Design Thinking to Explore New Business Models

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By Liz Slocum Jensen March 25, 2019

I recently met with a team of  blockchain consultants and they told me that one of their social media companies was looking at the blockchain to help with Know Your Customer (KYC) compliance. They asked how I would go about implementing blockchain for an existing online community and were interested in the first steps I would take. To kick off this blockchain thought experiment, I suggested using a maturity assessment and creating personas from Design Thinking. A maturity assessment helps everyone understand the current situation and what/who we are working with. Personas help identify the various traits of specific target users. These are powerful methods of Design Thinking that can be applied to any project to help develop empathy for users in order to solve problems.  

First, a maturity assessment helps gain a more precise understanding of:

  • What users need and want
  • How they behave, think, feel and
  • Why they behave, think, feel when interacting with products.

In my case, I started with fundamental questions for the community like, “Have you ever used a cryptocurrency wallet?” and “Have you used Bitcoin before?” These are just a few questions of a much more comprehensive questionnaire, but it demonstrates what to include in a maturity assessment. This assessment returns measures of strengths, weakness, and risks of the stakeholders. For example, if users had no understanding of cryptocurrencies nor a willingness to use it, then this would signal the challenges and risks of implementing these features.

Next, creating personas helps you understand who you are solving for. This methodology identifies the market segments and stakeholders by creating profiles for what the primary users, secondary users, influencers, and decision makers are like.  For example, personas for a social media company app might look like this:

Primary User: A video gaming player who posts live streams of their games daily

Secondary User: A college-educated professional who watches video game streaming daily

Influencers: Peers of core users

Influencers: Social Media and Celebrities with online presence

Creating personas is an empathy-building tool to define the dimensions of the various users and stakeholders. Having a “If I build it, they will come” mentality, will likely set yourself up for failure since you will only represent the preferences of a small self-selected group.

One of the strengths of Design Thinking is that its methods has a variety of applications. In my case, someone was asking me about how to explore a new business model, but this approach can work for other projects –  from creating software for a legacy software institution to engaging retail customers. Design Thinking offers structured ways to build empathy, empowering any team to explore innovative ways to solve problems.