Use Design Thinking to Explore your Uncommon Sense

Photo by: Kevin Dooley

Photo by: Kevin Dooley

I was at a workshop recently when a young participant approached me with an existential remark. She said, “This whole Design Thinking process is great and all, but Design Thinking just seems like common sense to me.” Why wouldn’t you research your customer’s needs before investing in solutions? Why wouldn’t you save money by prototyping concepts before sinking dollars into an unproven offering? Why wouldn’t you collaborate with key stakeholders across your organization? It all sounds like common sense.

Businesses are run on common sense—from individual ventures to entire industries. The customer is always right. Meet your quarterly targets. Reward your people for success, not failure. When these become engrained in the ethos, we call them paradigms to signify they aren’t going anywhere. They have been christened as common sense, and are henceforth treated as self-evident. 

And in most cases, that’s good. Common sense sets standards and allows businesses to scale and interface with each other across industries and even cultures. But we should recognize that “common” does not mean “best” or even good all of the time.

When everyone in a market or an industry does the same thing the same way, competitors loose differentiation, products and services become commodities, and consumers refuse to care about more than the lowest price, even accepting inferior quality with great frustration for a lack of alternatives. If you aren’t sensing a whiff of opportunity, you should get your sniffer checked.

Although common sense helps you keep the lights on, uncommon sense sets you apart from the pack. The practitioner who has mastered the paradigms and brings a beginner’s eye to new and familiar problems is uniquely poised to challenge the status quo. She sees behavior and friction that others miss or ignore because it doesn’t fit the commonly accepted models of the world. She is willing to suspend her disbelief of new approaches to making customers happy and making money.

Design Thinking can help you uncover that uncommon sense with your customers. The process is actually a journey you take through your customer’s world, in their shoes, seeing through their lens. Then, with fresh data and fresh eyes, you make sense of your findings, distilling them into inspiring insights. Only then do you imagine and create new offerings to bring back to your customer. Any design thinker worth her salt will not claim to have your solution in her back pocket. Rather, we can help you rethink the commonly held wisdom in any market you want your business in.

What common sense should be challenged in your industry?
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