AIB Start-up Academy Coach Johnny Ryan on how Design Thinking Can Help You Build a Better Business

Picture of Johnny Ryan at the AIB Start-Up Academy event on stage.

11 Mar 2016

Posted in:  Business Support

As the Chief Innovation Officer at The Irish Times in 2014, Johnny Ryan was instrumental in the setting-up of the AIB Start-up Academy. Johnny is currently Head of Ecosystem at PageFair, and in his ongoing role as an Academy mentor this week introduced the Academy members to the concept of Design Thinking. Read on to see how you can apply Johnny’s tips on Design Thinking to your own business.

What is design thinking?

A lot of people think design is the packaging that wraps around a product. Design is not just the wrapping and the presentation and the cosmetics. Design is there from the very beginning and at the core of a product. It’s the process you use to make sure you’re being disciplined enough and you’re producing the right product.

If you’re producing the right product it will look well-packaged at the end. The design is making sure the product is relevant from the very beginning. And you can do it in such a way that you save a lot of money by not producing irrelevant stuff.

What separates a company that has hope of success from one that will be a success, is having a problem that needs to be solved. They haven’t let their idea and their own egos get in the way of finding out what the market wants. They have come up with products and services that seem to address a real need. And actually in start-up land that is very rare.

Know the problem you’re trying to solve

Forget about what your company currently does. Forget about what it is you want to sell or whatever it is you currently do sell. Instead of coming up with a brainstorming exercise for what a new product or service should be, just go out to the intended consumer and ask them really open questions about what problems they have. When you have enough insight from the consumer, it becomes clear if you’re producing something relevant or not. And how the consumer wants to receive this.

It’s not focusing on what you want to produce, it’s focusing on what the user needs. And exposing the idea to the utmost hazard before you invest a penny in it. So you might come up with pen and paper drawings of what your product is and try and get feedback from your consumer on that, before you invest any money in actually developing the product.

Design thinking forces you to forget about your current offering and to start from scratch, thinking about your consumer. And suddenly it becomes clear that your consumer might want larger buttons. Or they might want a totally different type of product all together from what it is intended to provide.

Keep evolving your product based on consumer needs

Think about products out on the market today that you’re not happy with. Often they’re products that might fix a very important problem, but when the problem changed, the product didn’t change with it. You have to keep on addressing the real problem that the consumer has. You have to keep in contact with the consumer so that you’re constantly putting them first. It’s user-driven, rather than driven by the internal needs or politics of the organisation.

The AIB Start-up Academy sees 11 new companies compete for the chance to win a prize package worth €250,000 to develop their business. Find out more about the AIB Start-Up Academy. and follow the progress of this year’s Academy participants on @AIBBiz and check out our photo album on Facebook.

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