There’s an old adage that says: “If the only tool you have is a hammer, all you’ll see is nails.” In previous articles, we’ve shown how expansive design thinking makes it possible for a group of stakeholders or team members to see beyond what is already known or believed. As we saw in the last article, this leads to true innovation.

When only inductive and deductive reasoning are applied, relevant pieces of the bigger picture are likely to be missed. For this reason, the design process frequently uncovers that the roots of a problem stretch deeper or wider than is obvious from simply observing the problem itself.

Design research techniques such as interviews and observation often expand the scope of enquiry to better understand the full context in which a problem exists.

By revealing the whole context of a situation, the dependencies between the challenge and other parts of the system in which it exists become known.


With this information surfaced, the design solution can effectively address whole business systems rather than merely creating patches. Addressing whole systems dramatically increases the value of the investment in design. It also encourages a design process to be applied in other areas of the business, and so has the potential to improve other systems as well.

Case in Point

TD Visa recognized that its paper-based credit card application was cumbersome, error-prone, and often too time-consuming for patrons to complete. We worked with the organization by first observing the entire application process in situ at their airport kiosk in Buffalo, NY, then designed an improved application system using iPads. The design solution encompassed all elements of the entire experience for both users and kiosk representatives: technology, functionality, mobile devices, workflows, a WiFi network, and more. Read the whole story >>


In the next article, we’ll demonstrate how design supports continuous business improvement.

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