18 AUGUST, 2015


By Kate Calder

DeakinCo’s Head of Business Development

You might be talking to your customers, but are you having an inclusive and ongoing conversation?

Ever launched a product or service that didn’t quite deliver what your organisation had hoped for? Whether it’s a poor Net Promoter Score, disappointing sales or flagging revenue, many organisations who come to us still call their customers ‘end users’. Wrong, we say!! Think of them as ‘front-end users’. If you don’t involve your customers early and often in the development of your ideas you are guessing at how what you take to market will be received. We think it’s risky and history proves us right time and again.

The biggest fail that we see in organisations regarding the use of design thinking is a climate that makes the four rules almost impossible to apply. The four rules are:

  • The human rule – all design activity is ultimately social in nature.
  • The ambiguity rule – design thinkers must preserve ambiguity.
  • The redesign rule – all design is redesign.
  • The tangibility rule – making ideas tangible always facilitates communication.

Sometimes it’s a leadership issue, sometimes it’s a culture issue, sometimes it’s mindset, other times structural. Most often it’s all of these.

Using design thinking principles and our educational design know-how, we are helping organisations to create better products and services. Many organisations know about design thinking and have even had a go at implementing some of the principles. We think the trick is not to launch design thinking as a new way of doing things, which can make it sound like a business fad. In fact, the pioneers of the principles used at Stanford d.school did not deliberately set out to create design thinking as a methodology. It evolved from their interactions with their target market. Essentially, design thinking grew out of a common set of practices that proved effective in the development and refinement of products and services. Folks who used design thinking before it was called design thinking describe their demanding appetite for customer feedback and involvement as the result of acknowledging that their customers were a better source of ideas than they were. Sure, they had business acumen and technical experience, but they quickly realised that they were not their own customers. They possessed a humility about the way they worked with their customers, which has resulted in amazing business success stories and the formalisation of design thinking. We think there is a lot to learn in remembering these beginnings when applying design thinking within organisations.