How to Measure the Success of Design Thinking

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Design Thinking has been trumpeted as a revolutionary approach to problem-solving and innovation that can yield untold benefits for businesses and customers alike.

But what exactly is design thinking, and how can its value be measured?

What Exactly is Design Thinking?

Design thinking is a human-centric approach to problem-solving that emphasizes empathy, collaboration, and creativity.

By taking the needs of real people into account at every stage of the design process, businesses can develop products and services that are truly relevant and user-friendly.

What’s more, the collaborative nature of design thinking fosters a greater sense of ownership and buy-in among team members, leading to a more successful implementation of new ideas.

Design thinking is a human-centric approach to problem-solving that emphasizes empathy, collaboration, and creativity.

There are a variety of design thinking models to choose from, each produced by different design authorities including:

Each design thinking framework achieves innovation through the shared values of empathy, iteration, and customer feedback.

They differ in their framing and articulation of the same set of principles. By understanding the different approaches, you can learn from each one and adapt your own methods.

How to Measure Design Thinking

While there is no single right way to measure design thinking success, there are three main areas that are typically considered: customer impact, business value, and design activities.

Customer impact measures how design thinking has helped improve the experience of your customers or users. This can be quantified in terms of satisfaction scores, Net Promoter Score (NPS), or other customer feedback metrics.

Business value looks at how design thinking has helped drive tangible results for your organization, such as increased sales or reduced costs.

There are three main areas that are typically considered when measuring the success of design thinking: customer impact, business value, and design activities.

Design activity measures assess the quality and quantity of design work being produced, such as the number of prototypes developed, the number of design thinking projects completed, or the number of customers engaged throughout the process.

While all three of these areas are important to consider when evaluating design thinking success, the specific metrics will vary depending on your organization’s goals and objectives.

What’s most important is that you have a well-rounded view of how design thinking is impacting your business so that you can continue to improve and evolve your innovation practice over time.

12 Ways to Measure Design Thinking

  1. Customer Involvement
  2. Customer Satisfaction
  3. Customer Feedback
  4. Customer Experience
  5. Traditional KPIs
  6. Turnaround Times
  7. Employee Satisfaction with Design Projects
  8. Design Thinking Maturity
  9. Design Thinking Process and Activities
  10. Design Thinking Capabilities
  11. Outcomes and Roadmap Items
  12. Benchmark Design vs Traditional Thinking

30 Design Thinking Measures of Success

  1. How many customers spoken with?
  2. How many days since speaking to a customer?
  3. How do customers rate their satisfaction levels?
  4. How has your Net Promoter Score been affected?
  5. Has usability testing shown positive results?
  6. How many referrals are you receiving?
  7. What’s the sentiment of customer feedback?
  8. How many positive pieces of customer feedback are there?
  9. How has turnover been impacted?
  10. How have costs been affected?
  11. How many new customers have signed up?
  12. How has your customer retention been impacted?
  13. Is the design team satisfied with the design quality and process?
  14. Do product teams feel connected to the customer?
  15. Can employees offer useful customer insight?
  16. How many employees have attended a design thinking workshop?
  17. How many employees can articulate human centered design?
  18. Do employees report a greater sense of collaboration?
  19. Does your organization use design as a strategic tool?
  20. How many employees are trained in Design Thinking?
  21. How many Design Thinking outcomes are on your roadmap?
  22. How has speed to market been affected?
  23. How many Design Thinking projects have been completed?
  24. How many Design Thinking projects have been funded?
  25. How many Design Thinking projects have been finished?
  26. How many prototypes have been created?
  27. How many iterations of a prototype have there been?
  28. How many ideation sessions have been conducted?
  29. How many complex problems have been solved?
  30. How many different skills have contributed to each project?
  31. How diverse are the participants in the Design Thinking process?
  32. How are Design Thinking outcomes performing vs traditional methods?

Define What Success Means to You

Design thinking is a process that can be used to achieve success in any number of endeavors.

However, before you can measure design thinking, you need to take the time to define what success means to you.

Only by doing this can you create success metrics that accurately reflect your goals. Otherwise, you run the risk of measuring design thinking in a way that does not truly capture its value.

Design thinking is a process that can be used to achieve success in any number of endeavors, but before you can measure it, you need to define what success means to you.

There are a number of ways to define success. You may choose to focus on the outcome of the design thinking process, or on the journey itself. You may also want to consider how design thinking helps you to solve problems and create new opportunities.

The decision of how to measure success and innovation is up to you. But by taking the time to define what success means, you can ensure that design thinking plays a role in achieving it.

Choose the Right Metrics

Choose success metrics that align with your unique definition of success.

Given that Design Thinking has a diverse range of applications, you might benefit by choosing metrics on a project-by-project basis.

Over time you’ll get better at identifying what metrics to choose. In the beginning, keeping your metrics simple will make them easier to track.

Try to avoid anything too complicated or time-consuming. Keep an eye on the metrics that are most important to you and your goals, and track them regularly. This will help you stay on track and make the most progress toward your goals.

As you gather more data and become more experienced in measuring Design Thinking, you can start to make adjustments to improve your framework and choose more accurate data points that tell the story of your unique situation.

Some organizations prefer a quantitative metric over a qualitative metric but since Design Thinking is human centered, it’s important to include a mix of both.

Collect and Analyze the Data

Once you’ve defined success and decided which metrics you want to track, there’s a simple 3 step process to actually measuring Design Thinking, and it goes:

  1. Collect data before, during, and after a design thinking project.
  2. Track your progress and analyze your results.
  3. Make changes as needed to stay on track with your goals.

It’s up to you how you keep track of this data. Traditional formats will be more than sufficient, so consider using a table or charting software that allows you to output visuals. This will make the data easier to understand, and it’ll make it easier to share around your business.

Design Thinking vs Traditional Thinking

Unlike traditional methods, which often involve a linear progression from problem definition to solution, the design thinking methodology is iterative and nonlinear.

Moreover, it is not restricted to any one disciplinary area; instead, it draws on insights from fields such as psychology, anthropology, and engineering.

What’s more, The design thinking process is flexible and can be adapted to a wide variety of challenges in a range of different fields and contexts. This makes it particularly tricky to measure in the ‘traditional’ sense.

Traditional thinking – in opposition to Agile ways of working – typically follows a waterfall method.

Design thinking is a nonlinear and iterative problem-solving methodology that can be used in a variety of fields.

It involves making assumptions about our users and their needs and following a linear path toward building and delivering a solution. There isn’t much room for experimentation and it doesn’t allow you to pivot if you encounter evidence contrary to your assumptions.

The habit of traditional thinking in a product development process is hard to shake. This is due to the illusion of predictability that it creates, in traditional thinking, you assume you know the outcome, and you can create forecasts and projections, and track the process using traditional methods.

This, of course, is a false sense of security and isn’t reliable enough for the innovation process to yield significant results. You may feel like you have more control over the elements but since you aren’t incorporating customer feedback along the way, and you haven’t validated your innovation, you’re taking a huge risk on the outcome.

Challenges of Measuring Design Thinking

Design Thinking can have a big impact, but it can be hard to measure. Advocates of Design Thinking report increased creativity and innovative thinking, better problem solving abilities, and improved communication skills.

But because these benefits are often hard to quantify, it can be tricky to gauge the success of Design Thinking programs and innovation in general.

What’s more, it can be difficult to separate the influence of design from other things that might affect your outcomes. This highlights the importance of having a clear idea of what success means for you and then choosing a set of simple metrics to track over time.

The Value of Design Thinking

Design Driven companies outperformed the S&P500 by an extraordinary 211% from 2005 – 2015.

There is no doubt that design thinking can yield significant benefits for businesses. That’s because the design thinking approach encourages a more customer-centric and collaborative approach that leads to better products and services.

‘Design Driven’ is defined by a set of criteria that assesses how committed companies are to design as a tool for innovation across their organization.

Design thinking can yield significant benefits for businesses by encouraging a more customer-centric and collaborative approach.

The criteria for determining if a company is design driven is as follows:

  • Design is used at the strategic level
  • Investment in design has increased over time
  • Design is embedded within the organization
  • Design leadership is present at the executive level
  • There is a senior-level commitment to design

And it’s not just big businesses that are benefiting from design thinking. Small businesses can use design thinking, to solve problems, improve customer acquisition and retention rates, and develop a competitive edge.

With such clear advantages, it’s no wonder that design thinking is being adopted by an increasing number of organizations across industries to achieve innovation.

Where Can Design Thinking Be Applied?

Design thinking can be applied to almost any industry or field of study. When it comes to digital transformation, design thinking can help organizations find innovative solutions to digital challenges that focus on UX design and the user experience.

In the corporate world, companies create products and services with design thinking in order to provide their customers with efficient and satisfying services.

On a larger scale, social entrepreneurs have used design thinking to tackle complex problems such as poverty and climate change.

Design thinking is a problem-solving methodology that can be applied to many different areas.

Design thinking also helps when it comes to service design, where companies must find creative ways to provide a possible solution that meets customer satisfaction while also cutting operating costs.

Ultimately, the possibilities are endless when it comes to applying design thinking; it’s all about finding innovative ways to solve existing problems while staying true to your vision.

With its expansive potential, there is no doubt that design thinking will continue to shape our world in a positive way for years to come.

Key Takeaways

Measure the input, output, and outcomes of each stage of the design process to get a well-rounded view of how your innovation and design practice is performing.

While it can be difficult to measure the success of design thinking, there are a few key indicators that can be used to gauge its effectiveness.

One is the user experience: if users are happy with the end result, then design thinking has been successful.

Another indicator is whether the solution is truly original and innovative.

Finally, design thinking should also result in a more efficient and effective process overall. By considering these factors, it is possible to get a good sense of how design thinking is performing.


DMI: Design Management Institute – Design Value Index

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