Meeting Real-world Business Challenges Using Design Thinking

Meeting Real-world Business Challenges Using Design Thinking


Recently, the social entrepreneurship class had the chance to work with Sherry Poon, founder of Wobabybasics, an organic cotton children's clothing social enterprise based here in Shanghai. Sherry's entire clothing line is produced ethically  in China, but she currently sources her organic cotton from Turkey.  Sherry is facing the pressing question, how feasible is it for Wobabybasic’s entire supply chain to be based in China? Can organic cotton be sourced in China, and if so, will that be desirable to the Chinese market which places a high value on imported items? Furthermore, Sherry's primary market is Expats in China and she would like to increase her presence in the Chinese market but is unsure of the best way to do this. Sherry brought these questions to the social entrepreneurship students and gave them three real business challenges she is facing based around moving to a China-centric supply chain. Over the course of six weeks, three groups of students each tackled one of the business challenges below and then presented their work to Sherry.

"Create a supply-chain recommendation for Wobabybasics.  Should they source their organic cotton in China?  If so, where should they source it from and why?"


"Create a Promotion Strategy for Wobabybasics.  How should they get the message out to Chinese clientele, including sales channels (direct sales plus web/mobile devices), advertising/media, social media, sales promotions, packaging, etc."


"Create a marking position for Wobabybasics.  What branding and messing should they have for the China-centric supply chain and clientele? What types of products (existing or new) should they focus on and what should be the pricing strategy?"


Throughout this business challenge the students followed the design thinking process as a way to tackle these problems.  Keep reading to see how they applied each step of the design thinking process to their work.  


Step 1: Empathize


Business Model Canvas: Captures students' hypotheses of how
Wobabybasics creates, delivers and captures value.

The first step in the design thinking process is empathize, to really understand the needs of the person who you are designing for.  For this challenge the students needed to understand both the needs of Sherry, as the business owner, and the needs of the Chinese customers she is trying to target. Before the students conducted interviews they used the business model canvas to hypothesize how Wobabybasics creates, delivers and captures value.  This helped them focus their research and better understand the company they were  working with.







Customer profile: One group's hypotheses about the jobs, pains and gains of the Chinese parent customer segment


Students then used the customer profile of the value proposition canvas to form hypotheses about the various jobs, pains and gains of the different customer segments for Wobabybasics.  These hypotheses helped the students develop interview questions for when they went out to conduct empathy interviews and market research.  The students were then able to validate or invalidate their initial hypotheses and use this information to create insights in the define stage below.



Step 2: Define


Insights (left) and Point of View (POV) Statement (right) created
after students conducted their interviews and market research.















The define stage of design thinking takes all of the information generated in the empathize stage and distills it down to actionable items. Students first identified insights from their research and then used these to create an actionable problem statement or point of view (POV).  You can see the POV for this group on the top of the sticky on the right. 


Step 3: Ideate


How might we statements allow for ideation of many ideas.

Students used their POV statements to create a list of How Might We (HMW) statements or brainstorming topics that address different aspects of the problem. The HMW statement on the left is derived from the POV statement above.  Another HMW statement the students generated from the POV statement above is: HMW use locations of high parent-child pair concentrations to communicate the value of wobabybasics?   

Once the students generated how might we statements they spent time brainstorming, or ideating, around the different statements with the goals of suspending judgement and going for quantity.  At this stage the students are finally starting to generate possible solutions for their users. 









Steps 4 and 5: Prototype and Test


Once the students ideated a number of solutions, they chose a few possible solutions to move forward with.  For some of the potential solutions they made prototypes in order to get feedback, for others they validated with case studies and/or additional market research.  The students then presented their solutions and research to Sherry.  Listen to Patrick talk about how his group approached this part of the process. 




Listen to Cory and Emily reflect on their learning from the Wobabybasics business challenge.




Listen to social entrepreneurship teacher Anne Love interview Sherry Poon, founder of Wobababybasics, about her experience working with the students on this business challenge.