A famous saying quoted by many CEOs is that “gambling, divorce and innovation are the best ways to lose money.” But recently, businesses have started to see the benefits of design thinking for making money through innovation. CEOs start to see that design thinking leads to happier customers, which of course leads to more sales.

Today’s companies are undergoing three major shifts, with the help of design thinking:

  • A shift from business to customer-centricity;
  • From product to services development;
  • And a change in mindset from entirely analytical to imaginative.

One company which can demonstrate return on investment for design thinking and a shift toward service development is tech manufacturer Xerox. Xerox was close to bankruptcy a few years ago, until design thinkers were brought in to transform the company completely. Xerox started to offer holistic facilities management for companies, encouraging paperless offices. They continued to market office supplies and provided round the clock cover both for their services and their products. Xerox reduced its manufacturing costs and grew its customer base, including a large contract from the UK government.

Pingit Barclays' app

An example of customer-centric design which provides ROI is the Barclays Pingit app. This app allows customers to make payments to anybody in their contact list without needing their bank details. They can also receive payments without having to reveal their details and will get an SMS when the transaction has been made. The added convenience and security lead to customer satisfaction and more online payments.

Unilever, Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor, and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition used an imaginative approach to find the best way to sell clean water and health and nutrition products. They set up a fake company in Kenya, which sold the products both in kiosks and through delivery services. The salespeople were given scripts to test different ways to reach customers effectively. The organizations discovered that quality water was the driver of sales, that their customers trusted brand names, that the women in the family were the main purchasers of healthy products and that deliveries at the weekends made the most sales. They utilized all of this information to set up a successful business. This is a good example of Design Thinking Principle #4: Evidencing.

As design thinking has made inroads into twenty-first century businesses, more companies are jumping on the bandwagon and healthcare organizations like the Mayo Clinic and GE Healthcarehave found innovative ways to make healthcare both more patient-centric and more efficient. For more information on how design thinking can play a part in your organization, see our previous post, Bringing Design Thinking into Your Organization.


Patrick Sirois

At Triode, we specialize in developing new products and services for complex industries like medical devices and transportation. We work with you closely to help define product strategy, with an emphasis on reducing the risks associated with innovating in these sophisticated and often regulated consumer-oriented environments.