Founder & CEO of Strategic Development Group and Strategic U. Coached over 40 U.S. and international businesses. Author of "The 3P Business Framework" and "Your Strategy, Your Success."
Designing the right products or services to support organizational growth is essential for all organizations. Any organization can create a product or service that they desire but to be the most effective for the organization, there needs to be an established need or the ability to create a need in an undefined market (blue ocean). Regardless of whether you are meeting or creating a need, the design must meet the needs of the customer.
What Is Design Thinking
Design thinking is a process that allows for iterative innovation of products and services throughout the journey. It can be used to solve existing problems or to create new products and services from scratch. Throughout the design thinking process, you must understand the problem/need, develop solutions that solve the problem/need, and prototype, test, and iterate to meet customer expectations. Whichever reason you are trying to use design thinking, there are some foundational concepts introduced in this chapter that you must keep in mind.
Designing for Empathy
We briefly discussed this in the previous section, but the needs of your customers are the most important part of what you are trying to achieve. Gathering the relevant customer needs will be integral as you move through this process. You need to establish a clear understanding of their needs and seek clarification throughout the process that you are moving in the right direction. The worst thing you can do is create a product or service with no customer input. Inevitably this will not produce the results expected.
There are numerous ways to collect customer input that can be used to inform design. One method for meeting existing customer needs is to conduct some internal reflection or competition research and determine what customers love, want improved, or hate about comparable products. When it comes to working in an undefined or unknown market space (blue ocean), focus groups can be used to target potential groups and early adopters.
Define the Need
So, you have gathered the data from the intended or existing customers, but now you need to aggregate all that data into usable information that results in a clearly defined need. Many times, customers have problems defining their needs in terms that can be used to design or improve things. You may have gathered information like “I want it to be faster,” “It needs to be lighter,” or “I think it should last longer.” Although these give you areas to focus, you need to dig deeper and quantify how much faster, lighter, and longer to completely understand the need.
This will require returning to customers to attain the quantifiable data, but some may be able to be attained by more thorough research into the competition’s products. Reading reviews may provide clarification to these questions. Either way, you are looking for your starting point and will continue to iterate later in the process. Just remember to always keep a people-centric view as you move through the process because people are the ones making the decision to use the product or service. Their journey must be satisfying.
Now it is time to start generating ideas on how to solve the problems and needs of your expected customers. Without clarification of the customer pain points, this would be a waste of time. I am sure you have heard of diverse ways to generate ideas like brainstorming but a lot of time that presents numerous ideas that are focused on a central theme but do not necessarily solve the problem or need. The data you collected from the customer focuses the brainstorming of ideas to solve that problem or need.
Once you have the ideas to solve the identified problems and needs, you will still need to ensure that the ideas for one problem or need do not negatively impact the expected gain from other ideas. For example, if your customers desire more features and a longer battery life, you will need to account for the added battery consumption from the new features. Since brainstorming would have been focused on just the features or just the battery life, you would need to know what features are to be added before looking at the battery life.
During this phase you will create a scaled down version of the product or service that allows you to evaluate your latest ideas and see if the problems/needs identified earlier were solved. This will not always be a fully functioning product and can be a simple paper prototype or 2D diagram. The purpose of this portion is to foundationally establish whether you have solved the problems and met the needs of your customer. You may also bring in the customers from the focus group or an entirely new set of customers to determine if the identified problems and needs were addressed. The outcome of this may result in more iteration before moving to final testing.
Test Your Solutions
Once any final adjustments are made from the prototyping phase, you will integrate the changes into a fully functioning product or service and conduct rigorous tests to determine results. This is where you would want to run beta tests with customers, including the ones that provided input throughout the process. Beta testing is good because it will allow you to reach a broader audience but not fully release the product or service. Based on feedback from the beta testers, you may need to refine and iterate the product before moving on to full release.
Once your beta test refinements and iterations are complete, you are ready to release the full version of your product or service. There are numerous ways to release the products, but you need to ensure that the release focuses on the problems solved and the customer needs met. This will generate the highest potential for success of your new product or service implementation. Depending on the length of your design process, you may also need to determine whether the original need or problems that existed are still the intended customer group’s major pain points. This should have been done throughout the process, but you will need to determine based on the individual industry.
The customer must be the focal point in every product or service that you offer as an organization. Without an identified need, there is a greater chance of organizational resources being wasted on development. Continue to validate customer needs and problems throughout the design process. It is a promising idea to evaluate prototypes internally, but you must evaluate the products with the intended customer to understand the impacts from the improvements you have made. Last, the experience your customer has with your product or service should be tailored as much as possible to their individual needs.
The foundations of design thinking do not stop at products and services offered by the organization to customers. These concepts carry forward into the processes an organization uses internally and externally. There is always a customer (internal or external) that is impacted by the process, product, or service you design. Combining the foundations of design thinking with that of continuous process improvement can help organizations achieve exponential growth and efficiency across the organization.
I have helped many business owners with legal issues start a business. They have successfully competed for and won government contracts. The simple answer to your question is yes. Your felony conviction will not prevent you from starting a business or winning government contracts. The biggest issue you will have is if there is a need for a security clearance on the contract. City, county, and state contracts would be easier than federal. If needed, we can schedule a follow-up call to discuss further.
This is a broad question. You can gain customer loyalty and repeat patronage, but it takes much more than a marketing strategy. Customers want a positive experience, get a high-quality product/service, and pay a fair price. The customer experience starts at the first touch point and ends with the receipt and satisfaction of the product/service. Using a Design Thinking approach, you can understand the customer's persona, create an easy and positive customer process, develop the right product/service, and deliver exceptional quality and value from the customer's perspective. If you have any follow-up questions, we can schedule a call to discuss.