What is design thinking, and why is it essential? An overview of the six phases of the thinking process. Innovation results from doing a practical, user-centric approach to problem-solving, and innovation can lead to differentiation and competitive advantage. We are encountering more and more challenges that traditional, linear approaches cannot solve. Problems cannot be solved with the same reasoning that created them. To create a more appropriate solution, the problem must be redefined.
Design Thinking should not only be learned, you should also experience it. It works based on the needs of users and stakeholders. Assumptions and prejudices are tested directly in practice, resulting in innovative solutions that are sustainable, go along with the continuous changes, and are supported by all stakeholders. Design thinking helps you find that sweet spot for users and the business owner.
Definition: Design thinking is a process for solving problems with a user-centric approach. It prioritizes the consumer's needs above all else and depends on empathic observation of how people interact with their environments, and employs an iterative, hands-on approach to creating innovative solutions.
The design-thinking framework follows an overall flow of 1. Understand 2. Explore 3. Materialize Within these groups fall the 6 distinct phases: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test, Implement.
Conducting research to develop an understanding of what users do, say, think and feel.
Imagine your goal is to improve the experience of your booking system for your users. In the Empathise phase, you talk to a couple of actual users. Directly observe what do, think, and want. Finding out ‘what motivates or discourages users?’ or ‘where do they experience frustration?’ The goal is to gather enough information from the observation that you can truly begin to empathize with your users and their perspectives.
Combine all the information from the research and observe where the users’ problems exist. In pinpointing your users’ needs, you can begin to highlight opportunities for innovation.
Consider the booking example again. In the define phase, use the data gathered in the empathize phase to create insights. Analyze your observation data to define the core problems you have identified up to this point. Defining the problem and problem statement must be done in a human-centered manner. Is there a common pain point across many different users? Identify unmet user needs.
You’ve grown to understand your users and their needs in the Empathize stage, and you’ve analyzed your observations in the Define stage to create a user-centric problem statement. With this solid background, brainstorm a range of crazy, creative ideas that address the unmet user needs to be identified in the define phase.
At this phase, bring your team members together and sketch out many different ideas. There are hundreds of ideation techniques you can use—such as Brainstorm, Brainwrite, Worst Possible Idea, and SCAMPER. Give yourself and your team total freedom; no idea is too farfetched and quantity supersedes quality. Then, have them share ideas with one another, mixing and remixing, building on others' ideas.
Build real, tactile representations for a subset of your ideas. These prototypes can be shared and tested within the team itself, in other departments, or on a small group of people outside the design team.
In this phase, you begin to weigh the impact vs. feasibility of your ideas through feedback on your prototypes.
Make your ideas tactile. If it is a new booking system page, draw out a wireframe and get feedback internally. Change it based on feedback, then prototype it quickly. Then, share it with another group of people.
By the end of the Prototype stage, the design team will have a better understanding of the product’s limitations and the problems it faces. They’ll also have a clearer view of how real users would behave, think and feel when they interact with the end product.
Return to your users for feedback. The ultimate goal is to get as deep an understanding of the product and its users as possible. Put your prototype in front of real customers and verify that it achieves your goals.
Has the users’ perspective during booking improved? Does the new webpage page increase time or money spent on your site? You can now proceed with further iterations and make alterations and refinements to rule out alternative solutions.
Put the vision into effect. Ensure that your solution is materialized and touches the lives of your end users.
This is the most important part of design thinking, but it is the one most often forgotten. Design thinking does not free you from the actual design doing. It’s about taking an idea in your head, and transforming that idea into something real. And that’s always going to be a long and difficult process. As impactful as design thinking can be for an organization, it only leads to true innovation if the vision is executed. The success of design thinking lies in its ability to transform an aspect of the end user’s life.
Design thinking achieves all these three advantages:
-It is a user-centered process that starts with user data, creates design solutions that address real and not imaginary user needs, and then tests those solutions with real users.
-It develops collective expertise and indicates a shared common language amongst your team.
-It encourages innovation by exploring multiple avenues for the same problem. Design thinking unfetters creative energies and focuses them on the right problem.
It is crucial to remember that the six design thinking stages are not always sequential. They don't have to happen in a certain order, and they frequently take place simultaneously or repeatedly. Rather than being thought of it as sequential phases, the stages should be seen as various modes that contribute to an overall design project.
As shown in the diagram below, each phase is intended to be repetitive and cyclical rather than rigidly linear. After a first prototype is created and tested, it is essential to go back to the two understanding steps of empathizing and defining. This is due to the fact that you cannot obtain an accurate representation of your design until wireframes are prototyped and your concepts are realized.
In the define phase, for instance, different team members will have different backgrounds and expertise, and consequently different approaches to problem identification. Spending a significant amount of time in the define phase getting the team on the same page is common. If there are difficulties getting buy-in, repetition is required. The results of each stage should be reliable enough to act as a guideline for the remaining steps and guarantee that you don't veer off course.