In 2009, Airbnb was close to going bust. One of the founders, Joe Gebbia, began to examine the behavior of their ads in New York to find out what was going on. He realized that there was a common pattern in the 40 ads published: the similarity was in the pictures. They weren’t very good, since the owners took them with smartphones, not all the rooms of the homes were shown and those interested had no idea where they were going to live. People were not booking rooms because they couldn’t even actually see what they were paying for.
After realizing what the problem was, they came up with a creative solution with the Design Thinking method: to rent a camera and spend time with the customers in their homes to take good pictures of the houses.
A week after visiting the homes in NY and enhancing the pictures, Airbnb began to turn over twice as much a week and the team realized that they were on the right track. They actually followed the principles of design thinking: empathize, define, design and ideate, prototype and test. Eventually, the company says, meeting customers in the real world was the best way to deal with the problems and come up with smart solutions.Today, Airbnb is one of the successful companies in the tourism sector, with more than 1,500,000 ads in 192 countries and 34,000 cities with a total number of roomers in excess of 40 million.
The Airbnb case study emphasized the importance of taking a human centered approach to problem solving and innovation. At Whiteboard we help companies embrace and implement this approach to their services and strategies.