Design Thinking is Not Just for Design Teams
As a career marketer with a great passion for innovation, I was very excited by and curious about the concept of Design Thinking when I first started to read about it, but at the same time, I was a bit skeptical. It seemed to be perfect and logical for developing new and innovative products, however, I wasn’t convinced how applicable it could be beyond this usage.

Therefore, when the opportunity came to be involved with a weeklong Design Thinking session to support its facilitator, I jumped at the opportunity to see the process at work.
I loved it.

It was about getting out of your office and talking to and listening to people, specifically, the end consumer. It meant that you weren’t purely making assumptions based on data, but it combined data usage with people experiences. It meant a deeper connection with consumers and more collaboration with co-workers.

And with my predisposition for consumer curiosity, the training went so well that I began helping facilitate Design Thinking workshops myself on a regular basis, and saw firsthand how truly powerful it is and how far reaching its impact can be to drive real business growth. And during these sessions, I realized that as long as you have consumer curiosity, and you're a good facilitator, a good listener, and a good collaborator, you can become skilled in this approach and use it effectively for marketing purposes.

DesignThinking_R1Design Thinking Framework.

What is Design Thinking?
At its core, Design Thinking is a consumer-centric approach to solve any type of problem or to address a new opportunity. And it is truly universal, because it keeps your customer at the heart of all you do and can be applied beyond developing new products and services. It is practical, actionable, and drives alignment, helping you solve the right problems and ensuring the use of creative thinking to generate solutions that are non-traditional and non-obvious.

I have seen it help complex businesses uncover their true business issue and address it with a unique solution to save time and money, as well as help a brand develop a set of customer solutions to fill their innovation pipeline. To show the breadth of opportunities available within Design Thinking, I have used this process for the following processes:
  • Marketing plan development
  • Launch planning
  • Brand relaunch
  • New business model development
  • Solving internal business challenges
  • Identifying new innovation territories and/or platforms
  • Development of brand experience
  • Competitive scenario planning repositioning
Three Core Elements of Design Thinking
Design Thinking has at its core three key elements:
  1. Empathy with users / customers.
  2. Engaging multiple perspectives.
  3. Collaborating to design, test, and learn about a solution.
These three elements are important when trying to capitalize on a new business opportunity, address a competitive challenge or solve a complex business challenge.

Empathize to Deeply Understand Your Customer
Probably the most well-known element of Design Thinking is customer empathy. Spending time with your customer or the end user of your product, service or solution is key. Empathy requires getting out of the office and sitting down to talk, in-person, face-to-face with people, shopping with them, interacting with them, and observing them. All things you cannot do from behind your desk and computer. It involves rolling up your sleeves and engaging by asking questions and, most importantly, listening and observing.

Often with business problems your customer might be someone inside your business. These people are consumers, and thus, can be talked with, observed, and listened to! You need to identify both your ultimate customer and the others who might also influence their decisions. Talking to multiple customers, stakeholders, and influencers helps you to see the full context and discover the underlying needs and influences.

Engage Others with Perspectives and Expertise Different than Your Own
No big problem is ever solved alone. It takes different areas of expertise with various perspectives to uncover the root of a problem, untapped opportunity or develop the optimal solution. It is often easier to work alone or to only talk to people like you or in your department. In the long run, this seems like it would save time, however, it's a dangerous habit to get into, because it will often take more time in the end due to mistakes being made or taking longer to gain alignment when only one perspective is engaged. It is an important step to garner input from various experts as you will also gain buy-in along the way.

Collaborate for Total Engagement
It often takes a group of people with different areas of expertise discovering about the customer needs, uncovering the true problem to solve, and brainstorming together to come up with the best solutions. It also ensures that various areas of the company involved in Design Thinking all have ownership and are in it together, making alignment and approvals often easier and shorter. Engaging various key stakeholders together early and often makes a difference in quickly getting solutions through an organization and championing it through to completion.

Beginning to get some ideas how Design Thinking can solve your problem, create an opportunity, or help your product or service? If you’re interested in discussing more about the process and benefits, and/or setting up a no-cost workshop to walk through the process, contact Marketing & Sales Director Michele Petruccelli at or 412-656-5997.

Topics: Marketing and Sales

Michele Petruccelli

Written by Michele Petruccelli

Michele is Aspirant's Director of Marketing & Sales, and is a senior marketer and facilitator with 25 years of extensive experience in brand management, strategy development, design thinking, and innovation. She works with various corporations and non-profit businesses as a consultant to help them grow their business through strong strategy, marketing plans, and skills development. She has worked with companies in the Fortune 100 and Global 1000 as well as mid-sized companies in a range of industries, with a focus on healthcare.

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