As entrepreneurs or firms, do we have a choice either to innovate or simply rest on our laurels and sustain what we have? I believe today we have reached the end of maximizing productivity and re-engineering processes runway and staying put or sustaining what we’re doing is no longer the luxury that we can afford but forced to innovate or risk being displaced and replaced.
Who would have ever thought that Walmart would have to succumb to competition with e-commerce marketplaces like the Amazon, eBay etc. as they started closing 269 stores throughout the United States? Without a doubt, we can expect other mega stores to face a similar fate like Walmart as consumer behavior changes from walking the alley of the stores to the clicking of a button to purchase a product.
So what should an entrepreneur do to stay in the game? Well, it’s back to the drawing board and start thinking about design. Design thinking process will have to be the core of every enterprise’s culture and values for it to survive. The design culture is not just for startups but for the mature and growing businesses. Many will have to rehire a new CEO as the ‘peacetime CEOs’ are obsolete and they need to be replaced by ‘wartime CEOs’ who have the ability to lead by innovating products or services that the market needs. Firms need to build products that customers want and not what some smart guys in the firm think are best for consumers. The product-market fit cannot be underestimated as it is the lifeline of every single enterprise. Even large protected and monopolized businesses are feeling the heat of small enterprises that equipped themselves with an innovative business model that use technology to re-invent the industry. Taxi operators in many countries are feeling the anxiety as their bottom-line are seriously dented by newcomers like Uber, GrabTaxi and other shared vehicle apps firms. Instead of embracing innovation, most taxi operators resort to the easy way out and resolve their failure to compete by lobbying and putting pressure on regulators to ban their competitors. They fail to realize the growing trend of shared economy and that consumers prefer to be driven in a private car and be treated like having a private driver. Consumers don’t get that experience when they are in a taxi, not especially when they are driven in the Yellow Cab in New York City.
What is design thinking process then? It’s not a rocket science and neither it is about designing of fashion, shoes etc. It is simply a systematic approach and iteration to solving problems that will drive firms’ innovation and growth. It can be taught to Managers who have both the business skill and design iteration acumen. In solving a problem, the objective of design thinking process is not about reaching a ‘correct’ solution but rather an iteration towards a ‘better’ solution. There are tools that managers can use to implement the process and measure its effectiveness. Jeanne Litdka and Tim Ogilvie did a good job in explaining design thinking process for managers in their book entitled “Designing For Growth – A Design Thinking Tool For Managers”. Hopefully, reading the book will help entrepreneur’s taking the first step towards learning and embracing the design thinking process and remain in the game of entrepreneurship.