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design thinking is relevant when

10 Examples Of When Design Thinking Is Relevant

Design thinking is relevant when applications are being utilized by so many people in this fast-paced world.

Different applications like Paypal, Facebook, Amazon, Alibaba, Airbnb, and many more have helped us in our everyday lives.

They have elevated our user experience.

However, you should know that these applications were thought up long and hard by amazing geniuses.

They were perfected by a talented team to give you the utmost user satisfaction.

Most likely, the inception of these applications was pushed by frustrations from problems that were continuously pressing.

It can also because of the inadequacy of solutions that are yet to be found.

Let’s take a look at companies that thought design thinking is relevant when they were trying to come up with their products.

What Is Design Thinking?

First of all, let’s get to know more about the science behind design thinking.

We found this definition to be the most concise description of what and how design thinking works.

Design thinking is an iterative non-linear process.

There are different variations to the steps of this process.

According to Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, the design thinking institute at Stanford University, there are five stages to this process.

Initially, it could be taken as a step-by-step process when you are starting with problem identification.

But as the creative process gains momentum, you are likely to go back and forth among these stages, just like an iterative process.

The Iterative Process

Empathize

Design thinking process is closely linked with user experience.

The aim here is to identify the problem from the perspective of your target user or audience.

In this stage, you give more importance to how others perceive your product rather than your own opinions.

The more you immerse yourself in their environment, the more you can grasp the very issue you are going to find.

Define

You will have to analyze the core problem from all the observations and feedback you gathered in the Empathize stage.

It is essential to convert it understandably to a problem statement that is human-centered.

You have to think beyond what’s right for you and focus more on what’s good for your consumers.

Ideate

This is the stage wherein you and your team try to answer the problem statement.

This is where the fun takes place.

Be wild and imaginative.

Think outside the box.

This is how great innovators like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates stood out from the rest.

Prototype

Creative ideas are materialized in this stage.

This is an experimental stage that is worked closely within the team.

If prototypes did not work like how they were supposed to be due to constraints, you go back and forth with the Ideate stage again.

Test

There’s only one way to find out if your prototype could solve the problem, and that is by testing.

Most companies do this by releasing a limited edition product, or a free taste (for food merchandise) to get a grasp of the audience’s sentiments.

Based on these sentiments, you can go back to defining the problem if newer issues come up.

Thus, the main goal of the design thinking process is to give you a scientific iterative process.

It will make you go deeper to the root of the problem and find ways to improve user experience.

This process is used by big companies to continuously innovate and improve. 

Examples

1. Airbnb

We use Airbnb now to get excellent accommodations when we travel to foreign places.

One of the striking features of Airbnb is that it is relatively cheap when it comes to group travels.

You could already own the whole apartment space to yourselves and conveniently split the amount evenly.

That is cheaper than getting individual hotel rooms.

And it is even more exclusive since you get to own the whole place like yours.

This also serves as good investing sidelines for people who have real estate properties that could be rented for another income source.

However, let’s rewind to 2009 when AirBnb was barely earning $200 a week.

They started dealing with the problem by looking at the material that reaches their customers: the ads.

The home pictures taken by the owners using their smartphones were not enticing enough.

They did not showcase all the amenities and rooms where customers would live.

The design thinking process started with empathizing with how customers.

Customers would not want to live in a home where they don’t know where they’re going to live or what it looks like.

As part of the process, the founders immersed themselves in their customers’ environments by renting a camera.

They spent time with their customers, taking good pictures, and enhancing them.

When they used these enhanced pictures in the ads, indeed, their revenue increased by twofold!

2. Google

Google is one of the biggest names on the world wide web in this digital age.

You would know that a company has gone a whole level of significance when you use their name as an ordinary verb instead of a noun.

Not familiar with a term?

Don’t worry, just “google” it.

Their innovations go full speed, and they continuously give upgrades to their users.

What started as an online search engine has become a plethora of internet services and products.

Gmail, Google Drive, Google Docs, Google Maps, Google Translate, Chrome, Google Chat, Google Photos, Google Play are now available.

All these innovations are products of design thinking.

The Google community has a very diverse set of people, mainly because they also serve different sets of customers.

It would be faster to get hold of different creative ideas to connect with diverse users across the massive world called the Internet.

Having employees with different global perspectives makes this easy.

If you have seen the movie “The Internship,” you would have an idea of how freestyle Google workspaces are.

Their workspaces boost their employees’ creativity.

This is simply another variation of the design thinking process!

3. Alibaba

2019 Forbes List China’s Richest Jack Ma founded Alibaba.

Even before he became the richest man in China, he had endured many rejections in his lifetime.

Indeed, he is an inspiration and a good model example for all those who feel like the world has shut them out completely.

Like Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Ma and his team founded Alibaba at his home apartment.

When he searched for ‘beer’ on the Internet, then noticed that no products came from his home country, China.

From this personal dilemma in himself, he decided he would have to change the circumstance.

His main goal was to help small Chinese entrepreneurs, like himself.

This was the manifestation of design thinking’s first step: empathizing.

He realized that his problem was how to make Chinese entrepreneurs known globally.

Admittedly, Jack Ma knows that he didn’t have any knowledge of computers and coding.

He had a team who made prototypes to build a secure link between Chinese manufacturers and other buyers.

Jack Ma has now stepped down as the chairman of Alibaba Group at the age of 55.

He now focuses on philanthropy through the Jack Ma Foundation.

4. Uber

Who would have thought that with just a few clicks in your smartphone, you can order a ride home?

You can even have a real-time visual on the car’s whereabouts, and cashless payment to cap up the transaction.

The story of how Uber was conceptualized is not cemented clearly in history.

Some sites say that it started in the winter night of 2008 in Paris.

It was when Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp were unable to get a cab after attending an annual tech conference.

This is how great ideas are born: when the founders experience a problem and are adamant about providing solutions.

At that night, Camp empathized with not only his circumstance.

Inevitably others also find getting a cab late at night an inconvenience and an issue in safety.

By 2009, Camp and his team had formulated prototypes called UberCabs.

Just like in the design thinking process, he tested his prototype in early 2010 servicing in New York using only three Uber cars.

After getting the desired results, he scaled up the operations by officially launching in May 2010 at San Francisco.

He also partnered with Kalanick as his Chief Incubator.

Uber has destabilized the taxi industry because of its human-centered and solutions-based approach.

With Uber, customers feel safer and less anxious as they see the real-time location of their ordered cab ride through GPS location.

Moreover, the system closely monitors the drivers, and review ratings would give a manifest peace of mind for the customers.

Cashless payment is convenient because it is paperless, and the price is fixed to avoid haggling with the cab drivers.

5. Apple

When we think of Apple, we inevitably correlate it with the visionary man named Steve Jobs.

Steve Jobs’ interesting career timeline consisted of ups and downs.

At the start, he worked with Steve Wozniak as they built a prototype of a small computer in his parents’ garage.

As shown here, design thinking’s iterative process started with building a prototype.

It was merely Steve Wozniak’s hobby, but it gave a brilliant idea for Steve Jobs to achieve his vision of having a “computer for the rest of us,” thus combining the Empathise and Define stages.

They gained momentum as they have raised funds from the profits of Apple I, Apple II, LISA, and Macintosh.

But after testing, they realized that their products were less appealing compared to their rival company, IBM.

The failed in terms of user experience, cost, memory, and hard drive inferiorities.

Eventually, Apple came dwindling.

The board of directors ousted Jobs as co-founder.

He picked up from his failures by venturing into his new company called NeXT and Pixar Studios.

As Apple continued to lose stock value, they bought Jobs’ NeXT as a desperate action to bring back Steve Jobs into the fold in the hopes of resuscitating the company.

Steve Jobs did not fail to deliver.

He used his past shortcomings and worked on new products like G3 PowerPC microprocessor to boost speed.

Also, he launched affordable and aesthetically pleasing iMac as home desktops.

In just a year, Jobs returned like a prodigal son and saved his own company from bankruptcy with revolutionized design thinking.

6. Microsoft

Can you imagine going about your day-to-day activities as a professional, student, or business without Microsoft?

That means living in this digital age without Windows-operated desktop computers, tablets, and portable laptops.

Just imagining these things are crippling because they have been embedded in our lives that we depend heavily on them.

For example, this text may have been drafted in good old Microsoft Word before being published online.

Ever since Windows 1 to the most recent Windows 10, Bill Gates and his team have not stopped innovating.

They have shifted from technology-centered to user-centered solutions.

The iterative process of design thinking undoubtedly has been utilized time and time again.

This is evident as they release newer versions of software and operating systems.

They make sure that they stay healthy in the competitive game and, most importantly, to always move towards the best user experience.

In fact, through the User Experience Excellence group in Microsoft, they apply the design thinking process through the five cycles: understand, envision, specify, implement, and maintain.

Another version of the design thinking process is by using the following four stages within the Windows Live Web Communication Product Team: understand, ideate, test, and communicate.

Stages may vary depending on the application.

7. Tesla

Most likely, when you think of Tesla, you would naturally gravitate towards another modern visionary, Elon Musk.

In this fast-paced world where everything demands to be instant, or God forbid, another second wasted is a punch to the gut, the environment makes up the collateral damage.

By having everything inconvenience, we use disposable plastics, and we irresponsibly dispose of them as soon as possible.

Petroleum is very easy to burn, and technologies in utilizing this energy have a good solid foundation already over the years.

But, these resources are non-renewable; it would take more extended generations for it to naturally refill.

This natural time would soon be overwhelmed by the need for the densely populated world that is getting industrialized.

Several environmental groups are already spreading awareness on these things primarily to world leaders and billionaires around the world who hold higher power over these resources.

That is where Elon Musk decided to set himself apart.

He envisions sustainable transportation, and that’s why he made electric cars behind the brand of Tesla.

Just like how design thinking was intended to be, Musk continuously challenges the accepted beliefs.

He presents alternative strategies that might not be instantly apparent with our initial understanding.

With this, he offered solutions to Mother Nature’s frustrations by pushing the boundaries of what we perceive as current technology.

With his fascination with cleaner technology, he and his team have made electric prototype cars and cyber track prototypes, among others.

8. Paypal

Elon Musk is also connected to the brand of Paypal.

Technically, he didn’t have a hand on how Paypal was created, but Musk has co-founded an email payment company called X.com.

His company then merged with Paypal, an online money-transfer service.

The creators of Paypal were Peter Thiel and Max Levchin.

As everything is more accessible online, eCommerce businesses are booming spearheaded by sites like Amazon and eBay.

In connection to this, the founders have noticed a little inconvenience: there was no digital payment platform between the consumers and the manufacturers.

When we order something on eBay, we check out through money wire transfer, Paypal, or money remittances.

During their time before the 2000s, consumers would have to painstakingly send money orders and checks.

As they started to empathize with the consumers’ growing inconvenience, they found a problem to be solved: an online payment system.

From then on, they ideated the solutions.

They discovered that to be able to create and test the prototype, they would have to convince customers to share their confidential information (e.g., emails, bank cards, credit cards) at the promise of a fast and low-cost online payment system.

Since then, Paypal has delivered its promise and acts as a solid bridge between consumers and online merchants.

9. Netflix

As mentioned before, you know a company has deeply entered the mainstream media when they use your name as a verb rather than a noun.

Does ‘Netflix and chill” sound familiar to you?

Long were the days where people would go rent out at their favorite movie rental stores.

For millenials and generations older, you might remember paying a penalty fee for rental VHS that has maxed out their deadline dates.

However, with the aid of the Internet, Netflix has provided a plethora of movies, TV series, documentaries, and many more, to new-age consumers.

How did it began?

Well, the story varies now and then.

The important takeaway was that the founders had empathized with the consumers having to drive to movie rental shops.

And so, they created a spin-off service where Netflix delivers movies to the customers’ doorsteps.

That sounded brilliant not until cable companies thought up ideas of offering on-demand movies.

To achieve the best user experience, Netflix had to overhaul their present thinking process and rethink alternative ways to better cater to the needs of the consumers.

To bring something unique to the table, in their Ideate stage, they wondered, what if they create their original content to capture the interest of consumers.

As they launched prototypes and tested them by airing hit series like Stranger Things exclusively, they didn’t stop there.

To capture the viewers’ attention, they changed the feature of movie posters like what we see in movie theaters, into trailers.

10. Samsung

Samsung is a brand known across different electronic products, from smartphones to home appliances.

It’s branding is all about their commitment to quality.

In a very remarkable story, in March 1995, Samsung’s owner, Lee Kun Hee, devised a theatrical event that will change the company’s branding.

He ordered his staff to pile up 150,000 phones and fax machines in an open field to be destroyed in front of more than 2,000 employees.

However, it was a pivotal moment for Lee Kun Hee and the rest of his people.

He had to instill in every Samsung company representative that their commitment to providing high-quality devices would be unparalleled.

Samsung deploys regional specialists to a country in one year.

They are tasked to gather the country’s culture to better understand the diverse customer needs around the world that they plan to serve.

Since then, Samsung did not order Japanese parts for their devices to ensure that they know that every component that makes up their products are of high-quality standards.

True to their word, Samsung has served its consumers by pioneering inventing the world’s first digital set in 1998 and creating smartphones with the most intuitive user system.

They also commit about 6% of their revenues to their research and development to create prototypes again and again.

Final Thoughts 

All of the world’s most significant innovations were recognized because they aimed to serve their consumers with their best interests.

Design thinking is relevant when creators work back and forth from every known angle to bring about the best user experience.

May these stories inspire aspiring creators around the world out there.

When it comes to innovation, everything starts and revolves around design thinking.

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