top of page
  • Writer's pictureKeith Pelkey

Do These 7 Steps Before Engaging Design Thinking Methods

OVERVIEW: Too often business "customer experience" (CX) leaders assign “Design Thinking” projects (problem solving or innovation initiatives) to their staff without understanding or communicating what the project is about, and why it is important. The inability to articulate what they know about the issue to be addressed, or the value proposition the issue’s resolution will deliver, results in project teams struggling to design a solution on a concern that has not been clearly defined. This struggle slows the overall problem, opportunity resolution process and risks designing a solution that does not address the customer or business issues.

CX Leaders should do these 7 steps to ensure effective “problem/opportunity framing” and to clearly communicate the project’s value before initiating any Design Thinking actions.


What is telling you to fix something? Ask the right questions – consider: what is the motivation for doing this project? What data is telling you there is a need to act? What customer, workforce or competitive issues have surfaced? What impacts are being felt in the businesses profits or growth positioning? The key point here is to ask “what is driving a need to act,” or why taking action is important - not how to address the issue.


Once knowing the need to act, CX leaders must gather insights that support, refute, or redirect the call to action. Make a plan! What data can I look at? Who do I need to speak to - stakeholders, customers, workforce, etc? What specific questions do I need to ask? How will I gather the data - surveys, interviews, CSAT, NPS, etc? Then collect the data or insights.


A collection of varying data can be useless if not sorted, organized or processed to see emerging themes, insights and issues. Sort collected data into “like” groups of information, look for patterns, and rename such patterns into themes or categories. You are now analyzing the data to determine insights linked around the need to act.


Make your insights visible. There are a myriad of methods to show where or how the insights you gathered and analyzed impact the business customers, workforce, goals or competitive standing. Consider service blueprints, empathy maps, friction maps, financial reports, graphs, workflows, etc. Visualizing the insights helps tell the story of where issues are happening and it supports or refutes your initial need to act. CX leaders may also discover other reasons for taking action.


Transition your themes and insights into clear problem or opportunity statements. Make these statements short and to the point. They should only identify “what object” is having an issue - persons, places, things, etc. And, what is the specific issue itself, sometimes referred to as the deviation from the desired norm. Make as many statements as required, ensure they are factual, only have one object and deviation per statement. Above all, do not include in these statements, the driver of the problem or opportunity, or solution options - that will come later.


Not all problems or opportunities are of equal importance. List out all the problem/opportunity statements. Ask, if this problem or opportunity is addressed will it be “desirable” to the customers, workforce or stakeholders (do they care if it is resolved)? Is it “feasible” for the business to accomplish (can we do it)? Is it “viable” to the business (should we do it, what are the goals/objectives)? Using these three criteria-based concepts will help CX leaders focus on the most important things to address.


Now you are ready to think about solutions. Hypotheses statements are ideas on how to address the specific, prioritized problem or opportunity. They become the bases for collaborative “Design Thinking” sessions to address (or innovate) a problem or opportunity. They are the culmination of your previous 6 steps to collect, analyze insights, define problems and opportunities, and prioritize what is important relative to the initial “felt need to act”. But most importantly, CX leaders can now communicate to project staff what the true issues are, the priority of focus, and the value of what a solution will bring.


The ability to pinpoint and communicate the specifics about an improvement or innovation project to staff is paramount. Too often projects are just partially defined and thus only marginally communicated to those who will do the work. If projects teams are conducting multiple meetings to "clarify what we are trying to accomplish", then a CX leader may warrant a more structured approach to problem, innovation framing??


Interested in learning more? Reach out to Shift to schedule a conversation, we’re always happy to chat.


bottom of page