Design Thinking Invades Market Research
Or, at least, design thinking should be invading your market research, because it is invading the brains of business executives. The New York Times describes IBM as being on a mission to hire 1,500 design school graduates, and embedding them in all of its product teams. The Harvard Business Review published an issue in September on “The Evolution of Design Thinking” with multiple articles about how companies are changing their approach to business.
Design thinking is a natural fit for market research because, well, it is market research.
Here is how the sources noted above variously define design thinking:
“Innovation is powered by a thorough understanding, through direct observation, of what people want and need in their lives and what they like or dislike about the way particular products are made, packaged, marketed, sold, and supported.”
“Observe and document problems, glean insights, brainstorm solutions, test ideas, refine them based on feedback, etc.”
“Along with business and technology consideration, innovation should factor in human behavior, needs, and preferences.”
“Look at problems first through the prism of users’ needs, research those needs with real people.”
It always surprises me, just a little, that we now bring in designers in addition to researchers to do this kind of work, because design thinking embraces exactly what good research should always have done. But of course research has often fallen short. Plus, conceptually there are good reasons to include both. On one side, researchers offer rigor, science, replicability, and dispassionate analysis. On the other side, designers bring empathy, flexibility, artful application, and advocacy.
In short, adding design into the mix of how we do market research is yet another way to ensure that our research is asking questions that matter and delivering insights that will truly make a difference.