The method of empathizing with customers in creating an end product that solves real-world problems is what “design thinking” is all about.
When design thinking principles are applied to strategy and innovation, the success rate for innovation dramatically improves. Many companies are using this approach to create innovative solutions, developed with real customer needs in mind.
How Design Thinking Helped Airbnb climb out of the ‘trough of sorrow’.
In recent years, the focus of innovation has shifted from being engineering-driven to design-driven, from product-centric to customer-centric, and from marketing-focused to user-experience-focused. For an increasing number of CEOs, design thinking is at the core of effective strategy development and organisational change.
In 2009, Airbnb was close to going bankrupt. Like so many startups, they had launched but barely anyone noticed. One afternoon while the team was poring over their search results, trying to figure out what wasn’t working, why they weren’t growing, they noticed a pattern among all the listings that weren’t performing well. The similarity was that the photos were not great photos. No surprise people weren’t booking rooms! They couldn’t even see what it is that they were paying for!
They then tossed out a completely non-scalable and non-technical solution to the problem: travel to New York, rent a camera, spend some time with customers listing properties, and replace the amateur photography with beautiful high-resolution pictures. A week later, the results were in. The new and improved pictures doubled the weekly revenue to $400 per week. This was the first financial improvement that the company had seen in over eight months. They knew that they were onto something.
Watch the TED talk by Joe Gebbia, founder of Airbnb to know how he built his entire company on the belief that people can trust each other enough to stay in one another’s homes. How did he overcome the stranger-danger bias? Through good design.
If that’s not all, every year, Airbnb gives all of its employees $2000 to go on a vacation and explore. The employees document their journey and present it to the team. This puts them in the shoes of a traveller — who are the users of the product. This does not just build upon employee satisfaction but it also helps the company build experiences and enrich their work and mission.
Airbnb’s ultimate goal was to give it’s own users a story of themselves to tell by focussing on the real needs of people rather than the simple characteristics of the product.
The process of design thinking is thought in top design and business schools around the world. It has brought many businesses lots of happy customers and helped entrepreneurs solve problems with innovative new solutions. It can be used in any industry, from creating new toothbrushes and building cars to how students are educated and the way in which marketing is conducted.
Would you like to apply this innovative approach in your company? Contact us to find out how to improve your business!