Two important principles for us at Potential Squared are ‘practise what you preach’ and ‘pay it forward’.  So, when we ran our innovation workshop for our own team, we decided to invite some of our favourite local businesses to join us.

Not only did this present a great opportunity for our local community to gain valuable insights into how they can apply design thinking principles in their business - it was also the perfect opportunity for the rest of us at Potential Squared to get a hands-on experience of how to identify problems and create solutions.

ExperienceInnovation™ Learn takes you through the essentials of an innovation project, following the six steps of the design thinking innovation process:

Frame a Question
Gather Inspiration
Synthesise for Action
Generate Ideas
Make Ideas Tangible
Test to Learn

It’s been a few months since we ran the workshop, and the learning that has most stood out for me since then came at the ‘Gather Inspiration’ stage.  The purpose of this stage is to inspire new thinking by discovering what people really need. It’s about observing users to discover what they say about how they interact with an existing product or service - and what they actually do with it, as quite often these are different.  

Particularly, when observing users, you’re looking for any workarounds or adaptations that they have made to the product or service, as these can suggest the things that users care about. You should also make a note of anything that surprises you in your observations. Your aim is to start to empathise with users as you begin to understand the thoughts and feelings they experience.

What I found unexpected was the type of user we were asked to observe. Where you might instinctively be drawn to the average user, design thinking instead gets you to observe your extreme users. These are the people who are the heavy users, such as frequent flyers of an airline, and the rarely-or-never users, such as non-coffee drinkers of a cafe.  

Observing extreme users may seem counter-intuitive at first. The distribution of users of most products follows a bell curve, with your average users in the centre and the remaining users falling either side of the peak. Of course, this means that when we look at the extreme ends we’re observing only a small proportion of users. Casting my mind back to maths lessons in school and when examining data at university, I remember being taught to ignore the outliers and anomalies so assumed I would have done the same here.

However, the extreme users are likely to provide the far more revealing insights that can drive innovation than normal users. You’re more likely to be surprised, which will push your ideas in different directions that you haven’t explored before. 
To give an example of this, in the experiment we ran as part of the workshop we were looking for ways to improve the hotel experience for business travellers.  Of our two extreme users, one travels regularly for work and always stays in hotels, while the other prefers to rent a private home and never uses hotels.

It was a challenging exercise, which helped instil the key principles of design thinking for everyone to take away and apply to their own businesses. Both our team and our friends in the community were encouraged to explore ways to think beyond the current limitations of their products and services, to identify opportunities to innovate and create better solutions for everyone.  

If you're interested in learning more about innovation or the six steps of the design thinking innovation process, contact us today.