By: Meagan Moody, ACC Immediate Past -President
Marketing Communications Manager for ZF Aftermarket


Many people have commented about how our industry can get stuck. We tend to do things the way that they’ve always been done. So, I get stuck in the box. Do you?


What is Design Thinking?

Design thinking is a concept that tends to bring us marketers back to the basics in a way that also pushes us outside of our box. From the basic Wikipedia definition, “Design thinking refers to a process from which design concepts emerge. Design thinking encompasses cognitive and practical activities including problem-finding, decision-making, creativity, sketching, prototyping and evaluating.”

In our jobs – what are we constantly in search of? We’re in search of a solution to some pre-identified problem. Is that reaching the technician? Is that communicating through warehouse distributors? Or is it something else that is leading towards a new project?


Break out of the Box

Design thinking takes us through a 5 step process that slows us down and makes us think and become creative again. Empathize. Define. Ideate. Prototype. Test. And then start back over if needed. The process truly puts the customer at the center of the process and pushes creativity back onto us as we work through to find new solutions for the proposed problem.

By focusing and trusting the process of design thinking, we slow down and force ourselves to keep going back to the problem and determining if the current phase is supporting us in answering that problem.


Understanding the Steps

Empathize – What is your customer’s pain point? How does it make them feel?

Define – What is the true problem? What is the root of the top level of it?

Ideate – start forming ideas and solutions. What can solve their emotional pain point?

Prototype – create your ideas. Develop physical examples to test.

Test – take the ideas straight to the customer. What are their thoughts on it? Does it ease the pain?


Did you find the true problem and pain point? Make sure that at each step you go back to those two questions so that you ensure your ideas and prototypes solve the problem. If you get to the end and the test fails – start over again.