How Design Thinking Keeps Entrepreneurs and Their Companies Healthy

Munjal Shah, an entrepreneur-in-residence at Charles River Ventures, knows that in order for a company to stay healthy, the entrepreneurs running it must have a quality plan to keep it growing strong. The same way we all try to exercise and eat well to live longer, a refined idea can sustain longevity through the learning curves of the first 10 years.

At the second day of the 2013 Grow Conference, Shah told the story of his pursuit in a personal interest, digital health, but he was uncertain which area to focus on, there were just too many. Instead of diving into the first idea, he applied design thinking to the process. 

He began by immersing himself in something. Every exercise, diet and health device on the market, Shah tried it. “Before I tell others how to get fit or get their health together,” said Shah, “let me do it.”

Through that process Shah was able to learn his behavioural trends with each exercise, diet and device—and it was the little details that helped him move forward with his ideas.

The second process of design thinking was to be a beginner again. “I did something that I never thought I would do,” said Shah. “I went back to school again.” In an endocrinology class, he was able to learn all about hormones, regulations and facts related to diabetes and got a foundational understanding for his idea.

“My kid came up to me and was like, ‘papa, did you do badly so you had to go back to school?'” Shah smiled. “No, no, no, you keep learning all through life, I told him.”

Next part of his research was surveying the public. “We actually surveyed 12,500 consumers on a tool called Ask Your Target Market,” said Shah. With all those different insights, it led him to a very different approach to the market.

Creating lots and lots of options is the third part of design thinking. “When you create options you want to do what is called a ‘breadth first search’ in computer science,” said Shah. “You don’t go deep into one topic for awhile. You go across and generate five ideas and then you go deep slowly.”

Entrepreneurs tend to convince themselves that their ideas are good. Whether it is a reality or an illusion, design thinking helps explore it, filter out the lesser ones and sustain objectivity all in an effort to build muscles for a healthy company.