Innovation

Design-led companies such as Apple, Pepsi, Procter & Gamble, and SAP have outperformed their competitors on the S&P by an astonishing 211%. And this tells us, that when design principles are applied to strategy and processes in a business, the success rate for innovation dramatically improves.  So let's look at how we can incorporate design principles into our business and gain some of the same benefits and value

Design principles are about creating a product or service for the user of that product or service.

The design thinking stages that we apply to develop such a product or service are 

  • Empathy,  empathize with our user and understand their feelings,  challenges, and  desired results they want to achieve with the use of our product or service
  • Define, redefining the problem statement from the user perspecitve/s, so that when we define the solution, we SOLVE for the user problems and not the business problems
  • Ideate, brainstorm ideas, don’t eliminate any thought at this stage, allow yourself and your team to be creative
  • Prototype,  create a no-cost/low-cost version of the solution so that you can test it before you heavily invest resources in building this solution that you would take to market or release to your users. Examples for services are storyboards, roleplay, basically anything you can do to help the testers imagine the solution better.
  • And Test,  also do a mini version of usability tests with actual users, to get the most relevant and accurate feedback

Now there are other versions of this process, all very valid and they have their uses. The Standford D. school of Design practices this  5 stages process, and it’s the same one Success By Design trained in, use, and teach.

So, what’s the big deal with Empathy!!! And How can we start to incorporate the principles into my business?

Empathy is about looking at a problem, product, or service from the user’s perspective. Now, this sounds quite easy and simple to start with but there are principles and exercises that we apply in the Design Thinking Process to ensure that we reduce the bias projected by people conducting the analysis (persons trying to solve the problem) onto the understanding of what the problem is.

So how to know when you are not solving the problems in the best possible way. When you are not fully empathic in your product and process design?

  • You keep having the same problems over and over again
  • High productivity, yet strategic and business goals are not being achieved
  • Lack of transparency,  layer upon layer of processes, employees need a lot of time to get to know their way around 
  • Customers!! When customer retention is a problem, service and processes need to be redesigned

A great to start the process at your company is to hire a Design Sprint lead to facilitate a few workshops in your company. The right facilitator, will encourage, guide, and support each workshop participant to allow them to be divergent and convergent in their thinking when it’s appropriate in the process. This is a service we offer at Success By Design

Here are some exercises to help you and your team reduce projecting bias when problem-solving:

  • Adopt a beginner’s mindset – forget everything you know about the product, process, or business and don’t interject your knowledge or understanding, allow the process to guide you
  • Ask the 5 whys – funny thing, everyone thinks they know the real why, the real what, the real why again allow the process to guide you. We find that the longer you have been dealing with a problem, the hard it is actually to have a fresh perspective
  • Conduct interviews with users or customers with empathy and no judgment. When people share their experience of your product or service with you, it leaves them exposed, appreciate that it took bravery to speak up and thank them for sharing

Remember, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

Try to see today, through the eyes of your users.

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Need a fresh perspective, chat with us, Success By Design.

Need a fresh perspective, chat with us at Success By Design, we design business strategy & processes that are customer and employee centred. We specialize in optimizing processes and designing customer service experiences that increase productivity and profitability.

We think differently, we will turn your business challenges into opportunities, book a 30-minute free discovery call now.


“Action is a great restorer and builder of confidence. Inaction is not only the result but the cause, of fear.” ―Norman Vincent Peale