If you’re a business, designer or entrepreneur (or any employee to be honest), your probably no stranger to the constant demand to innovate. Innovation is what gives you the upper hand in your marketplace; it is the key to progress and success.
The global giants are setting standards high, the speed of innovation is soaring, and it’s becoming harder to propel in respective markets. That’s where design thinking comes in.
Design thinking has been acknowledged as the holy grail of innovation for quite some time. It’s a methodology that’s becoming increasingly hard to ignore — it has been used for transforming AirBnB from startup to a billion-dollar business.
In this post, we’ll talk about what design thinking is and what it looks like in action. We will cover off the following topics throughout this article;
- What is design thinking?
- What is the goal of design thinking
- What’s the value of the design thinking process?
- Five principles of the design thinking process
- Design thinking is for everybody
- We can apply design thinking to your complex problems
What is design thinking?
Design thinking combines the problem-solving roots of design with deep empathy for the user. The design-thinking framework helps to understand user behaviours, challenge assumptions, redefine problems and build solutions.
“Design thinking is a human-centred approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” — Tim Brown, president and CEO, IDEO.
We use design thinking to tackle intricate problems and reframe them into ‘what’s important for the users’. It cultivates an outside-the-box approach, with a significant emphasis on creativity, innovation, and user needs.
What is the goal of design thinking
The ideology behind design thinking is to approach the problem from a user’s perspective, and it aims to turn your ideas into tangible, testable products as quickly as possible. It presents a solution-based approach to problem-solving.
We use design thinking in our process to achieve practical results and innovative solutions that are:
- Technical feasibility — can this be brought to life?
- Economically viable — Is the money there to implement it?
- Desirable for the user — Do people need it?
What’s the value of the design thinking process?
Design thinking reduces the uncertainty and risk of innovation by engaging customers or users through various research techniques. It is a proven method that significantly reduces time-to-market and saves a considerable amount on costs. With an emphasis on problem-solving and finding viable solutions, design thinking can reduce the amount of time spent on design and development.
Here are a few benefits of the design thinking process:
1. It pushes you to redefine the problem and seek out the challenge that’s worth solving.
On the whole, we’re programmed to deal with problems as we face them. We rarely go out looking for the issues to understand the bigger picture. Design thinking encourages you to look beyond what you already know and explore the real challenges worth solving.
2. It promotes teamwork and collaboration.
Innovation and solving complex problems get tackled more efficiently in a mixed team of 5 or 6 people. Collaboration encourages a broader spectrum of thinking, ideas and discussions on what is the most favourable outcome.
3. It’s proven to give you a competitive advantage.
Design-led companies have proven to outperform their competition consistently. Design thinking aims to develop solutions, products, or services that are desirable for the user, economically viable for the business and technologically feasible. This approach is a balancing act of aligning user needs with business goals-drive customer engagement and ultimately boosts conversion rate.
Design thinking is the best way to innovate and come up with ground-breaking products. Let’s delve into the five principles of the design thinking process.
Five steps of the design thinking process
We can split the design thinking process into three distinct phases: immersion, ideation, and implementation. However, the design thinking framework can be broken down into five actionable steps:
Step 1: Empathise
During this phase, you should gain an empathetic understanding of the problem you’re trying to solve. This step aims to get a clear understanding of who your users are, what challenges they face, and what they would expect to happen. We can help you engage and observe your target audience by conducting surveys, interviews and observation sessions.
Step 2: Define
Based on what you have learnt from the empathise phase, you then analyse your observations and define a clear problem statement. The problem statement sets out the challenge you will address-it guides the entire design process. During this phase, you should focus on the user’s needs rather than those of the business-a good problem statement is human-centred.
Step 3: Ideate
With a clear problem statement in mind, you’re now ready to generate as many ideas and solutions as you can. It’s important to think “outside the box” and explore different avenues. Focus on the number of ideas during brainstorming sessions, rather than quality at this stage. Why? It will allow the team to think more freely and stumble upon innovative ideas without being too restricted.
Step 4: Prototype
The prototyping phase is experimental, where you can identify the best solutions for each problem found and turn them into prototypes or ‘scaled-down’ versions of the product. This prototyping stage will give you something tangible that can be tested with real users.
Step 5: Test
The purpose of testing your prototypes enables you to see where things work well and where it needs improving. You’ll run testing sessions where you can observe your target users interacting with the prototype. Based on the feedback from testing the prototype, you can quickly make the changes before investing money on developing the solution.
These actions look sequential, but, it’s essential to know that design thinking doesn’t follow a rigidly linear process. At each step in the process, you’re likely to discover problems that require you to go back and repeat earlier steps.
Design thinking is for everybody.
Design thinking techniques and strategies apply to every level of a business. It is not only for designers but also for marketing teams, customer experience teams and company leaders. Adopting a ‘users’ perspective in everything you do will enable your product or service to stand out from your competition.
Design thinking can start small -you don’t need to become a user experience designer to apply design thinking to your work. But, if we could recommend a starting point, it would be to get to know your customers. Gaining customer feedback will help you understand what you’re missing and why your product is not performing to its full potential.
We can apply design thinking to your complex problems
Thinking like a designer can transform the way you develop products, services, processes, and strategies. If you’ve read this article but are unsure where to start, we can help you kickstart a user-centred approach to your products or services.
We can help you dream of wild ideas, test them with your users and be willing to fail early and often before investing thousands into something that doesn’t resonate with your end-users. We can get you set up to be a data-driven machine. You can start to understand whom you are targeting, where your existing problems lie and how to create solutions that bring results.