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According to the Design Management Institute, ‘Every dollar spent on UX brings between $2 and $100 in return. Design-centric companies outperformed the S&P (500 leading industries of US economy) by 211%.

This begs the question; how does Design Thinking save money? Here are 4 ways:

1.    IT FOCUSSES ON THE REAL PROBLEM

Design Thinking is all about understanding the real problem to be solved. This avoids wasting resources developing solutions based purely on an assumption as opposed to a proven need. This helps ensure that less time and money is spent in solution mode – or worse, fixing flawed solutions.

For example, a well-known toothbrush brand wanted to upgrade their electric toothbrush, and were initially suggesting ideas such as playing music and using apps to record brushing performance and monitor gum health. But these weren’t solving any real problems or needs identified by users – they were just ideas without insight. Instead the designers conducted research and chose to focus on real user concerns including charging the brush and ordering replacement brushes. (ref)

2.    IT MINIMISES RISK

Design Thinking takes away the guess work of developing ideas. Up-front research, fast and affordable prototyping, testing and tweaking prior to launch can save countless engineering hours and thousands of dollars.

Applying Design Thinking minimises risk – the product idea is conceived out of a need of the user and is thoroughly tested through the customer lens using data and analysis, prototypes and testing possible solutions.

One technique Designers use is the Wizard of Oz (WOZ). This involves creating a working model that looks polished and high functioning on the outside, but on the inside, it’s rudimentary and manual. After each iteration, feedback and data is gathered and analysed to improve the next round of development. The test-and-learn cycle is repeated until the development is complete. This allows you to test ideas without high costs or investment.

You may think you don’t have time to apply rigour to each idea, but if they’re worth pursuing they will survive the design-thinking process and be improved with iterations along the way.  

3.    IT’S CHEAP TO DO

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Design Thinking uses low cost materials. Low-fidelity prototyping encourages the use of simple, everyday tools to test ideas - from pipe cleaners, paper and sticky notes to elastic bands, LEGO and storyboards.

G2 recently worked with a team that tested a new scheduling system idea by using magnets representing workers on a whiteboard.

By mapping their solution out on the whiteboard, they were able to prove hypotheses, scenario test and make improvements, before moving to an Excel spreadsheet and the final iteration, a sophisticated software system. The ‘quick and dirty’ magnets cost only a few dollars, but were cheaper than jumping straight to developing the algorithm on a spreadsheet, or worse, skipping straight to developing the software.

4.    IT PUTS THE USER AT THE CENTRE

Design Thinking needs to be part of all processes, not just applied to select projects. Starting by looking through the customer lens must be ingrained in everything you do. Developing user-centricity as a foundation can create cultural change across all projects and initiatives.

When planning a design overhaul, the team at the Rotterdam Eye Hospital started by asking what could be done to improve their user experience. They realised that most patients who enter the hospital fear they might go blind so reducing patients’ fears was their primary goal.

The hospital got a complete overhaul including architecture, interior design, a new children’s centre, new culture initiatives and staff training. 

To ease children’s fears, child patients receive an animal design t-shirt in the mail to wear to their procedure. Their physician has the same animal badge on their uniform so when they meet before the procedure they can connect with and reassure the patient.

Patient intake increased by 47% and the Hospital has won safety, quality and design awards.


So, yes, Design Thinking will save you money.

But, even better, the intrinsic value created by adopting Design Thinking principles across your entire organisation gives you a competitive advantage that will drive exponential growth.





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