In mid-October I had the privilege of presenting some of our new research findings at Uplight’s Customer2030 conference in Denver. During the day-and-a-half event, attendees were challenged to create innovative solutions for consumers related to utility rates, smart home, and EVs. The exercise used design thinking as a framework for solving customer problems. Design thinking is an explicit process that puts innovators in the shoes of customers and draws on lateral thinking to spur creativity.
The five steps of design thinking are:
While other industries, notably technology companies, have long embraced design thinking as an innovation framework, it is relatively new to the energy industry. However, we believe today’s business environment calls for a human-centered, contextual approach that allows companies to tackle issues and challenges head on – a challenge design thinking is ideally suited for.
Design thinking is a creative approach that leads to opportunities for success that would not be evident without a foundational understanding of people, their experiences, and the world they live in, making customer research the foundation upon to build. Without a deep understanding of your customers, truly understanding their needs and what solutions will create value for them is a complete shot in the dark. For instance, at Customer2030 I presented new findings from Escalent’s new EV-centered research that indicates the next generation of EV buyers is much more likely than existing EV owners to regularly take longer road trips. For energy utilities, this implies that high-speed corridor charging will become more important over the coming years—something that’s not obvious outside of research findings.
There’s no one “right way” to approach developing customer personas as the foundation for design thinking. Qualitative interviews with customers can help uncover latent needs and help design thinkers empathize with customers, but so, too, can customer stories developed from quantitative “truth.” A quality research partner can help determine the best approach to meet your goals around depth of customer insight, budget and timing.
If you’d like to talk about how Escalent can help support your company’s innovation efforts, please reach out to me.