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How to Keep Innovating With Design Thinking

Simply said, design thinking is a mindset with a set of tools that help solve problems creatively. When a company tries to innovate or solve a complex problem, it can use this approach for a customer or user-centered perspective.



There are multiple types of exercises you can choose from.
Airbnb, for example, was transformed by integrating design thinking into their culture. The latter helped encourage employees to take measured, productive risks and develop major new features. So much so, that it became part of their on-boarding process for new employees.
As of today, with over 5000 employees, that culture still allows them to stay agile and explore new opportunities. Design thinking has proved itself to be a framework that works for companies of all sizes, including big corporations like IBM that need to continuously deliver in terms of speed, quality and efficiency.
We asked Mickael Bernard, the lead of our UX and UI team, to tell us about the importance of design thinking.
“We convert an opportunity into a value proposition for our end-users and our clients. That is how all the major start-ups were able to succeed in the last 10 years. Same goes for the big corporations. Their digital transformation relies on that mindset with smaller and more agile teams. Mixing both design thinking and agility, which enabled them to move like a start-up.”

„With our initial background in digital publishing, we’ve paid close attention to the user experience.”

The 4 Stages of Design Thinking: Empathize – understand users’ needs and problems


The observation phase is where you take time to explore the problem and ask relevant questions. This is very important before exploring the solutions. Afterwards, you define the target or end-users to enable their continued involvement throughout the process.


Ideate – challenge assumptions and create ideas

All ideas need to be considered for your team to try, fail and learn what works and what doesn’t. Understanding each member of the team as well as the stakeholders is essential.
This is the time to start exploring the solution with brainstorming. At this point, all ideas are welcome, no matter how impractical or infeasible they may seem at the beginning. Such is the purpose of the brainstorming workshops we provide
“The co-creation phase at Rakuten DX reunites both the client and their end-user as well as the UX designer. The convergence of the 3 viewpoints allows the projects to go into the right direction. All this will satisfy the users’ need from the very start, we do not create for them, we create with them.” – Mickael Bernard

Prototype – start to create solutions

Pushing the solutions and exploring further by modeling and prototyping.


Test – try your solutions out

Gathering user feedback. To design, built and test. This iteration process is critical for an effective design thinking framework.
Our UX-UI team lead, who also leads the creative workshops for our clients, gives us a concrete example:
“I had the opportunity to work with a French cosmetics brand that was building a clienteling app at the time. Their target users were based both in Europe and Asia. The different cultures meant that the users had completely different needs. The European buyer expected 5 to 10min of interaction maximum before making a purchase, while the Asian buyer expected a 45min type of ceremony before buying anything. The challenge was, to provide, on one unique interface, two different experiences depending on the location of the user. The design thinking process allowed us to identify those needs and to test solutions accordingly, until we found the right fit.”

How can design thinking be a source for innovation?

In order to innovate, you need to come up with new brilliant ideas. But if those ideas are new, it won’t be possible to have all the answers. You will learn by creating, on the go. In other words, data is certainly useful, unless you don’t have a meaningful scale to test it against. Which is the case for most innovative ideas.
The different stages of design thinking are a great way to overcome that first challenge. Not only does the process allow the participants to interact and respond to each other, enabling new ideas. But the prototyping and testing phases help gain deeper insight by putting personal perspective aside.
Design thinking seems to be a great framework for all teams and profiles in the company to profit from face-to-face research with clients and immerse deeply in the users’ experience. This also helps identify hidden users’ needs that could be detrimental in the creation of new features for a product or service.

How we use it at Rakuten DX?

Our UX and UI lead explains the design thinking workshops we provide for our clients:
“Mixing brainstorming and prototyping is important. We take the time to think together and right after, turn our ideas into a prototype to test them. Something traditional on paper or a more advanced digital interface. Our workshops vary depending on our clients’ needs. We have workshops for personae sheets where we define our end-users, we also have user journey mapping, user testing, etc. There are different ways of doing it but the idea at the end is the same, to map out our users’ behaviours. Then to test and learn with them. Our workshops can also last from half a day to a couple of days. If it’s a really a big project, we use Design Sprint which lasts 5 days, and can also be reduced to 3 days. Because we understand that’s it’s hard to get all required parties to give us some of their valuable time, we remain flexible.”

Is investing in design thinking a good idea?

Design thinking has its perks and inconveniences, nevertheless, it seems that the investment always makes sense in the long run, regardless of project size.

“This methodology obviously has a cost, in terms of budget and time. But it enables our clients to save a lot of time for the project later on. That’s just the main advantage of co-creation with the end-user. All that work is rightfully done at the beginning by investing your time in it. Afterwards, you know that you’re going in the right direction.”

Mickael Bernard is one of the experts who work alongside our clients during our design thinking workshops. Learn more about how these workshops can enable your teams to come up with innovative ideas and test them on the spot.

Discover our last article about Design Thinking, or get in touch with us today.