Davide Scalzo, previously Product Director at Yplan, encourages us to use Design Thinking to re-think how we carry an idea from concept, through the development process to launch. By focusing on user empathy, not user research, Design Thinking takes us right back to customer connection and reminds us why we all came here in the first place – to build products people love.
What are we doing here?
Davide starts by asking why we build stuff in the first place. Whether it’s software, hardware, services or campaigns, we all share a common purpose – we want to drive change in our users. When we build new products, we do so to drive our customers to change their behaviour (e.g. how often they engage with us or how frequently they make a purchase) or their perceptions (such as how they see our company).
Connect first, question later
Davide delves into the difference between user research and user empathy. He encourages us to put a pause on asking questions about our product or idea, and to step first into a deeper kind of empathy where, with no fixed idea in mind, we connect with our customers and find out about their lives. To build a product which will succeed in driving change, we need to deeply understand the users’ daily lives – what frustrates them, what excites them, what is meaningful to them.
Detaching from our product when we talk to customers makes this very different to our usual user research and guess what – it’s pretty hard to do! How do we go to our users and not ask about our products or ideas? What do we say instead, how do we convince our managers that this is worthwhile and how long is it all going to take anyway? These are questions & blockers which Davide highlights, although your own answers will stem from your existing connection with your team and your customers.
Create more choices, not faster horses
Davide uses the concepts of divergent and convergent thinking to help us understand the value of the Design Thinking model. He encourages us towards a richer idea-development process by encouraging us to let go of the goal of finding the right idea in favour of creating the broadest set of choices possible. This brings abstract thinking back into the idea-development process and allows crucial space for learning in amongst all that making.
But isn’t that what you wanted?
Davide demonstrates how Design Thinking can help by sharing some of his own valuable personal stories of What Went Wrong.
“We built a faster product, with more flexible features and great engineering – so why is nobody using it?”
Stepping away from the product and returning to empathy – to how the customer felt and what they wanted to achieve in their own daily lives – leads to new ideas, wider choices, and ultimately to products that succeeded in driving change.
This much we know
Design Thinking might not be new and it might not be easy. But if we can overcome the blockers, it might just reconnect us with what makes us product managers tick: what change do we want to drive and how can we build a product that is loveable not just viable?