Jonathan Craig Rich, formerly at National Securities Corp in New York, is an investment banker focused on raising capital for growth companies in healthcare, technology, and consumer sectors, as well as assisting them in exploring M&A pathways, joint ventures and licensing. In the following article, Jonathan Craig Rich explains design thinking and its role in innovation, from what it encompasses to the three phases of its application.
For all the contemporary discussion about the importance of innovation, those who use it tend to oversimplify its application. Forward-thinking businesses do not simply innovate overnight. They must first cultivate a strategy for design thinking.
While design thinking may sound like an aesthetic term, Jonathan Craig Rich explains that it actually encompasses every element of a product or service to produce commodities with which customers can interact easily and effectively. Design thinking always follows three phases: Learn, Create, and Make. Meanwhile, it allows for recognition of the occasional failure as an opportunity for growth.
Jonathan Craig Rich says that the beauty of design thinking is that companies embracing it need not treat innovation as a separate endeavor. By learning to embrace design thinking, they create a corporate culture in which innovation becomes business as usual.
The Role of Design Thinking in Innovation
In the same fashion that many innovators repurpose pre-existing products and ideas to create something new, Jonathan Craig Rich, formerly at National Securities Corp in New York, says that design thinking draws from classic principles of product design to redefine overarching business strategies. Also akin to the manner in which many innovative products fill long-existing needs, design thinking addresses the clear issues with many modern services.
When most people think of innovative products, they think of cutting-edge gadgets and technology. In reality, though, many products ranging from kitchenware to cleaning devices fail as innovations because customers find them too difficult or arduous to use. Likewise, corporate services must be accessible to users. With this in mind, Jonathan Craig Rich reports that Harvard Business Review defines the core principles of design thinking:
- Consumer needs and experiences should always come first
- Use visual aids such as models or diagrams to identify potential issues
- Work with prototypes to explore solutions to these issues when identified
- Opt for simplicity over unnecessary complexity wherever possible
- Accept failure as a natural part of the design process
While every company wants to be the first to release the next big innovation, rushing a concept to the marketing stage often results in a failure. Experimenting to design a service model that customers can truly enjoy is vital to long-term success. To this end, Jonathan Craig Rich says that companies wishing to employ design thinking should learn to work in three primary phases.
The Three Phases of Design Thinking
Customers can usually tell when the brains behind a product or service have never actually used it themselves. In everything from ill-advised cooking gadgets to poorly designed video games, struggles within the first few minutes of use mark a clear lack of quality assurance.
Rather than hire a few dedicated testers, Jonathan Craig Rich, formerly at National Securities Corp in New York, says that design thinking teaches entire corporations to act as their own quality assurance department. To help companies strive for innovation while learning empathy for their users, digital design brand Pancentric identifies three key phases to design thinking:
- Learn – Determine the scope of the project and key challenges to resolve
- Create – Develop prototypes and other visual aids to explore solutions
- Make – Deliver the finished product with an eye toward continued improvementsCompanies should not treat these phases as a one and done deal. Users will identify new issues and lodge further complaints once the product is released. This is where true innovators return to the learning phase in order to continue improvement, so it’s vital to understand these phases as deeply as possible.
Phase One – Learn
Jonathan Craig Rich says that the learning phase requires innovators to immerse themselves in the research and strive to understand it. At this phase, they focus primarily on the need their product or service will fulfill. When heading back to this phase to address customer complaints, they must likewise research the nature of these complaints in their entirety.
During this phase, companies will want to establish timelines and priorities. They should determine which issues require the most focus and move those to the front of the timeline to keep their efforts focused and prioritized as they progress to the next stage.
Phase Two – Create
The second phase of design thinking is where many of the previously discussed principles will come most heavily into play. Product prototypes or sketches of service models will be produced and used to explore solutions to problems identified in the previous phase.
Jonathan Craig Rich says that this is also the phase that relies most heavily on empathy. If the creators of a product or service find it too complex or unpleasant to use, they are not ready to burden their consumers with it. They must focus on customer interaction on not only a practical level, but an emotional one as well.
Phase Three – Make
Whether developing a product, service, or website, it is now time to unleash it upon the world. The attention given to the first two phases will ultimately determine the overall success of this one. Innovators can now sit back and observe how well their creation is received as they return to the learning phase while they accrue knowledge on how to improve their product even more.
By thoroughly understanding the principles of design thinking and following the three core phases of its implementation, any business will be able to develop empathy for their consumers’ needs and experiences. This will empower them to identify useful innovations and put them into practice in a way that can benefit all parties, from lay consumers to the profit-driven investors.