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Design Thinking and Customer Empathy

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Apple Design Thinking and Customer Empathy

The late Steve Jobs and Apple have long been the living-and-breathing, evolving epitome of real-world design thinking. But you do not have to be a prodigy like Jobs and a disruptor like Apple to break the bank.

With your company, you can break the proverbial glass ceiling by empathizing with your customers to reduce technical complexities.

Without compromising on your core functionalities, you can still achieve technically through creativity and innovation. At the same time, you can figure out the needs of your customers and take care of the minutest of details.

“Apple’s success was not just the result of clever strategic moves or an innate sense of market timing. It came from a deep commitment to understanding how people used computing devices and a design to develop ‘insanely great products,’” according to a Harvard Business School study on Apple innovation and design thinking in 2010.

Apple Design Thinking

“Simply put, the ‘Apple Way’ was a set of principles with a deep commitment to great products and services at its core: design thinking, clear development strategy and execution, its CEO as chief innovator, and the rational courage to conduct bold business experiments,” the 2010 Harvard study.

Members of the original Macintosh team were really excited about what they were doing. So when people saw a Mac and fell in love with the product, it was evident of an emotional connection. After all, it came from the heart and soul of the design team, said Bill Atkinson, a member of Apple Mac development group.

To note, falling in love with a machine pre-Apple was almost impossible during the mid-1970s. Back then, computer nerds and technical specialists house their toys in discreet locations in company headquarters and government facilities. And the notion of personal computers being a tool for individual work had been unimaginable.

This was 30 years before the first iPhone came out. In 40 years, design thinking and customer empathy have evolved to the iPad, or Apple Watch and wearables of the future.

Thinking Different

As with Apple’s “think different” ad slogan back in 1997-2002, design thinking is about not jumping the bandwagon.

According to design thinking advocate IDEO, it is about a human-centered approach to innovation. Moreover, it integrates people’s needs, technology’s possibilities, and requirements for business success.

“Thinking like a designer can transform the way organizations develop products, services, processes, and strategy. (It) brings together what is desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable. It also allows people who aren’t ... designers to use creative tools to address a vast range of challenges,” IDEO said.

IDEO added: “Design thinking utilizes elements from a designer’s toolkit like empathy and experimentation to arrive at innovative solutions. By using design thinking, you make decisions based on what future customers really want.”

With customers in mind, design thinking doesn’t rely on historical data alone or risky bets based on instinct.

Iterative, Human-Centered

Design thinking is useful in tackling problems that are ill-defined or unknown, according to the Interaction Design Foundation (IDF). It said design thinking is a method that designers use in ideation and development, also with applications elsewhere.

The IDF specifically said this method describes a human-centered, iterative design process consisting of five (5) steps. These are: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test.

In his 1969 book Sciences of the Artificial, computer scientist and Nobel Prize laureate Herbert Simon was reportedly the first to mention design as a science or way of thinking. It further evolved to professionals in fields outside creative design — e.g., education and business — who have also begun applying design thinking.

In fact, design thinking’s tools and methods borrow from a variety of disciplines. These include ethnography, computer science, psychology and organizational learning, among others.

When people — and customers — like your design thinking, they can easily fall in love with your products — and services. After all, as Jobs said, design is not just what it looks and feels like. Design is how it must truly work.


About TDS Global Solutions (formerly TeleDevelopment Services Inc.)

TDS has established key partnerships with organizations to serve and stimulate growth in the IT-BPM industry. It has spent decades providing outsourcing solutions, management consulting services, talent assessments, executive recruitment, and vendor selection & management  for crucial departments of call center operations. For more info, please email TDS at or dial US number(1-888) 788-4441.

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