In the past years, there has been quite a buzz around the Design Thinking process and the term raised in awareness, as many companies and corporate professionals started advocating for this approach, as an effective tool of improving or developing new products and services, best adapted to consumers’ needs.

But how does it work? Essentially, design thinking is a guiding philosophy and framework for innovation based on a solution-based process that starts with a specific goal and goes through multiple stages of iteration till the final product. Design thinking typically includes the following stages: insight generation, ideation, prototyping and testing.

The first stage, the insight generation and the overall role of market research in this innovative process has been extensively discussed. Some consider that market research is a part of Design Thinking process, while others think exactly the opposite by attributing design-thinking an innovative role in the market research process.

As I see it, consumer research and insight generation should be situated at the core of the design-thinking process, from beginning to end: inspire the design concept, generate and support ideation and refine the final product.

However, when testing innovative ideas, products or services in classical consumer research, respondents sometimes find it difficult to discuss about an abstract concept, that does not yet exist. Therefore, in order to become meaningful to the process of design-thinking and innovative ideas generation, one should step back from traditional research approaches and turn towards more observational techniques (e.g. ethnographies, consumer immersion), co-creation or more projective techniques in order to dig into actual consumer thinking. These approaches support the final aim of the design-thinking process, namely putting focus on human values at every stage of the innovation process.

On the companies side, a design thinking approach can lead to a more innovative strategy and more creative products and services, customized to consumers’ needs.

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