Design Thinking – a promising method for innovation?


In today’s saturated markets, growth is only possible by crowding out the competition or offering creative new products and services that provide greater benefits for the customer. But how can a company become more creative and produce innovations?

At Mibelle Group Home Care, we have been thinking a great deal about this very topic. In our core business of washing and cleaning, this has become an urgent issue because we are reaching our limits in the saturated Swiss market.

The three agile working methods listed below are currently considered by the market as the key success factors for companies to achieve an innovative corporate culture:

Scrum is a model-based approach to project and product management. The goal is to quickly and cost-effectively develop high-quality products according to a defined vision. The tasks are structured into small work packages, ensuring that progress and obstacles are made visible.

Holocracy, in contrast, is an organisational approach in which the decision-making is structured transparently in order to remain adaptable and flexible. Everyone is welcome to contribute to the company and play a role.

Design thinking is a method that involves people from different disciplines working together in an environment that fosters creativity. Questions are collaboratively developed that take into account people’s needs and motivations. Concepts are then devised and reviewed multiple times. The approach is based on a combination of understanding, observation, idea development, refinement, implementation and learning.

The idea behind all three of these agile working methods is that hierarchies disappear and each individual is more involved in the overall development of the company through participation. This collaborative working approach promotes creativity, motivation and individual responsibility.

At Mibelle Group Home Care, we decided to follow the design thinking method. What we especially like about this approach is that the central focus is placed on the consumer. Instead of being a management method, it is a way of thinking. This fits in perfectly with our “Customer Centricity” initiative called “Polaris” which we launched around two years ago.

To learn the techniques and skills of the design thinking method, we decided to collaborate with the IDEO agency in Munich and immersed ourselves in a new world. Flexible working spaces, diversely composed teams and playful chaos – this was our first impression of design thinking. However, it didn’t take long for us to realise that behind it all is a very clear time schedule in which everything from initial customer surveys through to the prototype presentation stage is carefully planned in detail.

We assigned our own project team and released them from their daily work routines for a few days. The team worked intensively on problem definition and tried to pinpoint the real issues through consumer insights. It became clear that the fine art of this approach is not to rule out ideas too quickly. For example, by focussing too much on numbers or forming judgements too early.

The team came up with numerous ideas that all built on each other. In the next step, these ideas were studied and evaluated by the project team and client. Seven concepts were finally selected for further development and for building the first prototypes.

Over the coming months, we will narrow down this shortlist even further. We will then carry on with two to three of the seven ideas developed with IDEO and then test their market viability. One of the challenges is to build up the necessary immunity to failure. The greatest challenge of all, however, will be to establish the concept of design thinking – the art of creative problem solving – in the organisation and for us to implement it independently in other product segments.