WHAT IS DESIGN THINKING?
GETTING UNDER YOUR SKIN, OR HOW DESIGN THINKING IS ABOUT MORE THAN STYLE
In 2004 Shimano, a leading Japanese manufacturer of bicycle components, was experiencing flattening growth in its traditional high-end road racing and mountain bike segments in the United States. The company had always relied on new technology to drive its growth. It had invested heavily in an effort to anticipate the next innovation. In the face of the changing market it seemed prudent to try something new, so Shimano invited IDEO to collaborate.
What followed was an exercise in designer-client relations that looked very different from what such an engagement might have looked like a few decades or even a few years earlier. Shimano did not hand us a list of technical specifications and a binder full of market research and send us off to design a bunch of parts. Rather, we joined forces and set out together to explore the changing terrain of the cycling market.
During the initial phase, we fielded an interdisciplinary team of designers, behavioral scientists, marketers, and engineers whose task was to identify appropriate constraints for the project. The team began with a hunch that it should not focus on the high-end market. Instead, they fanned out to learn why 90 percent of American adults don't ride bikes—despite the fact that 90 percent of them did as kids! Looking for new ways to think about the problem, they spent time with consumers from across the spectrum. They discovered that nearly everyone they met had happy memories of being a kid on a bike but many are deterred by cycling today—by the retail experience (including the intimidating, Lycra-clad athletes who serve as sales staff in most independent bike stores); by the bewildering complexity and excessive cost of the bikes, accessories, and specialized clothing; by the danger of cycling on roads not designed for bicycles; and by the demands of maintaining a sophisticated machine that might be ridden only on weekends.
They noted that everyone they talked to seemed to have a bike in the garage with a flat tire or a broken cable.
This human-centered exploration—which looked for insights from bicycle aficionados but also, more important, from people outside Shimano's core customer base—led to the realization that a whole new category of bicycling might reconnect American consumers to their experiences as children. A huge, untapped market began to take shape before their eyes.
The design team, inspired by the old Schwinn coaster bikes that everyone seemed to remember, came up with the concept of "coasting." Coasting would entice lapsed bikers back into an activity that was simple, straightforward, healthy, and fun. Coasting bikes, built more for pleasure than for sport, would have no controls on the handlebars, no cables snaking along the frame, no nest of precision gears to be cleaned, adjusted, repaired, and replaced. As we remember from our earliest bikes, the brakes would be applied by backpedaling. Coasting bikes would feature comfortable padded seats, upright handlebars, and puncture-resistant tires and require almost no maintenance. But this is not simply a retrobike: it incorporates sophisticated engineering with an automatic transmission that shifts the gears as the bicycle gains speed or slows.
Three major manufacturers—Trek, Raleigh, and Giant—began to develop new bikes incorporating innovative components from Shimano, but the team didn't stop there. Designers might have ended the project with the bike itself, but as holistic design thinkers they pressed ahead. They created in-store retailing strategies for independent bike dealers, in part to mitigate the discomfort that novices felt in retail settings built to serve enthusiasts. The team developed a brand that identified coasting as a way to enjoy life ("Chill. Explore. Dawdle. Lollygag. First one there's a rotten egg."). In collaboration with local governments and cycling organizations, it designed a public relations campaign including a Web site that identified safe places to ride.
Many other people and organizations became involved in the project as it passed from inspiration through ideation and on into the implementation phase. Remarkably, the first problem the designers would have been expected to address—the look of the bikes—was deferred to a late stage in the development process, when the team created a "reference design" to show what was possible and to inspire the bicycle manufacturers' own design teams. Within a year of the bike's successful launch, seven more manufacturers had signed up to produce coasting bikes. An exercise in design had become an exercise in design thinking.
THREE SPACES OF INNOVATION
Although I would love to provide a simple, easy-to-follow recipe that would ensure that every project ends as successfully as this one, the nature of design thinking makes that impossible. In contrast to the champions of scientific management at the beginning of the last century, design thinkers know that there is no "one best way" to move through the process. There are useful starting points and helpful landmarks along the way, but the continuum of innovation is best thought of as a system of overlapping spaces rather than a sequence of orderly steps. We can think of them as inspiration, the problem or opportunity that motivates the search for solutions; ideation, the process of generating, developing, and testing ideas; and implementation, the path that leads from the project room to the market. Projects may loop back through these spaces more than once as the team refines its ideas and explores new directions.
***** TABLE OF CONTENTS *****
Introduction: The Power of Design Thinking
Part I: What Is Design Thinking?
1: Getting Under Your Skin, or How Design Thinking Is About More Than Style
2: Converting Need into Demand, or Putting People First
3: A Mental Matrix, or "These People Have No Process!"
4: Building to Think, or The Power of Prototyping
5: Returning to the Surface, or The Design of Experiences
6: Spreading the Message, or The Importance of Storytelling
Part II: Where Do We Go from Here?
7: Design Thinking Meets the Corporation, or Teaching to Fish
8: The New Social Contract, or We're All in This Together
9: Design Activism, or Inspiring Solutions with Global Potential
10: Designing Tomorrow—Today
11: Redesigning Design