How design thinking helps you to understand your client

How design thinking helps you to understand your client

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The million-dollar question for companies is whether that next product will succeed. Do we take a gamble and wish for the best? Or is there a better way to really understand client needs and design something that meets demand and generates a revenue stream?

Design thinking can be seen as a methodology or even a culture that is gaining much attention and focus; companies are seeking to implement design thinking to better understand their consumers. If social media demonstrates anything, it is that consumers have immense influence and can change the position of a company in an instant.

As with any methodology, the key is to know how to use it in a practical sense, and this is where the power of design thinking comes in.

Design thinking is defined by MIT as “a powerful approach to new product development that begins with understanding unmet customer needs. It’s a human-centered design process that approaches problem-solving with understanding the user needs.”

If a company is planning to spend multi-millions on launching something new, being clear on the needs of the clients becomes essential. Design thinking is an approach that enables proximity to customers to increase. Getting closer to customer groups and tailoring the approach accordingly means that big problems after a launch can be identified earlier in the process.

Empathy is the essence

Empathy is one of the fundamental elements of design thinking; it is about looking at the world from the perspective of clients. By putting ourselves in the shoes of a customer, we look at the world from their needs, problems, desires and more.

Design thinking is a great way to create latent demand within clients as they may have a challenge but do not know what product or solution they require. Often clients do not know what they “need” until something is put in front of them, which is an effective way to tout an idea or concept. Using the methods details above, this latent need can be expanded to become a product or service companies can create.

The real benefit of taking this approach is that companies can look at whether this is feasible for them to design, create and deliver.

So, how can it improve understanding of the client’s needs? In a practical sense, the principles of design thinking are: Speak with your client, listen for what they don’t say; you might also discover that some clients use your product or the existing product in a very unique and nontraditional way. Capture those too. They are a very special category of clients. And when you have gathered those needs, build a prototype. It doesn’t have to be perfect, it doesn’t have to be the finished product ... it is there only to allow you to go back to your clients to verify that you have understood them.

Create customer focus groups and make sure to get clear on clients’ needs by conducting surveys, interviews and market research.


Fail fast, fail forward — having the perfect product from day one can be challenging. Using design thinking is about getting a concept to clients in a manner which is then improved, tweaked ahead of the next iteration for review. How does this help? Quick turnaround changes enable clients to see what they have thought about come to life. This enables all parties to constantly work together until they arrive at that point of what they are wanting.

In conclusion, design thinking is a powerful mechanism that is gaining much focus and attention within businesses. By implementing it in a practical manner, using core principles, businesses get closer to their customers’ needs and are able to design and build a product that is in line with this.

Philippe Mathijs has more than 25 years of business transformation experience; he is an award-winning executive coach and uses design thinking within his own business and those of his clients.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view