Folding carton manufacturing companies employ a variety of skilled workers, from press operators to upper managers. Despite this diversity of people and skills, there is a universal process that all employees can use to solve problems, create innovative solutions, and move the business forward.
The Design Thinking Process, popularized by Stanford’s d.school for design, is a five-step approach to creative problem-solving that puts people and their needs first. It can help you design outstanding folding cartons or solve your most pressing business problems. Here’s how it works.
It’s no surprise that the first step in a people-centric design process is empathy. While the importance of empathy might be immediately clear in the management space where relationships are key, it’s just as important when designing folding cartons. After all, you are designing for consumers who buy and use products. The empathy stage is all about understanding people and how they function in relation to the problem you are solving. In this way, the first step for carton design is not about color or shape. Rather, you need to stand in the consumer’s shoes. To gain an empathic understanding of people, observe behavior, conduct interviews or informal discussions, and, most importantly, listen to troubles and desires.
After you understand your demographic, it’s time to clarify the problem at hand. If you can’t align your team around the right problem, you’ll never find the right solution! The goal here is to articulate a specific and actionable question. For example: “How do we create a folding carton that addresses the consumer’s need to be environmentally friendly?” Or: “What actions can we take to increase employee satisfaction?” To do this, analyze and synthesize insights from the empathy phase. Remember to keep your focus on people!
Now it’s time to generate ideas and solutions that address the defined problem. Think creatively, allow your ideas to flow, and voice any and all concepts that come to mind. Generate as many ideas as possible, advancing beyond the easy or obvious answers toward new and innovative possibilities. Brainstorming techniques usually help, so choose one that works for your group. However you do it, be sure to hold any evaluation or critique until after the brainstorming session. The easiest way to stop creativity or innovation is to make people feel self-conscious about speaking up. Wait until you get all of the ideas on the table before sorting through them.
In this stage you turn a few of your best solutions into simple, inexpensive prototypes. Prototyping in the carton-converting arena seems straightforward. You mock up a design or create a sample carton. In business management, prototyping might focus on trial programs that engage small subsets of the company. For example, if you want to introduce a new employee evaluation process, begin with a trial program for either the management team or just one department.
Finally, put your prototype into action. How did your client or their consumers engage with your folding carton design? Did the company’s trial review process uncover any areas of contention that management can address? It’s crucial to get feedback from the user so you know what’s working and what needs more work. Continue to prototype and test until you develop successful solution. Voila!
The Design Thinking Process is an excellent problem-solving method for almost anyone who works in the paperboard packaging industry. Try it and see if it can help you get results or align your company around a single way of approaching innovation.