60 Seconds to Understand What Business Design is and Why It's Important for Founders to be Designers

Published on
February 16, 2023

At OpenHouse, we love business design because we see it as a tool to help underresourced founders find opportunities to bring something new and different to the market that may not be able to compete against massive capital and network disparities. If you were to Google "business design," you would be inundated with thousands of results, each with a slightly different definition. With a few well-thought-out design choices, you can gain a competitive edge that will help you build a lasting and growing business.

‍I also adore design thinking because of its emphasis on research and empathy. Bernadette Jiwa once said that without empathy, you can't develop great ideas, create differences, or build successful brands.

‍Any business that wants to develop a new product or service or enhance an already existing one should consider using business design. If you want to explore more effective and efficient ways of doing things, whether you're a start-up developing a disruptive product or an enterprise looking to revamp its web experience, business design could be a great fit.

What is Business Design?

Business Design is a problem-solving approach that uses design thinking principles to identify new business opportunities and create innovative solutions. It means taking a look at your business as a whole and ensuring your strategy meets your customers' needs.

The Business Design process typically involves four stages:

  1. Discover: In this stage, you'll research and analyze market trends, consumer behavior, and your strengths and weaknesses.
  2. Define: Next, you'll reframe the problem you're trying to solve in a more human-centered way that aligns with your customers' needs.
  3. Develop: In this stage, you'll brainstorm, prototype, and test new solutions that address the problem you've identified.
  4. Deliver: Finally, you'll implement the best solutions and measure their impact on your business.

What are the benefits of Business Design?

Incorporating Business Design into your business strategy can lead to numerous benefits, including:

  1. Increased revenue: By identifying new business opportunities and creating innovative solutions, you can increase your revenue and profitability.
  2. Improved customer experience: By aligning your strategy with your customer's needs, you can improve their experience and increase their loyalty.
  3. Enhanced creativity: Business Design encourages you to think outside the box and develop new and creative ideas to solve problems.
  4. Improved collaboration: The Business Design process involves working collaboratively across all business areas,people and with your customers to create the best solutions.
  5. Increased efficiency: By aligning your strategy with your customers' needs and creating more effective solutions, you can improve your efficiency and reduce waste.

How can you learn Business Design?

If you're interested in learning more about Business Design, numerous resources are available to help you get started. You can read books, attend workshops, or work with a consultant who specializes in Business Design. The key is to begin by understanding design thinking principles and how they can be applied to your business.

After diving into Design Thinking, your next step as a practitioner is to understands business model patterns. Think of Business model patterns as individual power rangers that come together to become this Mighty Morphin fighter. 

My recommendations for diving into business model patterns are:  

Business Model Navigator [Website]

The Ten Faces of Innovation [Thriftway] [Amazon]

‍Problems with Design Thinking

But I am known for criticizing design thinking as a method and as a community because it doesn't have any steps that let us enact equity at every step of the process. You can read about it in my Medium article, Why I'm tired of Design Thinking.

If you want to get out of the shallow end, you might want to add liberatory design and equity-centered design to your design thinking process. 

I've even switched from the conventional design sprint to liberatory design sprints for every team I work with.

Liberatory design established by the National Equity Project differs from design thinking because design thinking focuses on solving specific problems. Liberatory design, on the other hand, looks at the reasons why problems happen, which are often deeply rooted in systems of power and inequality. 

And Equity -Centered Design was created by the Creative Reaction lab and incorporates things like history, healing, and acknowledging power structure in design challenges. 

Whatever framework you use in your business, I want you to hold on to a key value of all of these processes; designing and business is a messy process that calls for ongoing moments of finding clarity, connection with the people you want to serve, and collaboration. 

Ask yourselves these questions:

  • How am I creating a process for messy thinking? 
  • What does clarity feel like for you? 
  • How do I act when I’m clear?
  • How does my team act when they have clarity?
  • Do I understand the difference between clarity and what can’t be known? 
  • What collaborations are possible and will improve my efficiency or opportunity as a business? 
  • Am I truly co-creating with people? Or am I using a groundhog strategy? Going from isolation to public participation alone? 

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