Is Design Thinking the Answer for All?

Have you ever heard about the world’s failures of Google GlassHeinz EZ Squirt Funky purple ketchupBetamax, and Colgate frozen meals? Well for one they all failed, dramatically and publicly; but in essence, each one failed to understand the needs of their customers.

Google Glass was Google’s famous foray into wearable tech and one of their first attempts at hardware. It combined a small computer, a microphone to use voice control, a camera and a Head-Up display showing on a small crystal in the corner of the wearer’s eye. After years of hype Google Launched Project Glass with a dramatic, apple style demo, with Parachute jumpers, abseilers, and BMX bikers all to dramatically show off their live video streaming functionality Via Google Hangouts. Google Glass, however, famously never made it to market. Why? Well, there is a lot of reasons that the Google Glass didn’t make it to market including Ethical reasons surrounding privacy and the use of cameras that can record discreetly, and also the sky-high prices certainly deterred users.

However, a core reason that Google Glass failed to take off is that it was a solution lead product, not a need lead product. Now what I mean by that is that Google Came up with an idea, or a “solution” and then went and looked for a problem to solve. They set out with the intention of making a wearable headset camera-come-computer. Once they had made it they then had the uphill struggle of explaining it’s value to users. Simply put, why would you buy a Google Glass? It doesn’t solve an existing problem, it doesn’t improve on a pain point that we each find in our day to day lives. This is a theme/thread I’m going to keep pulling on, just because you found a solution doesn’t mean there’s a problem to be solved.

Heinz EZ Squirt Ketchup was launched in 2000 by Heinz to market their new innovative, EZ Squirt bottle. Their new bottle design made it easier to cleanly dispense their ketchup creating less mess and requiring parents to clean up less mess caused by the bottle dispensing. Along with this new bottle design, Heinz decided to change the colour of their Ketchup from Red to include a range of colours such as Green, Purple, Pink, Orange, Teal and Blue. Now interestingly enough, kids loved them and they actually sold pretty well selling over 25 million units. They tied in their first release of Green with the release of the first Shrek movie generating sales for kids who loved the movie. What ultimately contributed to their downfall was that in order to make ketchup in outrageous colours, it was necessary to re-engineer the base recipe for ketchup. The colours were achieved by stripping the red colour and adding food colour. As a result of this process, it could no longer be called “tomato ketchup” like it’s an original counterpart. They tried to countenance this by adding Vitamin C to the bottle but in a climate where parents were increasingly conscious of how healthy their child was eating and rising concern about alternating colour of the ketchup to something else, this ultimately became a flop. Without truly understanding their customer: the parents or the ones who ultimately make the purchase, they weren’t able to create a lasting product.

Betamax hit the scene in 1976 toting better quality recordings, however, when it went toe-to-toe with VHS it crashed and burned. In part, it was due to VHS players being much cheaper to produce but the ultimate cause of its downfall was tape length. When it released Betamax had a max recording time of 1 hour, whereas VHS was able to record 2 hours. This meant that if users wanted to record a feature-length film they had to swap tapes halfway through. Without proper consideration of the products usability and without investigating the user experience Betamax ultimately lost out to VHS and has been relegated to the history books as a flop.

Lastly, Colgate Frozen meals. I mean, really, how much do I really need to say about this one? I’ll keep it short, you need to know your customers. Colgate had spent years growing and cultivating a brand selling toothpaste. They spent millions of dollars and years of R&D creating a world-renowned brand of toothpaste. To then launch a range of frozen ready meals was so beyond their branding that really the juxtaposition of a Colgate logo on a frozen lasagna now almost seems like a meme. Suffice it to say it alienated customers and left a bad taste in their mouth.

Now for Detekt, we have purposefully picked some extreme examples here to make a point, and to answer the question, what is Design Thinking? Well simply put, design thinking is an iterative process in which businesses seek to understand the user, challenge assumptions through testing, and create solutions that solve real problems found through investigation. Design thinking is both a business strategy and methodology.  

Design thinking puts a big emphasis on understanding your customer. To do that you need to engage with them, talk to them and conduct user studies. When creating your product try to involve the end-users at each stage to get better more qualitative feedback to ultimately deliver a product that end-users love.

Meanwhile, we encourage you to consider the user experience as the next. The Users Experience (UX) with your product is as pivotal as how it looks and how it functions. User studies should therefore also be used to study the pain points in the user journey and user experience so that you can deliver a product that users love. The focus should be on identifying problems that users experience, and then look to develop solutions to that address those specific problems. Don’t create a solution and then look for a user group who maybe could benefit from your solution. Businesses that successfully employ Design thinking are empathetic to their users, prototype often, and test their ideas to prove that they are worthy useful and loved by their end-users.