Design Thinking: how to use it to innovate your business model?

In such a competitive environment and with accelerated digital transformations, identifying innovative business opportunities is not a simple task. So how do you stay relevant to your audience and achieve sustainable results over time? Fortunately, Design Thinking offers interesting tools for designers and brands to rethink business models, develop new perspectives, create differentiated solutions and

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In such a competitive environment and with accelerated digital transformations, identifying innovative business opportunities is not a simple task. So how do you stay relevant to your audience and achieve sustainable results over time? Fortunately, Design Thinking offers interesting tools for designers and brands to rethink business models, develop new perspectives, create differentiated solutions and add more value to their products and services. Know how!

First, let’s understand when to seek innovation

The business model is the foundation of any company. Therefore, in a scenario that is always changing because of the arrival of new technologies, it is important that brands are willing to constantly review their strategies – which can be done in partnership with the design team. But is there an ideal time for this?

Strategy and innovation expert Rita McGrath says that one of the symptoms that a business model needs to be rethought is when the team struggles to create new improvements or, in more extreme cases, when the customer base begins to leave the company for other market alternatives. However, brands do not need to reach a stage of crisis to rethink their business models.

Bain & Company consultants Kevin Murphy and Neysa Colizzi claim that “good leaders change when they need to. Leaders of excellence change when they want”. While the fear brought by a crisis is accompanied by a clear understanding of the danger that “lies ahead”, the desire to do something better brings less concrete perspectives. But, the second one, brings more room for innovation. It is not about dealing with the inevitable, it’s about working with the possible. It is more difficult, but rewarding.

Fujifilm, for example, anticipated the fate of photographic films and, understanding its competencies in the chemical area, decided to invest in the cosmetics and health markets. The brand showed that, by mapping competencies, identifying what generates value for the market and studying its weaknesses, it becomes possible to make tough decisions even in a scenario that is always reconfiguring.

Airbnb, founded by designers Nathan Blecharczyk, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, transformed paradigms in the market, becoming the largest hosting network in the world without having a single hotel. The company took advantage of the “as a service” model – which allows access to a product or service without having its property – to connect people with good spaces available to people who need them temporarily.

But what is the relationship between business models and Design Thinking?

A business model is the way a brand creates, delivers and captures value. It is a company’s operating logic. In this context, Clayton Christensen, a professor at Harvard Business School, emphasizes the importance of staying focused on the value proposition for the public. And Design Thinking is, in essence, a people-centered approach.

Disseminated by the founder of the innovation company IDEO, David Kelley, and by the CEO of the company, Tim Brown, Design Thinking is an approach that is structured in intensive research tools, in addition to data crossing and data visualization , to solve problems holistically.

The goal is to instigate the creativity, curiosity and learning of designers to create solutions. For this reason, it offers fundamental techniques – such as interviews, immersion research, hidden client and brainstorming (as long as it involves professionals from different areas) – to dive into the reality of its clients, better understand their needs and interests and innovate the strategic actions of your brand.

In Europe, Volkswagen was one of the companies that used Design Thinking to its advantage. Based on this approach, the brand launched a shared car service, Quicar, which serves both individuals and companies. Thus, with the offer of customized plans according to the needs and desires of the customers, the automaker gained chances to explore the possibilities of the shared economy.

In Brazil, one of the brands that applied this approach successfully was Natura. For this, brand researchers went to the home of several customers in order to understand how they dealt with hair care products. And they found that, in order to pay less and reduce the cupboard space, people bought refills and used them as final products. With this data, the company created the “Sou” line, which offers items 30% cheaper than the basic lines and packaging that reduce the environmental impact by 50%.

And how can this technique be applied to your brand?

To get to know the public of a company in depth, Design Thinking is structured in three basic steps. Understand how they can collaborate with your brand innovation:

1. Know your audience

We are in the era of digital transformation, and customer behavior changes very quickly. That is why it is so important that brands optimize the dialogue with their customers, investing in relationship channels that allow a closer and constant contact on a daily basis. In addition to more specific immersion processes, periodically, to anticipate dissatisfaction, detect market opportunities and understand the brand differentials. Techniques such as a hidden client and interviews can help in this process.

2. Incorporate co-creation processes

The data collected in the immersions are essential to build a value proposal consistent with the needs and desires of your audience. So, after analyzing this information, it is time to go on to ideation. In a more collaborative proposal and aligned with the principles of Design Thinking, customers can be part of this co-creation process, following the entire project or some specific steps.

3. Develop prototypes

Prototyping or creating an MVP (Minimum Viable Project or Minimum Viable Product) is one of the most valued steps in a Design Thinking process. It is the analysis of the prototype that allows diagnosing, in a timely manner, issues to be solved before the product or service reaches the market. It also helps to minimize pricing-related challenges and conduct acceptance tests with some customers.

To promote disruptive transformations and deliver value to customers, brands need to leave the comfort zone, seeking perspectives that have not been explored yet. In Design Thinking, the product or service development process is continuous and designers are encouraged to work even more on their innovation potential. Therefore, keep in mind that your business model idea can be constantly improved through processes of co-creation and critical analysis.

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