Design Thinking and Business Design


Blog 2

As stated in my first blog post Innovation is the first entrepreneurship course that I have ever taken and wow does it pack a punch. This course has literally pushed me to reboot my mind in order to be able to push out any preconceived notions that I had once had in regards to the innovation process and what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur in this crazy constantly changing world.  As technology continues to develop and people have access to more and more pools of varied information the needs of consumers have evolved and so with it a transition from an information to a design economy has been made. In order to guarantee success in this new economy new ways of thinking must be developed such as design thinking and the individual consumer must become the main focus instead of compiled data on different demographics. From my experience I have found that the most ideal method for achieving success and avoiding the many pitfalls that most entrepreneurs and many established businesses are now facing is by following the design innovation process.

The design innovation process is comprised of a very detailed five-step process that aids in the development of new products and services that don’t just function to solve the perceived problems or needs of consumers, but also create actual value and meaning.

Design Innovation Process;

  1. Research
  2. Analysis
  3. Prototyping
  4. Competitive Research
  5. Concept testing

It is important to note that throughout each step of the design innovation process, design thinking is being utilized.


Design thinking allows entrepreneurs and businesses to avoid the categorization of customers and benefit from innovation and novelty. The two most important aspects that make up design thinking include abductive and t-shaped thinking. An example of abductive thinking is the use of ethnography, which brings about a better understanding of people through first hand observations, connecting what people say to what they actually do. “Ethnographers generate understandings of culture through representation of what we call an emic perspective, or what might be described as the “‘insider’s point of view.”(Hoey 2008)

While working on my product and service innovation projects with my group one of the most useful tools we implemented for conducting research were in-depth interviews, another form of ethnography. It should also be noted that prior to conducting our research we had determined a specific context or setting to focus on and only observed people in that context setting.

T-shaped thinking utilizes a concept developed by Roberto Verghanti where customers are looked upon as individual humans rather than clustered segments. Thus, a t-shaped thinker infuses analytical thinking, empathy, intuition, and of course experimentation. Design thinking also pushes for a balance to be found between traditional business practices and design, because they both provide certain aspects in the formula for success. A formula that the company Apple seems to have taken a healthy dose of as it stands to be the poster child for design thinking.

Design thinkers don’t just look to observe people but also the context surrounding them that defines them as people and influences their daily lives. They are not interested in utilizing evaluative methods like surveys and questionnaires, so they instead implement generative methods like observational shadowing.


Once all data is gathered by implementing some of the aforementioned research methods the data should be applied to series of different frame works.


Card Sorting Exercise (done before any other framework is utilized)

  • Customer Journey Map
  • Persona Framework
  • Timeline (Daily Schedule)
  • 2X2 Matrix
  • Venn Diagram
  • Analysis Journey Map

Utilizing these frameworks helped make the information gathered during the resource process easier to understand. The main purpose of the frameworks is to filter the information and derive from it values, aspirations, attitudes and experiences that enable us to generate a point of view (POV) that depicts the real need/problem of the people observed.


Upon establishment of the POV, the brainstorming of possible products/services is done and once a viable solution is agreed upon designers can begin developing prototypes.

“The reason for prototyping is experimentation—the act of creating forces you to ask questions and make choices…a prototype is just an embodiment of your idea. Prototyping quickly and cheaply also allows you to keep multiple concepts alive longer.”(Kelley 2013)

In addition, the use of prototypes also aids in observing people’s real life experience and interaction with the product.

Competitive Research

Regardless of the feedback you receive from your prototyping, it is important to understand where your product stands in the market in comparison to other productions that may provide a similar functionality, benefit, or service.

Concept Testing

However, for many start up companies where funding is not available for the production of a physical prototype, the process of concept testing can be used. During concept testing a description of the product and service is given to potential customers and their feedback is recorded.

Now that the product or service has gone through all the necessary steps of the design innovation process, before it can be introduced to the public it has to be fitted with an appropriate business model. In an attempt to align with the new design economy that is now upon us the way in which an innovative business model is designed should be through the implementation of the business model canvas.(Greenwald, 2012) The business model canvas is made up of 9 separate parts;

  • Key Partners
  • Key Activities
  • Key Resources
  • Revenue Streams
  • Value Proposition
  • Cost Structure
  • Customer Relationships
  • Channels
  • Customer Segments

Once you have established an innovative business model, it is important to try and secure the protection of the intellectual property that gives your product/service its competitive advantage. Depending on the product or service you are offering you can secure your intellectual property by obtaining patents, copyrights, and trademarks. The security of having these protections on your product or service will also be a factor of attraction when it comes time to find sources of funding to launch your actual business.  As your venture continues to progress it goes needs to pass through 5 phases:

  1. Idea
  2. Feasibility
  3. Verification
  4. Demonstration
  5. Commercialization

The time it takes to pass through these phases can take up to a number of years and as the venture continues to progress through each stage additional cash needed increases. On the bright side with each passing phase uncertainty of failure decreases along with risk. However, during these phases a lot of ventures will realize that they will never obtain the goal of commercialization.

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Hoey, Brian. “What Is Ethnography?” BrianHoey. N.p., 2008. Web. 23 Nov. 2013.

Verganti, Roberto. (2009) “Design Driven Innovation: Changing the Rules of Competition by Radically Innovating What Things Mean.

Institute, Batten. “Designing For Growth – Apple Does It, So Can You.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 01 May 2012. Web. 23 Nov. 2013.

Kelley, Tom, and David Kelley. “Why Designers Should Never Go to a Meeting Without a Prototype.” Slate Magazine. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Nov. 2013.

Greenwald, T. (2012, Jan.). Business Model Canvas: A Simple Tool For Designing Innovative Business Models.