Most startups came into being because of the thirst to convert problems to opportunities. Some of these problems are novel therefore making proposed solutions/offerings by start-ups hypothetical.  Startups ideas are built on theory, the actual testing ground is usually when the customers have a feel of the solution when it addresses customer’s pain points. A solution that fails to resonate with customers could be fatal for the startup. The uncertainties and complexities in the hyper-competitive environment are major reasons why 90% of startups fail within their first five years of existence. How could human-centred design help startups to navigate the ambiguity, understand customers’ pain points, develop solutions that alleviate the problem and build a culture that delights both the employees and the customers?

Where does design thinking come in?

Startups are faced with wicked problems. These are problems that are difficult to understand and challenging to solve. Understanding the problem to be solved is the first challenge that confronts most startups. How do you know you are solving the right problem?

The model of observing, empathizing,reframing, developing and testing provides startups with opportunities to avoid expensive experimentation and perhaps the most expensive experiments in producing solutions of little or no demands in the market. The adoption of design thinking enables start-ups to develop solutions strictly from the customer point of view.  Building low profile prototypes and testing the same with the customers in an iterative process help to de-risk the investment but most importantly produce a solution that meets the customer’s job to be done (JTBD) needs. Design thinking is a set of principles and guidelines that allows non-designers to approach a problem in a way that places humans at the centre of problem-solving.

Here are some places design thinking can fit into Startup’s Business Process

Source: Steve Glaverski
  1. Solving the right problem

Many entrepreneurs still adopt the inside-out strategy where they rely on intuition and internal capabilities to determine what customers want. However smart organisations know that the best approach that creates value is an outside-in methodology.

This approach achieves success through value creation, customer orientation and customer experience. Relying on inner strength and point of views without adequate consideration in defining and understanding the problem from the user perspective leads to a misunderstanding of users which create a misfit product or service for the target market.

At the early start of product development, it is crucial that entrepreneurs target a core problem for which people would pay for, this is where design thinking comes in, through artefacts like user interviews, reframing, affinity maps and user journeys, entrepreneurs can identify user pain points and find the problems worth solving.

Figure1: The idea selection technique helps teams come to the most unbiased choice in the most feasible ideas


2. Pivoting fast

Sometimes business fails because they do not adapt fast to the crisis, disruption or change. To survive disruption today’s businesses must be built to adapt proactively to the changing operational environment. The COVID-19 pandemic has created new consumer buying behaviour, a new habit that may significantly alter the interaction between an organisation and its customers, therefore:

How do startups take advantage of the disruption to win their markets?

Most startups have a small workforce, it is imperative that good employee experience and an unstructured process, could help startups pivot fast, through design thinking in design sprints,   Startup teams can work together to push out quick prototypes that can help them test ideas quickly and pivot to new products or services that create value for the consumers.

3. Developing a Unique Customer Experience

How can your business stand out in an environment where users prioritize immediacy and personalisation, and where competitors are on a cost-cutting and price-slashing spree?

How can a start-up develop a unique customer experience that keeps customers coming back for more?

No customer experience would be complete without understanding the users, design thinking models such as the double diamond help simplify the value creation process. A Great experience can only be created when the customer journey is appropriately mapped, with clear identifications of the high and low moments for the customers at each of the touchpoints.  The understanding of the pains at each of the touchpoints is an opportunity to convert the pains to gains.

4. Creating a unique Brand story

Storytelling is a simple framework that allows you to share your solution in a way that creates emotional connections with your audience. Storyboarding is a tool from Hollywood that helps businesses depict their solution using the customer journey map.

For startups to compete with large companies, they need to have a value proposition that customers identify with. Startups need to understand their “why” Design thinking will help teams bond together, and flesh out their unique value proposition.

Now you know this, does your team need design thinking? At whatever stage of product development you are, how can design thinking help you foster communication amongst team members and reach a winning prototype?

Is your business struggling to adapt to the safe distance economy, how can you apply design thinking to solve your most crucial business problems? We want to help entrepreneurs understand their customers, refine their offerings and grow their business.

We want to understand your most important business needs, talk to us today by filling this form, to help us design with you an experience that delights your customer. If you would like to partner with us to deliver affordable design thinking packages to entrepreneurs, reach out to us at:

Favour Onukogu
Innovation Analyst, DesignThinkersAcademy

Favour is a content writer, products person and a design thinking practitioner. She is passionate about using user behaviour to transform products that meet business expectations. In her free time, she manages a personal blog and volunteers for women deliver to educate women of opportunities in tech.

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