In our first week of FAIP 2021, we delved into Business Model Evaluation & Polishing for the participating startups. The goal was to re-orient the founders to their customers and the specific problems their customers face and want solved. We used the business model canvas as a business planning tool to condense their business models into one page that can be reviewed frequently and updated conveniently at any time.
With the founders having the right orientation to entrepreneurship, we sought to take them back through the journey of determining the right problems to solve for their customers and how to develop the perfect solutions to those problems. The goal for our second session was to help the founders think critically about the problems they are solving or the needs they are meeting; by focusing on the problem or need from their customer perspectives.
The objective of this process was to understand the problem or need their customers have and immerse themselves into their customers’ psychological processes of trying to solve the problems or meet their needs. Ultimately, we wanted our founders to have a deep understanding of what solutions would work best for their customers.
In addition, we wanted them to figure our how to deliver perfect solutions to their target customers in a manner that is faster, more convenient and affordable; as compared to other solutions that their customers already have for the problems they are trying to solve for them.
To help our founders go through the process practically, we introduced them into the design thinking methodology of problem solving and took them through each of the 5 steps involved in it. Design thinking is the process of creative problem solving by putting the customers at the center stage and getting to understand their pains, wants and wishes; then co-developing suitable solutions with them. The methodology has 5 main steps which include; empathizing, defining, ideating, prototyping and testing.
In the empathizing stage, we commissioned the founders to go back to their customers and find out from them what their actual problems or needs are. The objective here was to compel the founders to put aside their assumptions about the customer needs; and go gather primary insights from the target end users of their solutions. The founders needed to have an open mind when going to gather customer insights from their target market segments in order to collect useful feedback that will help them to improve their solutions, and meet the customer needs more effectively.
After meeting with their customers and gathering feedback directly from them, the founders came back to analyze all the information they had received to determine what exactly was the core problem that their target customers were facing. This is the second step in design thinking which is referred to as the defining stage.
In this second step, the goal was to help the founders to step back and figure out the underlying problem or need that their customers have without making reference to the current solutions they were offering them. The focus here is to be as accurate as possible in defining the problem in the words of the customers themselves based on their feedback from the empathizing stage.
With the customer problems and needs clearly defined, our mentors guided the founders through a process of free thinking to conceptualize as many solutions as possible to the problem statement defined in step two above. This exercise was meant to allow the startups to think broadly beyond their current solutions and identify alternative ways of solving the defined problems.
This marked the third step in design thinking methodology called the ideation stage. The output here was the startups coming up with ways they can improve on their current solutions to meet the needs of their target customers more effectively.
Armed with a deep understanding of their customers problems, a clearly defined problem statement and practical recommendations on how to improve their solutions to meet their customers needs, our founders are now working on the 4th and 5th steps in the design thinking process.
Currently, the startups participating in FAIP 2021 are working on small incremental improvements on their products and services to meet their customers’ needs as per the recommendations from their customers themselves. This is the fourth step in the design thinking process; also referred to as the prototyping stage.
As they make the improvements on their solutions, the startups are also testing the new improved solutions with a section of their customers to get more feedback. With the additional feedback, they will keep tweaking their solutions in the Japanese spirit of Kaizen (continuous improvement). Ultimately, they will achieve better results and be the preferred solution providers for their target customers. This is the 5th and last step in the design thinking process; which is also referred to as the testing stage.