Design Thinking: Digital reinvention through customer-centricity

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“Design Thinking” is one of the key highlights in this year’s Policy Address. Government will inject $1 billion into the CreateSmart Initiative to strengthen support for the development of the design and creative industries, especially the nurturing of young talent, and enhance the community’s awareness of creative thinking and design capability. It also announced a series of initiatives to apply Design Thinking to the design and delivery of public services.

Design Thinking is a customer-centered philosophy and approach to service design and innovation which has been growing globally. It applies the principles of good product design to services and to problem solving more generally in organizations. Product and physical design began in architectural and manufacturing companies, but Design Thinking is being applied across industries including finance, travel and transportation and healthcare.

Design Thinking starts from the perspective and experience of the customer – not the services a company has developed. IBM has a long history of focus on design – think of the golf ball typewriter and the original Thinkpad. More recently IBM has set the goal of bringing a human-centered focus to the service experience, applying the core stages of understand, explore, prototype and evaluate. IBM is now one of the largest digital agencies globally, and applies IBM Design Thinking internally and in our work with clients.

A daily example of how Design Thinking helps: everyone has a different process and a different expectation when it comes to travel. But unless customers already have a destination in mind, they can’t know what their Asia Miles would buy them. And after investing the time and effort to pick their perfect flight, they could then be unhappy when they found that they were on waitlists to receive their actual tickets.

Working with IBM, Asia Miles adopted Design Thinking and was able to help customers know, before they book, when they’re most likely be able to redeem miles. Instead of a single destination search, travelers can now see all the destinations their miles can fly them to, with personalized recommendations. The new process eliminates the need to navigate back and forth between steps. This experience empowers Asia Miles members to dynamically tweak and modify searches, browse flights and book their next adventure on a single page.

In a business world where things are complicated, Design Thinking can really help us to go back to the basics and focus on the customer, thinking about “what really matters to customers” instead of “what products or services we have”.

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Steven Davidson
Partner, Vice President, GBS Hong Kong Leader
Senior Adviser Digital Reinvention, Greater China Group
IBM Global Business Services

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