7 Design Practices Your Company Can Harness for Better Outcomes

How can your company harness the value of design? An examination of the largest companies by revenue in the world shows a similarity in the assets those companies have heavily invested in over the years, especially for private enterprises. It reveals that customer centricity has given them an edge, as well as a few companies that have made tremendous progress in growth and profitability through design.

The strong effect design has on disruptive and sustained commercial success in digital, service, and physical settings can be seen on a regular basis in our interactions with different products and services, if you pay close attention. Companies measure and manage design in the same way as cost, quality, and time, but most only rigorously include this process during the conceptualization of their product. This can be detrimental to a company because as time passes, it becomes incredibly difficult for it to stay on that path of growth and profitability while remaining differentiated.

Research done by multiple organizations reveals how businesses can uncover some of the relationships between business value and design and in this article we highlight 7 areas in which design thinking has helped businesses over decades improve their performance.

Design Thinking in Leadership

The foremost lesson for leaders is fostering creativity and collaboration within and across the organization. Design is largely a creative process that encourages people to build, think outside the box, and improve on what is already existing, by adding fresh perspectives. Leaders should keep this in mind when guiding the implementation of plans and working to achieve goals. This also means that leaders should be able to embody key traits associated with design(ers), which are identified by Tim Brown as empathy, integrative thinking, optimism, experimentalism, and collaboration.

From a customer perspective, leadership should focus more on understanding customers needs to be able to facilitate the creation of solutions that truly address the gaps in their lives in order to find the sweet spot which fully combines functional utility, emotional connection, and ease of use. This is achieved by leadership (and leaders) having more design-centric visions developed through constant engagement with researchers to learn firsthand what constantly frustrates and excites customers. With that information, they can work on promoting a culture that focuses more on customer-centered key performance indicators (KPIs), while giving autonomy in product development.

Design Thinking in Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)

With more design-centric visions, leadership can do what most businesses have had difficulty in implementing; assessing design outputs. It is common to find leaders expressing their dissatisfaction with design teams but rarely ever setting specific or measurable goals for their teams to meet.

Setting effective goals is highly dependent on the information generated from customer journey mapping. With this, personal opinions will be replaced with decisions made based on a factual understanding of customer needs. Metrics like user satisfaction and usability assessments can be set to measure performance and this lets designers show management how their work affects business goals. This in turn enables them to receive the investment they need to get the tools and infrastructure required to drive productivity and accelerate design iterations. Management can be inclined to link benefits to user ratings for launched products.

Design Thinking in User Experience

Businesses are expanding their value networks to include organizations outside their industry, thereby strengthening their offerings to customers. This makes customer retention more likely as customers prefer a one-stop shop for related services or products. However, it is dependent on an organization’s ability to acquire important customer insights through observation and understanding of the underlying needs of potential users in their own environments.

Design Thinking in Talent Management

Nothing else drives growth and profitability the way having the right people for the job does. Without proper execution by its people, the information an organization has will not yield much result. More businesses are abandoning the approach of having just one man who can do the job in a particular field on the team, to having cross-trained members on the team. This way company products are created with a common visual identity for digital, service, and physical settings.

Design Thinking in Cross-Functionality

Multi-Disciplined/Cross-disciplined team members are best at forming effective cross-functional product-focused teams in an organization. It gives them confidence that any member of a design team has the ability to drive results when paired up with members from other departments.

This concept prevailed when a major European furniture manufacturer experimented by setting up both a central design department and smaller, independent design teams, placed within different product groups. This wouldn’t have been possible if the company didn’t hire or invest in multi-disciplined team members.

The result of the experimentation was a more successful outcome of business goals for the distributed teams. They had a clearer focus on their customer needs; better cross-functional partnerships which resulted in a 10 percent increase in launch time; and an increased success rate of 30 percent for getting concepts to market. Nurturing design talent through autonomy and incentives linked to design metrics helps increase the effectiveness of this practice.

If you are looking for a model to drive innovation in your business, check out our article on innovation governance and best practices.

Design Thinking in Development

With design becoming more of an essential element of go-to-market strategies and traditional product development, we find more businesses engaging in continuous cycles of design thinking all the way to post-launch. The design team is able to create a better product through prototyping and iterative design cycles. The small adjustments made on products from analyzing customer usage usually have a greater impact than massive adjustments on customer satisfaction. This process usually helps create breakthrough products and services while simultaneously reducing the risk of massive costly product misses.

Design Thinking in Research

As you might have noticed, quality research plays a huge part in design thinking. From leadership to talent management to user experience; the quality of the product pushed to market depends on an organization’s ability to convert quantitative user research (e.g. conjoint analysis) and qualitative user research (e.g. ethnographic interviews) to key product functions. Fortunately, we live in a time where generating customer insight happens constantly in real-time. Online forms and ratings can be used regularly to develop customer-centric, data-backed solutions.

Keep in mind most businesses rarely achieve mastery in executing all practices in design thinking. The goal is in determining what your business needs at a moment, working towards execution, and assessing your progress continuously.


  1. More than a feeling: Ten design practices to deliver business value
  2. The business value of design | McKinsey
  3. A Complete Guide to the Design Thinking Process in 5 Steps
  4. How To Use Design Thinking to Innovate Your Business — crowdspring Blog
  5. 8 Must-Know Insights to Conquer Design Thinking
  6. https://www.invisionapp.com/inside-design/what-is-design-thinking/



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Gumi & Company

Gumi & Company

Business Design | Innovation | People