This article is about Management

How to bring project and business improvements with the Design Thinking approach

Giovana Salmazo Ribeiro

Published at
11 de June de 2024

In turbulent times where the complexity of the market always demands agility and intelligence to respond to the environment in which it operates, we still find companies with the challenge of identifying their weaknesses and improving their working methods and reputation.

There are several cases that still demonstrate the need to strengthen business concepts, from the definition of coherent metrics to the implementation of techniques such as Scrum, Agile, Lean Startup and Design Thinking to better understand the user's pain and find solutions to their needs. And it's the last approach that I want to talk to you about.

Cases for analysis

Imagine the following situation: a university hires a consulting firm to improve its website, including more data and information about the music courses that the institution offers. The work is done and delivered, but what are the results?

Well, that's when companies often realize that the expected result was not achieved simply because they couldn't explain what they wanted with the improvement of the site and the fact that the consultancies didn't ask them about the obvious: why? 

In other words: the contractor's disappointment is due to the lack of mutual understanding between the parties involved.

This is where Design Thinking comes into the picture. If the consultancy had applied this approach from the beginning, it would have asked the university the following questions as soon as it was asked for the service:

      What do you hope to achieve with this improvement?

      What is the ultimate goal of this improvement?

      Who will benefit from this?

      Why do we need a specific website?

      Are there other, more effective ways to meet this demand?

From then on, the consultancy would understand that, in reality, the university had a low number of enrollees in music courses and, therefore, its objective was to increase the number of enrollments. With this new look, we would begin to listen to possible people interested in the course and understand what their adherence to the site would be, etc. With these answers, our project would be more directed to the result expected by the university, going to the heart of the problem, attracting new students to the music faculty.

What about the metrics to use? Well, in this case, it's easy to understand what we need to measure to know if the goal we had was achieved. Do you realize how fully understanding the client's pain and difficulties can completely change the way you work?

But does this approach work for any kind of problem? The answer is yes. In another example, a food company wants to digitize the delivery service of its products to large customers. What’s the company’s pain? Constant delays in the distribution of orders, contractual fines and low renewal of contracts from the food company.

After identifying all parties involved in the project and mapping each phase of the delivery process from the moment the sale occurs, it was discovered that the problem lies in the internal communication between the Customer Success and Supply departments.

In this way, we redesigned the solution, with greater agility in communication between both parties, which generated savings of R$ 1 million per year for the company and a real improvement in customer satisfaction. In other words, the use of Design Thinking in this case meant taking us to the heart of the pain, with effectiveness, results and savings of resources.

Understanding Design Thinking

But what is Design Thinking? Unlike the general consensus that it is only about aesthetics, screen construction, and quality of use of apps and websites, Design Thinking implies a broader approach, with a designer mindset to develop a differentiated look at complex problems, with a holistic and contextualized view, to understand the user's needs, how they think, and how all this can generate innovative solutions that actually generate value.

This approach necessarily goes through the phases of understanding the problem, where we question why we do what we do; observation, for active listening; and the definition of the problem. This is the phase of idealizing, testing, and adjusting possible solutions according to the user's needs.

Practical applications

And how can we use this solution for digital product creation? Nowadays, when I question the topic, several times the answer is: "Ohh, the customer didn't ask for that! Ohh, the customer knows what he wants! Ohh, the customer doesn't see value."

These answers make sense because they clearly demonstrate the lack of real understanding of the importance of Design Thinking. So, my answer is: have this vision in any and all digital product development, starting the first two sprints — that 30-day period to create a solution prototype together with the customer, better understanding their pain, with effective collaboration and delivering real value at the end of the process. 

This planning involves the ability to question, measure, discover, deepen, prototype, and test. Without this strategic start, every project is doomed to face difficulties in understanding scope, delayed deliveries, poor measurement and, above all, dissatisfied customers. 

This innovation can be part of any project, including for traditional and public companies. It is up to us, the consultants, to introduce this concept of project planning into the scope in the analysis of responses to requests for information (RFI) and terms of reference. Companies such as Banco do Brasil, Caixa Econômica Federal and Petrobras already recurrently implement the concept of Design Thinking in the construction of non-digital solutions for their companies, which demonstrates the strength of this approach to obtain effective results, producing positive results in improving the quality of services offered to citizens, with benefits for the community.


To bring this approach to any type of business is to discover a range of possibilities for action within an organization. With Design Thinking, we create a culture of listening and experiencing the difficulties that each customer faces, whether they are the end consumer, the citizen or the company's own employee. 

Putting their voice into our strategy increases the value of the solution delivered to them. Integrating this focus into all areas of the company, centered on customer needs, is key to driving and maintaining the long-term success of any organization, increasing its relevance to the market and society.

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