Design Thinking for B2B

Should you apply design thinking to your B2B new product development? Absolutely! This type of user-centered design is badly needed by most B2B companies. But you can take a design thinking process much farther than most, because you can optimize the first two steps for B2B. Don’t apply design thinking like a consumer goods producer, or you’ll invite confusion and overlook your special B2B advantages.

Preview: Design Thinking for B2B

If you develop new products, a design thinking process can help. All the more so if you’re a B2B innovator: You can upgrade the most important parts of design-thinking in ways consumer goods developers can only wish for. But you must do steps 1 (Empathize) and 2 (Define) differently for B2B-optimized design thinking.

The concept of design thinking was first introduced by Nobel Prize laureate Herbert A. Simon, and David Kelley, the founder of IDEO, first applied the design thinking process to business opportunities. The design thinking process is indeed well-suited to the business world, especially in new product development—the focus of this article.

Why? When a chemist or engineer goes into the lab to develop a product, they’re usually treating a “wicked” problem as though it were a “tame” problem. Their solution fails to please users because they never understood those users’ needs. Design thinking can fix this.

The design thinking process—also referred to as “user-centered design”—differs from the analytical, scientific method most technical people are trained in. Instead of starting with the problem to be solved, you begin the design thinking process by creating a picture of a desired future state.

Many find the design thinking process difficult to apply, especially if they were handed one well-defined problem after another in their college years. We’ll begin by exploring how design thinking is typically applied today. Then we’ll present a roadmap you can use for a B2B-optimized design thinking process. In other words, we’ll help you tame the process of solving untamed B2B problems. We’ll do so by covering these topics:

  1. How the design thinking process works: The 5 steps of design thinking
  2. Benefits of the design thinking process: Why companies are turning to it
  3. The B2B design paradox: B2B challenges and advantages vs. B2C
  4. Optimizing design thinking process Step 1: How to “Empathize” better in B2B
  5. Optimizing design thinking process Step 2: How to “Define” better in B2B

You can expect to hear more and more about design thinking processes. That’s wonderful news because design thinking starts with understanding customer needs. Strange as it might seem, this is something the vast majority of B2B companies still struggle with.

But don’t stop at adopting the same design thinking process used by everyone else. If you’re a B2B company, take advantage of your advantages, and implement a B2B-optimized design thinking process. You’ll have more satisfied customers and more impressive organic growth to show for it.

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