Design Thinking: Key to Airbnb's Success

Design Thinking: Key to Airbnb's Success
Case Code: BSTR554
Case Length: 13 Pages
Period: 2007-2018
Pub Date: 2018
Teaching Note: Available
Price: Rs.400
Organization: Airbnb, Inc.
Industry: Hospitality
Countries: US / Global
Themes: Customer Relationship Management, Service Operations
Design Thinking: Key to Airbnb's Success
Abstract Case Intro 1 Case Intro 2 Excerpts


This case discusses about San Francisco-based hospitality Service Company, Airbnb, Inc., and its growth with the adaptation of a concept called 'Design Thinking'. Airbnb, formerly known as Airbed and breakfast, was an idea conceived by two designers, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia, with the intention of earning a few bucks. Their idea saw a major breakthrough during a major event and the founders started making money. It served as a sharing economy platform allowing people to share their unutilized properties through websites and a mobile app.

In 2009, however, the company witnessed a decline in customer bookings leading to revenue losses. While searching for solutions to address the issue, the founders came up with a process which was not scalable or very technical. Guided only by intuition, the team tried find out what their customers were actually looking for, incorporated the feedback, and upgraded their offers. The effort yielded favorable results and the revenues increased. This unusual solution that saved Airbnb was 'Design Thinking', a design practice which valued the user experience above everything else. This case provides an insight to Design Thinking and the various techniques involved like brainstorming, body storming, prototyping, and testing to arrive at a solution to a problem.


The case is structured to achieve the following teaching objectives:

  • Understand the concept of Design Thinking and appraise its benefits for Startups
  • Examine the role of Design Thinking in product development and innovation
  • Analyze how Design Thinking can help in building a customer-centric organization
  • Evaluate how Design Thinking can be used as a core business strategy
  • Compare Design Thinking with traditional problem solving approaches



Airbnb, Inc., Formation and Growth, Issues, Turnaround, Design Thinking at Airbnb, Startup, Design thinking approach, Innovation economy, Design driven company, Stages of design thinking, Business Process, Product design

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