What is design thinking?
Some say design thinking is an approach to problem-solving. Some say it is an iterative creative process. According to a 2015 report by the Design Management Institute, “design-led companies outperformed the S&P 500 by 211%”1. The most important concept within design thinking is that it is focused on the end user – the person, place, or process for which the physical product is being developed.
“Recognizing organizations as collections of human beings who are motivated by varying perspectives and emotions, design thinking emphasizes engagement, dialogue, and learning,” declares Jeanne Liedtka, professor of business administration at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, in her article2 published by the Harvard Business Review. “By involving customers and other stakeholders in the definition of the problem and the development of solutions, design thinking garners a broad commitment to change. And by supplying a structure to the innovation process, design thinking helps innovators collaborate and agree on what is essential to the outcome at every phase.”
Supplying a structure to the innovation process is one-way mHUB Hardtech Development services collaborates with manufacturers to support product innovation and operational efficiency.
“When we apply design thinking for manufacturers, it means thinking about their customers also,” explains Nick Stagl, mHUB Hardtech Development Service Program Manager. “We help manufacturers employ design thinking as an approach to solving a product innovation challenge. The diverse team at mHUB provides a competitive avenue for manufacturers to create a better product, identify how to better serve their customers, and design operational efficiency that improves productivity.”
Applying Design Thinking to Physical Product Development & Hardtech Innovation
What really goes into design thinking collaboration with hardtech innovators?
“Design thinking is a process that mHUB Hardtech Development services uses to help small- to medium-sized manufacturers develop products. This approach allows manufacturers to develop product concepts most efficiently through rapid iterations, thereby reducing risk through each iteration, increasing resolution and fidelity,” explains Bill Fienup, mHUB co-founder and VP of Innovation Services. “With the support of the experts at mHUB, it starts with understanding the customer and the requirements.”
This research phase involves thorough observations, competitive analysis, and in-depth market research. Then there is a brainstorm / ideation phase where diverse groups of individuals create new concepts. “When we facilitate workshops and brainstorm sessions with manufacturers, we essentially bring all of their bright minds together with the diverse product development talent from the mHUB ecosystem,” continues Stagl. “We had a client tell us after one brainstorm session that they finally felt like they had the right people in the room to address their product innovation challenges.”
Utilizing any or all of the 11 prototyping labs housed within mHUB’s 65,000 square foot facility, there is prototyping of the critical modules with testing and refinement after the brainstorm and ideation phases. Then there is feedback from stakeholders and customers in a testing and further refinement phase, which pushes the concept back through the product development process again. “Working with mHUB in this way gives manufacturers the speed of an entrepreneur without typical corporate barriers – allowing for pretty fast results,” continues Fienup.
The final part of the process is manufacturing and implementation. All engineering drawings, CAD files, and other specifications (materials, processing, finishes, BOM’s) are packaged up and provided to the manufacturer with whom mHUB is collaborating. “Collaborations are custom-designed to meet the specific needs of the manufacturer, whether they are trying to troubleshoot / improve a manufacturing process, re-invigorate an existing product, or design something completely new,” states Stagl.
When manufacturers partner with problem-solvers outside of their ‘bubble’, the diversity of skill sets and design thinking approach provides manufacturers with a uniquely innovative and cost-effective path to solving product design challenges. Over the course of the last 3 decades, design thinking has been proven to be an effective approach for companies who want to create value for their products.
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