In collaboration with Mindy Eng.
Design thinking is not a new topic here on our blog. However, many are still under the impression that design thinking is a method that can only be applied to designers or those working in product development. When in actuality, design thinking is a methodology that can be applied to basically any role or industry, but especially leadership roles. Design thinking is not just a method that can be applied to better understanding and addressing customer problems but is also an extremely valuable leadership philosophy that can help improve companies in industries everywhere.
To refresh, design thinking is a process that is a human-centered approach to solving problems. As we’ve mentioned before, design thinking is a methodology that is often used by designers in order to solve problems and find solutions in an effective manner. Design thinking itself is a process that encompasses five steps- empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test- each of which seeks to better understand users and redefine their problems. Since design thinking is a human-centered approach, it aims to provide a better, more robust understanding of people as a mechanism of creating more inclusive solutions. These five steps have been used by designers, researchers and developers everywhere, in order to create solutions that have the users wants, motivations and problems in mind.
However, the five steps of design thinking are not just applicable to design teams, UX researchers or product designers. Design thinking methodology can be applied to any industry or business in order to help strengthen leadership through promoting collaboration, and innovative thinking.
Here are three tips on how to lead teams more effectively promote design thinking:
- Create a universal understanding of language and vocabulary that allows your team to talk more effectively about stakeholders in the product experience.
- Step up to bridge gaps in communication within your product team through a strategic CX-centric vantage point.
- Build the infrastructure to make good CX-centric product decisions easy to identify.
Create a universal understanding of language and vocabulary that allows your team to talk more effectively about stakeholders in the product experience.
Talk to teams about the differences between types of product stakeholders: primary users, secondary users, internal stakeholders, partners, and others who benefit from the product and its ecosystem. Provide concrete examples of how understanding the nuanced differences between these terms can make way for more objective internal dialogue, and show why using “users” as an ambiguous all-encompassing term is detrimental to building better products over time. Continue to use these terms accurately and frequently in team meetings to keep it alive in your team’s working memory. Make sure your team understands when feedback from each type of stakeholder should be prioritized to drive critical product decisions, and when they should not. For example, the opinions of strategic partners are important to consider for go-to-market planning, but should not override the needs of your primary and secondary users when it comes to the design micro-interactions on the product’s interface itself.
Step up to bridge gaps in communication within your product team through a strategic CX-centric vantage point.
Gaps in each team member’s understanding of a product’s value to users, partners or other product stakeholders are not unusual. When leading with a design thinking mindset, leverage your ability to see the bigger picture to help other members of the team get on the same page. Step up to bridge these gaps and use these connective moments as an opportunity to facilitate a conversation using CX-centric language and vocabulary. Helping team members align and create a shared understanding of the differences in a product’s value to each of its various types of product stakeholders is critical to effectively empowering each team member to build a better and more successful product.
Build the infrastructure to make good CX-centric product decisions easy to identify.
Despite good intentions, great product decisions can sometimes feel out of reach or hard to nail down. This can sometimes direct the pressure of even the simplest product decisions to upper management and cause bottlenecking. By creating the infrastructure to make good CX-centric product decisions easier to identify, you empower more team members to make a positive impact on the product experience and start creating a culture where more team members can confidently say they feel they’ve added value to the product. One way to build infrastructure is to create baseline CX-driven product readiness metrics for new product launches or feature rollouts. These readiness metrics can help teams easily identify areas that need improvement on their own without the need for formal reviews from senior management. Create ways to make backlog prioritization easier by helping teams understand and identify which features are critical to which product stakeholders, and which product stakeholders are critical to which stages of the product development lifecycle, so they can prioritize backlog features that align with where they are in the lifecycle.
Effective leadership through design thinking is not driven solely by awareness and advocacy, but also by organizational culture and internal infrastructure. Use these tips when considering ways to empower your team to build better products by employing design thinking.