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Design Thinking and Jobs-To-Be-Done Innovation Method Intersect To Create Winning New Products

I had the opportunity to hear Yves Behar (founder of Fuseproject) and Tim Brown  (CEO and president of IDEO) talk about design thinking at the Commonwealth Club on March 21, 2013. As both men spoke about the merits of design thinking, it struck me that many of the methods they describe are very much in alignment with the core methods of  Jobs-To-Be-Done (J2BD) innovation framework.

One could say design thinking and J2BD are two means to a common end: developing and launching new products and services customers want and value. While both approaches can be used exclusively of each other, they share enough common threads that, when put together, provide deeper insights and perspectives for the development team to innovate and launch great new products.

What is design thinking?

I’ve talked a lot about J2BD innovation framework in the past (see People don’t buy quarter inch drills, they buy quarter inch holes and Discovering New Opportunities Using The Jobs-To-Be-Done Marketing Lens), but I haven’t talked too much about what design thinking (see Transforming ideas into winning new product concepts). Here are some ideas that Brown and Behar have on design and design thinking:

Design can be described as being responsible for that interface between us as human beings, and the world we make around us. Intentional, not by accident, it has specific purpose to create better outcomes than what exist for users today. The more perspectives we can come up with in the design process, the better the end results.

Good design requires a deep understanding of how people behave, how they operate – the what, why, how and circumstances they face in achieving desired outcomes. Good design also requires an understanding of how technology works and how it can be used to better serve the needs of people.

Good design also requires an understanding of the  systems that define the business model where user value is created and delivered.  This includes the manufacturing systems which it is made from. The supply chains used to source and create value. And  the distribution channels, marketing and sales processes, service and support, that delivers the value and defines the overall brand. Taken together as a whole, all these parts describe the processes of design thinking.

Design is collaborative, but not designed by committee. Good design requires good leadership to be able to bring together multiple perspectives and getting people to work together as a team to create solutions that are simple, eloquent, different and better than current solutions competing for the customer’s wallet.

Note: To hear more thoughts about design and design thinking in Brown and Behar own words, check out the audio recording of their session:éharandbrown

Deep understanding of the problem people have is the common thread between design thinking and J2BD

Like J2BD, design thinking is all about understanding the problem set in as much detail as possible before committing to final design.

As we have discussed in previous articles, J2BD is a comprehensive innovation method that focuses on understanding customers’ desired outcomes in executing a job or set of jobs, and the circumstances and constraints in which a customer must perform the job. A comprehensive set of customer defined metrics, that can be ranked in order “highest innovation impact” is the output of the J2BD innovation process, which we give to designers and developers to formulate a final solution.

Design thinking also focuses on achieving desired outcomes for customers. Design thinkers also observe and interview end users – or job executers – using similar techniques, but not necessarily using the context and structure of “job statements” and “outcome statements.”

The biggest difference between the methods is that design thinkers try to get a deeper understanding and empathy of a customer’s situation by immersing themselves into the customer’s environment. Design thinkers get their insights by experimenting, using and presenting design concepts to customers for feedback using  prototypes, mockups, and visualizations.

Like J2BD approach, design thinkers don’t start with a solution in mind, but rather attempt to put as many new options on the table to experiment with in discovering different and better solutions that would otherwise get filtered out if they begin with a set solution in mind from the onset.

Keeping design options open as long as possibly is fundamentally the biggest difference between design thinking and an engineering approach. Engineers tend to lock in on a solution as early as possible and drive development from there. Sometimes that approach works great, especially for problems that are well known and deterministic. But this can also lead to “me-too” products and “solutions looking for problems.” Whereas designers are trying out new approaches and concepts, experimenting and learning till the best solution appears that customers will embrace and value.

Combining Design Thinking and J2BD

At the end of the day – or better stated – at the beginning of an innovation cycle, design and development teams need to choose an approach or set of approaches, that best addresses the circumstance they face in creating new value through innovation and new product development activities.  To create value for customers, designers and developers need a deep understanding of the desired outcomes people are trying to achieve in their day to day life’s.

Both approaches used alone will provide an understanding of what customers want and a clear picture of what customers value. However, combined, a better picture of the problem set emerges, with clear requirements defined from the user’s perspective developers can rely on.

Here’s to thinking like a designer!


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