Sorry, the InVision Help Center does not support Internet Explorer. Please download Microsoft Edge or another modern browser.

InVision ambassador ambassador
Kayden Knauss

Design thinking in small businesses

I come from a heavy design background and have always surrounded myself with anything and everything design related. From print design to web design to branding to product, design has been at my forefront.

For the last year I have been taking a risk doing something else- acting COO for a small business. While I no longer actively wear my designer hat, I am always trying to find new practical ways of implementing my design knowledge to improve the business.

Whether or not you're in similar shoes, what are some ways to improve small business with design thinking?

This post is associated with a known feature request: [[problemTicketSubject]]. Let our Product team know that you’re interested in this feature.

Sign in to add your vote

Thanks for taking the time to share your feedback about making our product better. We’ve let our Product team know that you’re interested in this feature so they can factor that into their product strategy.


sort by

Caitlin Cambron
InVision ambassador Caitlin Cambron , ambassador
Comment actions Permalink

I have recently transitioned from UX to Product (so still UX, but also Product Management, Business Analysis, etc.) I also have a background in all things design; I'm an art school grad and I cut my teeth in graphic design. Design Thinking has been critical for me in my career.

The main way it has influenced my career is that I try to be an evangelist for Design Thinking. Bringing it into conversations and decisions about finance, hiring, and especially business problems has helped my teams in pivotal moments of conflict or question. Some ways I apply Design Thinking are:

  • Asking potential hires to review our hiring process and focusing on what they have to say about improving it rather than what our internal team believes is the issue.
  • Crowd sourcing morale improvement from the teams themselves - this has resulted in Friday Shoutouts, weekly happy hours, game nights. 
  • And for small businesses, talking with industry experts. This helps us get around the cost of asking users and hoping will allow accuracy at a starting point (with minimal cost). (But do ask your customers what they think once you can!)

At a basic level these all take problem-solving out of the hands of the powers-that-be and put it into the hands of people who will actually experience the effects of the solution.

Another great day-to-day tool I use is a whiteboard :) It's not necessarily a tool of Design Thinking, but it helps me use those art school skills in the office.


Michéle (Mikele) De Sousa
InVision ambassador Michéle (Mikele) De Sousa , ambassador
Comment actions Permalink

Hi Kayden

This is a great question. 

What a position to be in. I personally feel having a design Hat on in regards to the business, processes etc should be something you keep wearing. I feel the way we as designers approach problems is something that sets us apart. Taking people on a journey is always the way to start.

Was going to add some ways of doing this but Caitlin has given some great pointers that funny enough I have done. Point 2 for me was something that I found personally got the ball rolling.

So rather than tools I would like to give input on a strategy to a great outcome.

Get involved where you can in facets of the business to get an understanding of problems being faced. Then evaluate where you feel will make the most impact. Use the situation as a case study to show the outcome of using Design Thinking principles.

Start a culture. Paper and pen, Whiteboards and Makers. I can not tell you how valuable this is as people start feeling they can talk and collaborate. Impressive to see how liberating it is for a person when they have the pen or marker. Collaboration in your position is something I feel is missing in a lot of organizations. C suit conventionally have a lot of board meetings and sit. To change that would change the entire mind set. 

I feel in your role Kayden, you are at the best position to do great things. Just by applying your design mind in assisting in solving the real problems in the business and constantly asking why, why, why, why, why is where the real magic will be. What an opportunity and I know you are going to do great things! 

Stay awesome!





Ashima Sood
InVision ambassador Ashima Sood , ambassador
Comment actions Permalink


Kudos on the role change! Like Michéle I have also seen results with the second point that Caitlin made; and I also strongly agree that you'd need a strategy.

Every business requires a tailor made strategy when it come to driving innovation and transformation, here are some resources that could help you decide the direction you think would be most effective with the employees, the business and yourself.

Were I in this position, the first question I would ask myself to figure out my strategy would be what kind of COO do I want to be? (HBR had a great write up on it in 2006). Once you have a personal goal in addition to the company goals, you have a good starting point.

Another resource I feel would be of value to you at this stage is this: The principles and framework are scalable and can be applied almost universally in every work setting. Here's a quick video as a sneak peek. 

Michéle also pointed out that "Collaboration in your position is something I feel is missing" --again, I agree here and feel this could help you gauge the employees' motivations and goals. Perhaps you can find a way to make them feel that you are approachable, open to their input, ideas or thoughts. This will take time and will have to be done skilfully but is worth it specially in a small business.

I wish you all the best with this role and hope that this helped!


join the conversation

to comment, sign up or sign in.