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Start and end with empathy: how design thinking encourages innovation

  • Written by Vincent Kruse, Managing Director of Neptune Software for the UK and Ireland.

    The success of every technological solution depends on design thinking.

    Whilst the very best ideas create the golden thread through all five stages of the creative process - defining the problem, brainstorming ideas, prototyping and testing - there’s a cornerstone of design thinking that holds the whole creation together, and that’s empathy. That’s why design thinking has been noted as one of the core elements of digital transformation for contemporary businesses, because a human-centered design strategy is proven to drive a company’s success rate for innovation.

    I’ve worked in the SAP innovation sphere for more than twelve years, and throughout that time, I’ve learned that the end goal for innovation should always be value through human-led creativity. Design thinking that focuses on empathy as the cornerstone of creativity encourages simplicity of design for new products, meaning that tech solutions are developed in response to the exact needs of an individual or business, (driving down technical debt) rather than to the whims or wants of any designer, business person or developer. Coupling design thinking with the end goal of delivering value through the improvement of the user experience, therefore, becomes the foundation for companies that want to push the boundaries of tech design in 2022. Putting the human in the center of the process allows you to bring together people (empathy), purpose (humanizing technology) and design (innovation) as the pillars that support the business value.

    From the smallest data problem, to the largest logistics operation, tech solutions work most successfully when they are underpinned by an understanding of human need and the desire to fix a related pain point. To take your client on a single impactful journey of transformation through technological design, it’s critical to spend time with them to understand the unique needs of their business and the exact pain points to solve. It’s incredibly difficult to see the nuances of need from a distance; you need to step into the users shoes to cultivate empathetic design.

    A few years ago, when a client came to me seeking technology that would allow him to refuel a light aircraft more efficiently, the project initially sounded straightforward. I could easily have set my team to work creating solutions that I believed would fix problems with the business’s current system and processes. However, when we visited the client’s site, it was revealed that the aircraft in question took on various shapes and sizes, landed during daylight hours as well as at night and was refueled by a single individual. These realities added new dimensions to our project, creating space for us to tailor our suggested solutions to these three specific areas of difficulty. Without having empathy for the real users who experienced these particular pain points, my team and I could well have provided inadequate solutions that failed to fulfil the brief or deliver any meaningful value.

    To become an expert in strategic tech development and innovation, then, it’s critical to be a design-focused thinker. Whether you’re working to create solutions in-house, or engaging with external parties, there are a range of tools available on the market that can bring design-forward ideas to life. For instance, with Neptune DXP, we’ve designed a platform to give IT professionals the right tools to rapidly build the apps they need, across their IT landscapes, whether they have no coding experience, just a little, or they’re an expert. Our desire for Neptune DXP is to lead by example and enable our users to drive success in their own industries through software that humanises technology and encourages innovation. 

    Our software facilitates and supports the design thinking process by skipping the need to engage with multiple products to create a single solution and connecting the end-to-end solution development process. Neptune DXP has been designed to save IT professionals time and energy, and equips teams with tools that will grow their skills and battle the fatigue that comes with working across multiple platforms. With Neptune DXP, ideas can be turned into prototypes quickly and efficiently. Taking these prototypes to a production-ready state then only requires a few simple tweaks and the addition of functions enabled through low-code or pro-code features.

    Whether you choose to use Neptune DXP, or prefer other tools, the key to innovation strategy in 2022 is to focus on creating human-centred solutions. Don’t just create technology for technology’s sake; instead, focus on people, purpose, and design while holding empathy as your true north. 


    About the author

    Aoife is a Sync NI writer with a previous background working in print, online and broadcast media. She has a keen interest in all things tech related. To connect with Aoife feel free to send her an email or connect on LinkedIn.

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