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From ‘lean’ methods and ‘agile’ innovation to design thinking and customer development, a number of useful tools are emerging for startups and innovators. Design thinking is a human-centered approach towards problem solving and product generation which is driven by creativity, customer empathy and iterative learning.

Based on research, case studies and workshops conducted in this field, the following research suggested the 8 Is’ of design thinking for startups: intent, insights, immersion, interaction, ideation, integration, iteration and intensification.


Intent to launch a new product or service is driven by the awareness that something profound has changed, inspiration to do something new, or a hunch that the market needs a new kind of offering. This can be due to personal motivation, an external problem to solve, or a resolution to make some dream come true. This desire can create a vision and mission for a founder or a strategic conversation in a larger firm.


The next step consists of primary and secondary research to gather more intelligence about the domain, ecosystem and potential customers. Interviews with experts and trend reports from market research firms help set the broader context. Personal anecdotes and even notable travel experiences are useful here to frame and re-frame the issues. 


Inspired by ethnographic and anthropological research (customer/user journey mapping, etc), this step consists of suspending judgement and taking a ‘deep dive’ into the customer environment. Immersion can help discover blind spots and get past prior bias, and converts hunches into informed guesses. 


With specific objectives as well as empathy in mind, this step now consists of dialogue and interviews between the startup team and potential customers. The key aim is to test and validate assumptions about current and unarticulated user needs in a specific problem area.


Brainstorming sessions now commence about what approaches and products may work or how existing products can be modified, with divergence (accumulating a wide range of ideas, including wacky and crazy ones) and convergence (whittling the list down to more feasible options). Clustering techniques, storyboards, provocative ideation, role play, visualisation and creative documentation are useful techniques in this step. More interaction (previous step) may also be needed here to flesh out ideas in detail. Product components and features will be conceptualised in this stage, possibly with multiple versions.


Multi-disciplinary perspectives are now brought in at this stage, with inputs from development, design, marketing and competitive intelligence perspectives. These feed into the creation of a series of prototypes, demos, mock-ups or virtual renditions, to be tested in parallel with different user groups.


Ideas, assumptions and actual prototypes are now subject to systematic iterative testing. It may be necessary to recast the original intent and even gather more market insights at this stage; further immersion may again be needed to see why the use case scenario perhaps did not work out as anticipated. Failures or mistakes here should be cast more as assumptions which have been invalidated, and development paths or features can be ruled out. Feedback loops should be short, and pace of testing should be fast to weed out unwanted options. Experimentation can lead to pivots if major changes are needed, in which case the original intent may need to be modified.


Only at this stage are you ready for a full launch of the first minimum viable product or service, with subsequent marketing plans and customer support once the final product is ready. You will now some have clues for what the product roadmap may look like, what adjacent or new products can be planned in different scenarios, and how you can differentiate from and outpace the competition. But these too will need to go back into the loop of the ‘8 Is’ above.

Original Source: 

Madanmohan Rao is research director at YourStory Medi and editor of five book series ( His interests include creativity, innovation, knowledge management, and digital media. Madan is also a DJ and writer on world music and jazz. He can be followed on Twitter at @MadanRao

Useful resources for further engagement with the field include:



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How many times as a marketing professional or strategy consultant have you left a formal (or even an informal) meeting and doubted that anything was actually going to change or that made an impact? So many times, we gather key stakeholders and team members together to solve a critical issue that continues to arise nothing gets accomplished—it’s frustrating. Sadly, many approaches to solving business challenges are misaligned for various reasons—pick your poison. Innovative, business changing ideas can be challenging at times – that’s where a design thinking approach can quickly help address your most challenging business issues.

Design thinking is a proven and repeatable problem solving protocol that any business or profession can employ to achieve big results. Design thinking combines creative and critical thinking that allows information and ideas to be organized, decisions to be made, situations to be improved, and knowledge to be gained. It’s a mindset focused on solutions and not the problem.

A primary element of design thinking is simply thinking and ideating on a solution to address a problem or better meet a customer need. Establishing the proper amount of time for truly thinking through the work being done and measuring its merit as a viable solution to solve the challenge at hand is shockingly and overwhelmingly missed a lot of times. I’ve seen this at many organizations.  Surprisingly, it’s that “little thing” that is missed—something so obvious. It reminds me of the immense amount of sales professionals that surprisingly do not ask for a sale.

As humans become more assimilated into the processes that govern their company, the insurmountable inertia against positive change can be overwhelming. Collaboration drops; good work born from proper thinking decreases. The machine, more often than not, has every waking minute of the day consumed due to task overflow and improper organizational structures. This produces one thing—chaos of inefficiency void of new pathways. The proper time to move the needle through dedicated thinking is silently not allowed by the proverbial “machine” and this paves a direct path to failure. You’ll never hear this admitted by corporate leadership at most companies, but when it comes to true change it’s more talk than real practice. Did you know that Google formally allows 20% of their employees’ time to think? That says a lot about the value of thinking. How much are you allowing your team to perform real thinking on good solutions to solve the challenges?

Design thinking should be at the core of strategy development and organizational change in order to create a culture that’s focused on this way of solving problems. This way of thinking can be applied to products, services, and processes; anything that needs to be improved.
So how can you implement design thinking in your company? 

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Original Source: Lawton Ursrey