Design thinking is a solution-based approach to problem-solving when creating new products, features, or tackling problems that are ill-defined or unknown.
Many great innovators and leaders (read: not just designers) in art, science, engineering, literature, and business have used the design thinking framework in some fashion to drive new alternatives for business and society. Many innovative brands are using design thinking as a process for creative problem solving as well.
What is Design Thinking?
Design thinking in its simplest form is an iterative process in which a company seeks to deeply understand the user, question assumptions, and redefine problems. Doing so can help with identifying different strategies and solutions that might not be instantly apparent based on an initial level of understanding.
Design thinking is human-centered and revolves around a collective team broadening their understanding of the people they are designing solutions for continuously, which leads to better products and services.
The 5 Phases of Design Thinking
Design thinking consists of 5 phases:
As you go through the process, it is important to note that the steps do not always follow a sequential order due to learnings realized during the journey. For example, a discovery made during the testing phase may uncover a new user “issue” which was not identified initially.
Getting to know your customers, trying to understand their problems, and uncovering their needs is the foundation of the human-centered design thinking process.
It is critical that you put aside your own assumptions and observe, engage, and empathize with users to help quantify issues that need solving. Interviews, focus groups, and surveys are a few ways you can gather the necessary information.
After synthesizing the information gathered during the empathize stage, you distill your findings into focused problem statements. It is normal as part of the design thinking process to re-frame core problem statements as more information is discovered. This will help you ensure that you are addressing the right challenges.
During this stage, you and your team should be ready to start generating ideas to solve the defined problem statement(s) using ideation techniques like sketching or brainstorming. The team should feel empowered to be creative when identifying solutions, pushing past obvious solutions, and think outside the box.
Using your most promising ideas generated during the ideation stage, it is now time to create an inexpensive and simple version of potential solutions to quickly determine if they address the defined problem statement.
A prototype is simply bringing an idea to life in a tangible form. This can be I the form of a storyboard with sticky-notes, sketches, a basic software app, or a physical object, to name a few.
Creating a prototype will help gather insights at a deeper level (and think about solutions from a different perspective), help your team come up with new ideas, and more likely than not, fail quickly and cheaply.
Testing your prototypes and getting feedback on your solutions is the last “stage”. It too is an iterative process. You refine solutions to make them better using real end-user feedback by seeing what does and does not work. Simultaneously, you learn more about your users.
Through testing your prototype, you can gather insights that re-define the problem statement or spur completely new ideas. Effective testing will enable you to scale from low fidelity to high-fidelity solutions quickly.
# Purpose and Benefits of Design Thinking
At its core, the intended purpose of design thinking is to improve products by analyzing how users interact with them and investigating the conditions in which they operate. When done well, design thinking will help you:
- Understand the mindsets and needs of the users you’re creating for,
- Discover opportunities based on these needs, and
- Lead you to innovative new solutions starting with quick, scrappy experiments that provide learning and gradually increase in fidelity to the final product.
Author — Pritom Paul, DLT Labs™
About the Author: Pritom is an experienced business analyst and product management professional who has worked on delivering global enterprise products, FinTech transformations, and innovative blockchain solutions. He enjoys staying abreast of current technological advancements and helping clients solve challenging problems. He is a Toronto Raptors fan and a classic car enthusiast.