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Ducks and design thinking

Market research is an industry with a long history of understanding what makes people tick, with the hope of producing insight that will have a tangible strategic value. The industry is ever-evolving, yet debate surrounding the meaning of insight and how can we have a greater strategic impact are ongoing conversations.

At a time when market research is being faced with increasing competition and need to justify return on investment, perhaps design thinking holds some answers.

So, what is design thinking?

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Ducks and design thinking

  1. 1. Page 1 of 9 DUCKS and Design thinking Jason Dunstone Square Holes / August 2015 Evolving market research thinking to enhance strategic impact Market research is an industry with a long history of understanding what makes people tick, with the hope of producing insight that will have a tangible strategic value. The industry is ever-evolving, yet debate surrounding the meaning of insight and how can we have a greater strategic impact are ongoing conversations. At a time when market research is being faced with increasing competition and need to justify return on investment, perhaps design thinking holds some answers. So, what is design thinking? Design thinking pioneer and current IDEO CEO Tim Brown refers to design thinking as ‘a human- centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer's toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success’. In Brown’s fascinating 2009 TED talk ‘Designers – Think Big’, he discusses design thinking as a process that starts with what humans need, through understanding culture and the broader context. However critically Brown notes the importance of building on this understanding and empathy to ignite thinking, and generate new ideas and solutions beyond the framework of the current status quo.
  2. 2. Page 2 of 9 Searching for insight One of the central premises of design thinking surrounds the concept of ‘insight,’ including what it is and importantly, where it comes from. In my 20 or so years in market research, debate has prevailed as to the meaning of ‘insight.’ Historically new specialisations such as consumer insight and insights strategists illustrate the importance and fascination with this largely nebulous term. The Oxford Dictionary defines insight as ‘the capacity to gain an accurate and deep understanding of someone or something’. Some market researchers are likely to view insight as coming with experience – others, as something that can or cannot be learned. Market research has a fascination, even an obsession, with qualitative and quantitative research techniques. Yet, design thinking takes the thinking a step further to the intersect of analytical thinking and intuitive thinking. Analytical thinking: Using quantitative, qualitative and other research methodologies to come to conclusions – Deductive reasoning: finding a logically certain conclusion – Inductive reasoning: supplying strong evidence for the truth of a solution Intuitive thinking: Knowing the conclusion without reasoning, as a sense or feeling. – Abductive reasoning: inference to the best explanation without evidence From this, design thinking seeks creative solutions able to be replicated, and ideas that are outcome-focused backed by reliable evidence.
  3. 3. Page 3 of 9 Market researchers are the specialists in collecting and analysing quantitative and qualitative data, and emerging approaches such as semiotics, ethnography and big data. Yet development opportunities may exist in harnessing intuitive thinking, and approaches to better utilise creativity and generate left and right brain solutions. Importantly, solutions do not need to come from an individual. Design thinking views the importance of pulling in the skills of diverse disciplines as critical, and counters the myth of the lone creative genius, encouraging collaboration across a wide team. Market researchers have a critical responsibility as the independent, expert voice of the consumer, customer, user, citizen or audience member. Similarly, design thinking aims to ensure the voice of consumers is incorporated into strategy. Whether this be to solve business challenges or social ills, design thinking focuses on finding solutions with a clear understanding of consumers. The role of market researchers often stops at understanding consumers, and generally takes a less active role than would be the case for design thinking in using insights to inspire ideas, innovation and impact.
  4. 4. Page 4 of 9 Market research vs design thinking Market research can be difficult to measure in terms of direct strategic impact and return on investment. This can be for a variety of reasons, including the cost to implement recommended strategies being high or potentially risky. There can also be complexities in providing a clear guarantee of success. With such limitation can come delays in implementation of changes or often making no change. The design thinking process is about overcoming fear and being courageous in implementing changes that will have an impact. This is achieved by … 1) defining the issue and what success will mean upfront; 2) conducting research to understand consumers; and 3) using research as a platform for ideation, prototyping and iteration. Research is a critical foundation of design thinking, throughout the entire process. 1) ensuring a robust understanding of customers and where gaps and opportunities lie. 2) taking an active role in guiding strategies down the right path. 3) evaluating, assessing and refining prototypes. 4) monitoring and identifying opportunities to improve. However, the distinction between market research and design thinking is more often that design thinking is extended and an ongoing loop from defining the problem to continuous learning and improvement. The model can largely be applied to a wide variety of problems and corporate, government, and not for profit scenarios.
  5. 5. Page 5 of 9 The typical design thinking process is listed below, with the DUCKS design thinking framework I have applied to a range of corporate and government ‘market research’ scenarios. ‘DUCKS’ APPROACH TO DESIGN THINKING TYPICAL DESIGN THINKING APPROACH 1) Define the mission Defining the issue 2) Uncover the consumers world 3) Conceptualise the consumers’ story Initial research 4) Killer ideas Ideation Prototyping Selection Implementation 5) Strategic growth Continuous learning and enhancement Market research has a tendency to focus on researching the consumers and conceptualising the story (i.e. 2-3 above), and does this well and is ever evolving. However, in contrast to design thinking, market researchers tend to place a lesser emphasis on defining the mission (i.e. 1 above) and ideas generation and implementation (i.e. 4 above), and accordingly potentially a lesser influence on generating a strategic impact. Market research has a superpower in understanding people, citizens, shoppers, audiences etcetera, yet opportunity may exist to extend its role through embracing design thinking to have a greater influence on strategic growth.
  6. 6. Page 6 of 9 ‘DUCKS’ / DESIGN THINKING Steps… 1) Define the mission a) Workshops with the team(s) to define and refine the mission, challenges, ideas, audiences, approach, measures of success, reporting needs and other critical outcomes. b) Discussions with the CEO, key management and directors. c) Clearly define mission and sub-objects, refined methodology for researching consumers and implementing other stages in the process. 2) Uncover the consumers world a) Review existing research, data, strategy, plans etc. b) Speak to key stakeholders, suppliers and influencers. c) Identify ideas and trends d) Collect survey, sales, CRM, web and other quantitative data. e) Observe, experience and converse with real consumers, in their homes and the places they go. 3) Conceptualise the consumers’ story a) Accumulate and reflect on observations, experience, data etc. b) Statistical and other analysis to find patterns and models c) Brainstorm and debate the early insights and opportunities 4) Killer ideas a) Team workshop and activities to guide free-flowing ideas building on the consumer understanding and rapid prototyping of solutions b) Agile refinement based on testing c) Fit of ideas to objective, consumer / user needs etc d) Solutions and short-list of priority ideas e) Implement priority ideas 5) Strategic growth a) Critically and constructively monitor and report against mission and measures of success (set at Step 1), via quantitative (sales, survey, Google analytics etc) and qualitative data, observations and experiences. b) Meet regularly to discuss and debate opportunities to adjust and refine strategies as necessary to increase impact, including identifying new evidence and lessons. It is important to continuously reflect on emerging trends and priority opportunities. c) Workshop on the lessons learnt, celebrate the glory and ponder ‘what will the next mission be?’
  7. 7. Page 7 of 9 Thinking differently to increase the impact Design thinking uses divergent thinking and convergent thinking to develop solutions. 1. Understand consumers 2. Divergent thinking: Spontaneous and free- flowing generation of many ideas, with the objective of developing many solutions in a short space of time. 3. Convergent thinking: Organising and structuring the divergent thinking Further to this, design thinking generally places an emphasis on rapid building of a larger number of smaller ideas, rather than a smaller number of big ideas typically the case in traditional strategic planning. Agility is the key, and this only comes from being clear about filtering ideas as to their strategic value (e.g. potential ROI, positioning for the future etc) and ease of implementation (e.g. cost, time, resources etc). A larger number of simple ideas, and a smaller number of complex - medium to long term - ideas. And, importantly can the complex ideas be dissected into simpler ideas? Further to this, design thinking generally places an emphasis on rapid building of a larger number of smaller ideas, rather than a smaller number of big ideas typically the case in traditional strategic planning. Design thinking has a focus on quicker implementation.
  8. 8. Page 8 of 9 Design thinking has a focus on quicker implementation. With this, comes the ability to: 1. Fail fast – and move on. 2. Learn quickly – and evolve. Too often those big, complex ideas take so long to become reality that the opportunities and environment have since evaporated. Just think about how much technology, shopping, media etcetera have changed in the past year or two. Design thinking provides powerful tools to focus ideas generation away from the complex, distracting and stupid. Design thinking is about being consumer-centred, strategic and agile. Always learning and iterating towards the strategic goal. Failing quickly and efficiently is important in design thinking and with this there is a reduction in risk. The collaboration inherent in design thinking is also viewed as a powerful aphrodisiac to strategic courage, ensuring great team engagement in finding and implementing solutions. Design thinking is an empowering process to driving change by combining a human-centred approach and leveraging diverse team skills beyond marketing, design and strategy to drive change.
  9. 9. Page 9 of 9 Innovation beyond how to better collect consumer understanding Design thinking is likely to be nothing particularly new for many market researchers. However, there is hopefully food for thought as to how market researchers can best reveal insight, leverage value from being the voice of consumers and offer courage to increase the tangible impact of what we do. Personally I feel that design thinking moves the market research industry’s innovation beyond how to better collect consumer understanding (e.g. evolving from surveys, to mobile, panels etc), or leveraging new models of strategic thinking (e.g. behavioural economics) towards a more integrated and holistic approach to making the world better.

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