The world is full of problems that need to be solved such as diseases, climate change, poverty and small annoyances that can impact our daily lives. For many organizations, problems sometimes can give rise to new business opportunities. Especially when they are able to produce innovative product or solution which solves a common problem that are affecting the majority.
High-performing and competitive companies, are usually the ones that have mastered the process and method of designing and creating innovative solutions or products repeatedly. Although everyone knows about it, but in this fast-changing business environment the process of designing and creating something new is not as easy as it seems, and it is usually where companies stumble. Most companies design and create products based on past data which doesn’t actually tell what the customers really want or make risky bets based on instinct rather than experimental evidence.
One of the most effective problem-solving methods is known as Design Thinking. The problem-solving framework encourages people to explore alternative and creative design options that are entirely new and at the same time focuses on the needs of the users to avoid designing something that is redundant. The method consists of a simple 5-step process that will help users understand the overall perspective of a particular problem and assist them to develop better and innovative solution.
The first stage of the Design Thinking process is to gain emphatic understanding of the problem that we are trying to solve. This stage, emphasizes on developing deep understanding of the target audience for whom we are designing the products or solutions for, typically through user interview and research. It is crucial to focus on empathy in this process as it allows us to exclude our own assumptions of the problem, in order to gain accurate insights of the users and their needs.
At this stage the focus is on defining the problem. Once you have gathered the interview and research information in the previous stage, you can then start to analyze your observations and synthesize them to develop a problem statement. It is very important to frame the problem statement in a user-centered manner, rather than saying “we…”, phrase it in terms of the target audience example “the students in the class…”.
Only with well-founded understanding of the target audience and a clear problem statement in mind, then we can proceed to the Ideate stage. This stage is often where design thinkers enjoy the most, as it is where creativity happens. There are many ways to facilitate or encourage ideation in this process such as brainstorming, roleplay scenarios, mind mapping and many more. It is up to the team to decide which works best for them, but it is important to point out that this stage should be judgement-free to allow the team to think outside the box to explore new options and alternatives.
Once the team has managed to narrow it down to a few ideas to proceed with, then we can start this experimental phase. The design team will develop inexpensive and scaled down versions of the product or solution which will only need just enough features in order to test them. The prototypes may be accepted, redesigned and sometimes completely rejected depending on the test performance.
After the prototype stage, comes the testing stage. This stage is where the team should rigorously test the product. Although this is the final stage of the entire design thinking process, however in reality almost all the time the test results will require the team to make alterations and refinements or even to redefine the problems and repeat the process again to develop the ideal solution or product that they have intended to create. The figure below best illustrates the Ideate-Prototype-Test process loop that is very common in practice.
Since its inception the Design Thinking method has been rapidly adopted by entrepreneurs and organizations globally. Besides being an effective tool, the process provides a design method that is in unified language which is extremely useful for multidisciplinary collaboration, especially for multinational companies where a single project can usually involve many different departments or even affiliates from different countries.
If you are curious about Design Thinking and would like to know how it has helped organizations solve existing problems and create more happy customers, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or click here for to find out more about the Design Thinking course!