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6 Companies that Have Successfully Applied Design Thinking

6 Companies that Have Successfully Applied Design Thinking
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Design Thinking is an approach that has been applied by organisations all over the world. In fact, 75% of organisations self-report that they are engaged in design thinking

Companies may be applying the approach but are any of them actually seeing results? 

Success stories are generally the easiest way to demonstrate the value of an approach. Here are six companies that have successfully applied design thinking. 

1. Nordstrom

Nordstrom is known to be one of the most customer-centric companies in the world. This was evident when they were creating their new in-store sunglass app. Rather than take the standard approach used by many large organisations before them (pick a solution and spend lots of money), Nordstrom applied Design Thinking. A small team from Nordstrom spent a full week in their flagship store and leveraged real customers to help build the app. 

They started off by building a paper version of the app in-store and received immediate feedback from customers passing through. Based on the feedback, they iterated and then showed that new prototype to customers, and so on. At the end of the week, they had produced a fully functioning app that customers actually wanted. 

Here are some of the insights they gathered:

  • Customers wanted a way to compare photos of themselves with different sunglasses on (in real-time)
  • Customers wanted to have the option to zoom in on pictures
  • Customers wanted to tag each image and also link them to the sunglass model number

All these insights were key in driving the development of the product. 

2. Bank of America

Bank of America was looking for a way to increase the use of their savings accounts by customers. They applied the design thinking methodology and started engaging with customers and uncovered that people liked the act of saving more than the actual amount they save. For example, customers would get the same good feeling if they deposited $50 a month compared to $600 at the end of the year. 

From this insight Bank of America developed the round-up concept, a product that allows customers to save with every transaction that they make. Customers, as a result, are able to get that same good feeling after every transaction. The results were staggering with Bank of America gaining over 10 million new customers and $1.8 billion in savings for them. 

3. Starbucks

The food and beverage industry was experiencing a drop in sales and poor margins. Starbucks decided to interview hundreds of customers to better understand what they expected from their coffee shops. The predominant insight gained from these interactions was that customers actually wanted an atmosphere that provided a sense of belonging and relaxation.

Building on these insights, Starbucks positioned round tables strategically to make solo coffee drinkers more comfortable and less self-conscious. 


4. Nike

Nike was finding it difficult to become a prominent brand amongst the skateboarding community. They struggled to gain the same level of support given to brands like DC and Globe.

Nike decided to engage skateboarders in the design process. During conversations with skateboarders they examined what the community was looking for in a skateboard company and also attitudes towards Nike. As a result of this approach, the team gained a better overall understanding of the needs and wants of the skateboarding community.

Nike released the Nike Dunk SB after applying learnings from their customer engagement along with skateboard insiders in their design team. Since releasing its Nike SB line of shoes, Nike has experienced tremendous success within the skateboarding culture. 

5. Oral B

Observing what people do and how they interact with their environment gives you clues about what they think, feel and need. By watching people, you can uncover learnings and insights that would not be possible through general conversations. 

A famous example of this is a project run by IDEO for Oral B. They took the observation approach and uncovered a game-changing insight. The assumption with toothbrushes for children is that they should be like adult toothbrushes but smaller and skinnier, due to the fact that adults have big hands and kids have small hands. Makes sense right?

However, through observations they found that when kids were brushing their teeth they were using their fist and holding their toothbrushes too far up resulting in them hitting their own faces as they brushed. From this insight, a solution was identified that kids require fat squishy toothbrushes. As a consequence of this discovery, Oral B had the best selling kids toothbrush in the world for 18 months.

6. GE Healthcare

Having an MRI Scan is generally not a pleasant experience for adults, let alone children. Children often struggle to stay still during the process (often crying) given the frightening experience. The Chief Designer at GE Imaging Machines was shocked by this and felt as though something had to change. By applying Design Thinking, he decided to observe children going through the scanner while also having conversations with not just children but doctors and educators. Through the conversations and observations he found that rather than being seen as an elegant piece of technology, the MRI Scanner was seen as a scary machine by young children. 

As a result, CT Pirate Island Adventure was created. The MRI scanner was made to look like a pirate ship and it transformed the traumatic experience into a kid’s adventure story where the patient had the starring role. Prior to the transformation, approximately 80% of children needed to be sedated prior to getting their scan and after the change this dropped to 10%. The MRI scanner transformed from a terrifying experience to a creative journey for children.

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The WorkFlow podcast is hosted by Steve Glaveski with a mission to help you unlock your potential to do more great work in far less time, whether you're working as part of a team or flying solo, and to set you up for a richer life.


Design Thinking for Large Organisations

Design thinking is a buzz phrase that has been thrown around companies for many years now. It is not a new concept but there are still many large companies that are yet to embrace this modern-day mindset and methodology. This ebook focuses on how organisations can apply design thinking and start to move the needle. 



To help you avoid stepping into these all too common pitfalls, we’ve reflected on our five years as an organization working on corporate innovation programs across the globe, and have prepared 100 DOs and DON’Ts.


Design Thinking for Large Organisations

Design thinking is a buzz phrase that has been thrown around companies for many years now. It is not a new concept but there are still many large companies that are yet to embrace this modern-day mindset and methodology. This ebook focuses on how organisations can apply design thinking and start to move the needle. 


Unlock new opportunities and markets by taking your brand into the brave new world.

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Shay Namdarian

Shay is the General Manager of Customer Strategy at Collective Campus. He has over 10 years of experience working across a wide range of projects focusing on customer experience, design thinking, innovation and digital transformation. He has gained his experience across several consulting firms including Ernst & Young, Capgemini and Accenture.

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