Recession Proof Your Business the Design Thinking Way

by Aug 15, 2022

Business Innovation Brief Best Article

No matter the medium of transmission of the news, we know a recession could be imminent. We know that recessions are fearful and can be catastrophic to businesses and people.

Many people agree that there might be a significant economic downturn in trade and activity despite having high corporate profits. Various questions might ponder in the mind of business owners.

What can be done to prepare for a recession? What precautions should be taken to get prepared for it?

No matter what the questions, you can prepare yourselves ahead of time without disrupting the business.

Investing in anti-cyclical methods before times of crisis is key. However, the real question that arises is how can you keep yourself in a scenario where your business is not affected by the recession? Furthermore, how can you turn this major challenge into an opportunity to improve and grow.

In the present economic situation, when your business is surrounded by instability, pandemics, and disruption, planning to innovate business strategies or prepare for recessions is prudent and wise.

With some strategic Design Thinking methodologies, you can protect your business from falling apart and improve it so you can grow. Many companies have leap frogged ahead during down cycles because they planned not only how to survive, but more importantly on how to thrive.

What Is a Recession?

A recession is when less trade, lower business activity and unemployment create a prolonged and widespread economic downturn in the country. A recession occurs when a country has two consecutive quarters of an economic downturn that declines the GDP of a nation. Recessions generally reduce the economic output and demand of customers and increase unemployment. During this upheaval, customers limit their purchases and get limited nonessential services or products. It results in an economic downturn in various businesses.

However, recession-proof businesses are those businesses that are still performing well despite the economic contraction. Some are businesses providing everyday products, such as healthcare product suppliers, food companies and electric and gas utilities. People need these essential services and products during the good and bad times as well. These industries might not grow much faster but can outperform during recession times.

Recession-Proofing Business

As a business leader, big or small, you know when a recession is imminent, and once that happens, there isn’t much you can do but deal with it. You can just wait to mitigate the impact when the other one occurs in the future. You should always take precautions to recession-proof your business since it is crucial for success. You can plan better using Design Thinking methodologies that can assist in uncovering plans that better and more closely align with people’s needs, thus making your recession-proof.

What Is Design Thinking?

Design Thinking assists organizations in creating value for people. It aims to solve concrete problems that impact people and deliver solutions that align with people’s needs.

As designers unveil or identify issues, they can bring about innovative solutions. In addition, it enables designers to tackle problems that people find difficult to define or verbalize. Furthermore, Design Thinking assists organizations to lead with innovation.

For example, a human can’t imagine things that cannot be believed. Therefore, it creates difficulty for the designers to land on a solution that does not exist. Using an iterative approach more often leads to innovative solutions.

It makes any organization run more efficiently and faster because it focuses on creating prototypes and testing to check their effectiveness, after a lot of listening to people and defining the problems.

Design Thinking as a philosophy encourages experimentation before launching products in the market that ensures creating value for people. Multiple methodologies move forward the Design Thinking process.

Design Thinking aims to gain a clear understanding of the issues before generating an idea. It involves an action-oriented process to collect data that enables the designers to understand issues deeply.

The idea generation phase involves various possible solutions, then the designers start prototyping, gaining feedback, and ongoing iterations. All these step-by-step processes after idea generation eliminate bad design. The product or service design involves user input, thereby increasing the chance of user adoption when products are launched.

A deep and clear understanding helps idea generation and expands the chances of creating multiple solutions, which are then analyzed and selected for prototyping and customer feedback.

The outcome is the result of prototype iteration and customer feedback. However, companies need to practice patience during the process to get to a proper solution.

Process Of Design Thinking

Design Thinking solves people issues in a customer-centric way. It is deeply rooted in questioning, generating ideas, and developing the creation of innovation. Design Thinking questions the issues, assumptions, and implications before creating any product or service, reducing money and failure risks. Here are the stages of Design Thinking briefly described:


Empathy is the first phase to successfully designing solutions. It depends on understanding people’s needs at a deeper level than just the transactional level, but at an emotional level. You focus on what problem you are trying to solve with the active input of customers which will assure your success.

To unveil new solutions, you must understand customer needs, limitations, and aspirations. To do this effectively you must elevate your view of customers, to people. No matter what business you are in, you are in the people-to-people business. By engaging with targeted customers, designers should gather real insights relevant to the problem that needs to be solved and align products and services to best solve them.


This stage focuses on clarifying and defining the solution. You should consider the themes that have come to the surface, the barriers identified, if your team is going in the right direction or if you need to reassess your learnings. This brief created with focus and inspiration is crucial to unearth the best solution. When this step is practice with precision, you can move on to the next phase.

The most important way to recession-proof your business is to not assume you have solved the problem based on your own knowledge of your customer base, it must be informed by the people who will be involved. The customers, and the employees. That alignment is the secret sauce to recession proofing your business.

Ideate and Collaborate

In this stage, with the combined idea from the previous steps, it is time to start creating solutions. To fuel this phase, you can use tools such as landscaping, mind-mapping, brainstorming and post-it notes. Before developing solutions, you should also assess where the solution can land you and the longevity of the changes you see in the landscape. Be sure to spend plenty of time identifying your strengths, weakness, opportunities, and threats assessment to be confident about the viability of the solutions you are landing on.


In this phase, you need to experiment with the created solutions. Consider iteration and prototyping to infuse life into your creation since it is crucial. In this step, try to highlight the remaining gaps from the lens of the stakeholders (customers, employees, partners) understanding. This step can be improvised, redesigned, or even rejected through a series of critiques and reviews. The key is to not push a fixed narrative, rather you want to take a mutable approach here, and remain flexible to learn, iterate, and adapt. There is no room for egos in this phase.


After the development and prototyping, test it with your customers. Some businesses might have a tight budget, or their clients might be uncomfortable breaking free of traditional methods. Engage with your friendly contacts first. It is also essential to know if your customers are vested in the problems you are trying to solve.

You should ask questions that are solution-oriented like, “What are the problems you care about that can be solved with this solution?”, “How will the solution make a difference in your experience, and why does that matter to you?” or “What more can be included in the package to make it a better solution that best serves your needs?” When answered effectively, these questions can help you come up with more productive and on demand solutions.

Recession-Proof Using Design Thinking


You can get your team, employees, and customers together to understand the current processes, particularly to identify the jobs that need to be done and the needs and difficulties of customers. This step can assist in finding out different initiatives that can impact your business. It can improve your present operations that can enhance customer experience or bring new value into your line of products or services. The identified issues can be analyzed further to know if they can offer a positive impact, their feasibility, and the complexity of implementation.

Opportunity Mapping

You can use opportunity mapping in various ways while planning for a recession. Here are some examples:

New Models

You can view the recession period as an opportunity since many industries are retreating. So, you can take this time to expand your strategic business plans. Know that if the traditional mode of function ceases to serve people, then new systems or commodities have the chance to become relevant. You and your team can create an opportunity map to identify the needs of the suppliers, clients and customers and assess their area of importance that has emerged. Then, as other industries are retreating, you can find an opportunity to reframe and extend the traditional things into a new one relevant to the circumstance.

Mixed Scenarios

It is likely that when one business faces a recession, another might get an opportunity to soar to new heights. So, these mixed scenarios view it and create recession-prone business units that can be more impactful. Therefore, you can take the opportunity to map your experience and identify strong and weak points that you can act on when the situation emerges.

Cost Management & Efficiency Gains

Whether or not a recession occurs, cost management and efficiency gains are always on top of the business must do list. However, when a recession occurs, businesses would investigate short-term opportunities while keeping costs at a minimum. Therefore, create an opportunity map focused on the books and related cost improvement chances.

Fail to Plan Equates to Plan to Fail

Even though no planning is perfect, still being prepared for the various circumstances can let you have options available at that moment. For example, if you decide to plan when the recession occurs, it will be too late, and your industry might lose the opportunity for growth and expansion. With Design Thinking tools and systems, you can get hold of various directions and create an impact to survive, thrive, and strengthen your business.


Even during a recession, you can meet the needs of your customers and grow your business. Companies should seek to adopt Design Thinking that can increase exposure time with customers listening, talking, and taking feedback from them. Then incorporate customer feedback through the lens of Design Thinking and ingrain them in producing the right products or services. This process will save time and money and decrease recession induced risks since it will ensure that your products resonate with your customer’s needs no matter what’s going on with the economy.

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