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Functional ways Brands used Design Thinking to solve specific business problems - Part 2



There are a lot of complex, networked and dynamic problems at present which can’t be solved with already existing frameworks. These problems are called “wicked problems” as per Roger Martin. Wicked problems do not have any past recorded data or established ways of solving them. New approaches have to be found. One way of doing this is through abductive reasoning or design abduction.


The traditional approach for solving business problems is deduction: taking existing data and running it through an algorithm for a precise result. Induction describes having the data and observing an outcome while it is not clear yet what laws connect the two. This blank is attempted to be filled through experimentation.


Design abduction means that only something about the nature of the outcome is known (“What would be desired?”) but nothing yet about the variables and formulas to get there. These need to be figured out through detecting unmet customer needs, prototyping and continuous validation.


“No new idea can be proved deductively or inductively using past data.”

— Charles Sanders Pierce


Why is this approach relevant? In short, to create something truly new, by definition there is no precedent. The true insight comes though through applying the right type of logic for a specific problem and combine them.


There is a striking trend of financial institutions, tech firms and management consultancies acquiring design firms over the past decade. Design teams are also being set up inhouse within all private and public sector industries. Teams that used to include analysts, strategists and technologists are appointing designers too. To be precise, abductive reasoning capabilities are being tried to be brought in where there was none. The new teams have a huge advantage introducing these problems solving approaches. The key is the designer’s generative problem solving approach complementing earlier analytical problem solving approaches and vice versa.

If the skills are limited to “either analytical or generative”, there is a risk of failing to deliver an appropriate solution.


The present challenges in modern context of uncertainty and rapid innovation, demand this integrated set of problem solving approaches.


Roger Martin declared design thinking the “next competitive advantage” in the year 2008. By 2017 design thinking has become a well implemented organizational resource, similar to Six Sigma or others. Design thinking is at the point where it has dispelled preconceived notions around creative folk and gave them a renewed stature.

As an innovation method, design thinking describes the designer’s problem solving approach agnostic of any specific discipline and applicable to any problem.


Here is an example of how design thinking has been used by the following company to solve specific business problems:


Kim Colin and Sam Hecht, founders of the London-based industrial design studio Industrial Facility were requested by their client to create a smarter electric toothbrush, that included playing music and tracking users’ brushing performance.


In Colins’ view, “A toothbrush is already loaded with guilt, that you’re not doing it properly or enough. The companies weren’t thinking about the customers’ experience. They were thinking about the toothbrush the same way you would an athletic activity tracker, that it records and processes information.”


So they chose two key issues identified by users instead, and made those the value-added features for the product. Charging the device and ordering replacement brushes.


This project shows by having empathy for the user how designers can go beyond just serving briefs to bring opportunity for both the client and the end user. If this team just translated the client brief into a tool, their client would have a lifeless product that customers didn’t value. Instead they focused on core frustrations of the user and used available technology to solve those frustrations in a seamless experience.


Client Brief: To develop a smarter electric toothbrush, that included playing music and tracking users’ brushing performance.


End users’ issues found out by designers: i) Charging the device & ii) Ordering replacement brushes.


Value addition for the product: Same as above in sync with the clients’ demand.


Insight: Focusing on specific features that people actually need produced a better product.



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