How 5 big Swedish brands are using ‘Design Thinking’ as a methodology to fuel their growth and innovation.

To some, the term ‘design thinking’ may sound like an old fashioned or worn out concept but it’s actually the most versatile way to create effective design processes. Contrary to what it sounds, Design thinking is not just limited to the design industry. It’s a process that can be applied in almost all industries, to achieve continuous progress.

Design Thinking serves as a process to dig opportunities in problems that are unidentified or unknown and strives to understand the human needs associated with it. It works as a tool to recognize problems and to come up with a solution to fulfil consumer needs in a better way. As it involves several brainstorming sessions, prototyping and testing, it helps you to judge the effectiveness and the accuracy of the design solution before actually implementing it. Many successful organizations follow the five-step process of empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test for design thinking. This gives them a consumer centric and problem solving approach which helps propel Innovation.

Some Swedish brands have emerged as an exemplar by following the design thinking approach. Most of the legendary companies have developed systems inspired from the basic principles of design thinking which they apply in all their internal design operations. The following Swedish brands present their ideology on picking up design thinking as their tool over any other.

Ericsson’s ‘Innova’ route to Innovation

‘Innova’ emerged as a systematic approach of innovation derived from design thinking. Although, this system incorporates the existing principles of design thinking, it works a little differently for Ericsson. Instead of finding a problem, it begins with intensifying already existing ideas so that they can be converted into marketable concepts.
Initially, it was implemented in San Jose for the product development units. Later, observing its success, it was splintered into various other elements that included a funding model, internal innovation consultants, incubation processes for conversion of ideas into products and collaborative ecosystems to team up with universities.
Formulated in 2010, Innova had already acquired 6000 users and more than 4000 ideas by 2013 out of which 5 qualified to be developed into real products.
“It was one unit introducing design thinking in their organizational structure and it became an innovation practice. A practice that they now share with the whole company.” said Eric Chang, head of strategy & operational development in Ericsson North East Asia R&D.
Learn more about Innova.

Electrolux’s ‘Consumer Innovation Program’ to design consumer-friendly products

In 2003, Electrolux started with a team of designers, engineers, marketers and sales persons who collaborated to design consumer-friendly products. The development process that was earlier influenced by the engineers, turned into a team based approach known as ‘Consumer Innovation Program’.
Electrolux used a metric system to study unfulfilled consumer needs and how the products were designed. It switched from conducting market surveys and began to actually visit consumers at their homes and observe the way they use their appliances.
This approach helped Electrolux to revamp the boxy white appearance of their home appliances into better designs and aesthetics. The same design thinking process was applied to redesign other older products also.
“It’s not purely about price and performance anymore. It’s about the satisfaction people get out of the products. Now, people want their personalities to be reflected by their appliances,” said Henrik Otto, Electrolux design chief.

Oriflame collaborates with IBM to acquire design-thinking skills

Recently, Oriflame got into a 7 year contract with IBM to obtain its IT and financial operational services. IBM will introduce new layers of customer focus and productivity into Oriflame’s internal activities and technology. With this collaboration, Oriflame aims to enrich its growth strategy with IBM’s proficiency in cognitive system, analytics and cloud-based services that would improve Oriflame’s efficiency.
Oriflame is already progressing well on online media and believes that this partnership will be helpful for its digital business transformation.
We have implemented IBM Design Thinking techniques to help build solutions that deliver a better user experience. We’re very confident that this will bring a customer-oriented focus to the delivery of IT and financial services for Oriflame,” said Anita Karlsson-Dion, VP Client Services, IBM Global Business Process Services.

IKEA’s ‘Democratic Design’ approach

IKEA’s design thinking process is based to focus on 5 major principles that is followed for all its designs – form, function, sustainability, quality and low price. This approach is termed by IKEA as ‘democratic design’ approach.
IKEA, by paying keen interest in the design thinking processes came up with furniture created in a way that it was easy for the user to transport and gather. It emerged as a successful user-friendly product worth the price it was offered for. Practically, it became very convenient for the customers to pack and ship it.
“A lot of the time the product developers have a designer’s degree, so they are educated as designers. They don’t work as designers but lead the projects from a design thinking point of view.” shared Marcus Engman, head of design, IKEA.

Spotify forms a design thinking system called ‘GLUE’

Spotify’s design principles and design language work on a system developed by them which they term as ‘GLUE’. Spotify was still struggling to establish its design process when Stanley Wood, presently design director at Spotify joined the company in 2012. He realized a need to establish more focus on Spotify’s expectations and aligning it to the opportunities. As the challenges started growing bigger with the size of the team, he wanted to understand how people, processes and tools organize and function at different levels in reputed companies.
In order to improve the efficiency of the team, Stanley visited 20 leading companies in the software industry to explore their design thinking. His study was recorded in 2 notebooks which structured the way his team works today.
“This was an important lesson for me. I learned to sell the problem before the solution to activate change. I had always sold change by selling solutions and then finding myself stuck debating and defending why it was so much better than what existed.
I now try my best to always ensure there’s a demand for the problem before supplying any solutions,” said Stanley Wood.
Learn more about GLUE.

Takeaway: Design thinking works as a great tool for problem solving and innovation

The success of these Swedish brands lies in the fact that they put consumer needs on the first place. The first step in the design thinking process begins with empathy that aligns the entire process with a focus to solve consumer problems. More than just creating a product, service or design, it is more about providing an innovative and fresh solution to a problem. Design thinking is a vehicle that leads to innovation. Such designs make it worth for the audience to possess them. They foster profitability and growth not just to the business but to the entire society.
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