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The Need for Design Thinking in Communications

, March 27, 2019, 0 Comments

design-thinkingIt is high time that the corporate communications function acknowledges the importance of and starts adopting the much-vaunted design thinking approach both strategically as well as tactically. Product companies swear by it, and services companies worth their salt are going at hammer and tongs at their projects infusing them with design thinking and evangelizing the concept to their clients. But communications, the lifeblood of any organization wanting to make itself seen and heard, is still to wake up to the immense benefits of adopting this concept.

What is design thinking though? Quickly, it is a methodology for solving complex problems and finding desirable solutions using a human-centered approach to innovation. As per IDEO, design thinking is powered by elements like empathy and experimentation to arrive at innovative solutions.

It enables us to make decisions based on what the future customers want rather than just relying on historical data or making risky bets based on instincts instead of evidence. Some of the biggest brands we grew up with have either vanished or are struggling to rise, for clearly not keeping their ear to the ground and getting the pulse of the customer.

Kodak, Nokia, Blockbuster (erstwhile competitor to Netflix), once at the top of their game, eventually bit the dust, because they didn’t capitalize on the digital wave. And companies like Apple, Microsoft, IKEA among many others continue to lead because they have developed intentional, human-centric products.

By now, you may have started to see how communications function can benefit immensely from adopting design thinking. We need to be more empathetic in our approach to communicating. Telling stories is indeed a great approach, as opposed to just delivering prosaic one-sided missives. And how do we create stories that resonate with the audience.

To start with, we can have both formal and informal conversations with the employees or customers and learn about their needs, wants and aspirations. This will help us in defining the appropriate audience and the larger purpose of the communication. By now, we are still not absolutely sure that we know what and how exactly to say, but the basic premise in our hands helps in ideating for the possible right message, content, medium and style.

At the same time, our conversations with the stakeholders may continue in parallel. It is after all, an iterative process. Once we have what we need to create a communications strategy or campaign, we create the assets – videos, posters, emailers, data sheets, media writeups, memos etc. as the case may be. After an internal review, we can publish our content with a wider sample size and test its efficacy. If it is successful, look at enhancing its appeal and reach. If it failed, we need to go back to the drawing board. Design thinking is indeed a continual effort.

If we have got our audience emotionally hooked and wanting to know more, our job is nearly done. And design thinking enables just that.