Design thinking is more than a new angle for marketing your products and services. It is a refreshing and organic methodology through which new products and services are conceived and developed using cognitive, strategic, and practical processes, with a focus on understanding and serving the needs of a targeted or general demographic. Through applying a human-centered approach, development teams see greater success in designing, testing, and deploying new products and services, for the very simple reason that they know better what inspires and motivates their clients and prospects and can design accordingly.
The Five Facets of Design Thinking
Because design thinking is not a linear process, do not think in steps or stages but rather consider the various elements of design thinking as equally valuable facets. You will often find yourself passing back and forth between various facets during your own design thinking process. The beauty of this unstructured process is that you find yourself gravitating to issues, concerns, questions, and ideas naturally. Once you realize a framework isn’t necessary, you find even more creative ideas and positive synergy flowing among your team.
Since understanding the needs and drives of your potential users is central to design thinking, developing the skill of empathy lets you get inside the people who you want to serve and satisfy. This skill is valuable to learn, as you find yourself working less on assumptions and more on actual data about your customer base. When you learn assumptions don’t serve you but rather blind you to the real needs of your prospects and clients, you can open your eyes and heart better to their actual needs, giving you the opportunity to satisfy their wishes.
By getting into the hearts and minds of your prospects, you are better positioned to identify their issues and concerns, so you can summarize them into “problem statements.” This gives your team a clear target and ensures that your goal remains centered on the clients. As you can see, so far no product or service has been suggested, because you are still gathering information and identifying the problem.
You are ready to brainstorm and begin generating ideas, based upon the problems previously defined. This should be an open forum, but there should also be a continuous revisiting of the “Empathize” and “Define” facets to ensure that the team remains on track. This is the perfect time to challenge any remaining assumptions to make certain all eyes are on the customer, not a product or service which is still being imagined.
Once the flurry of ideas settles down and the best ones float to the top, it’s time to start pursuing viable solutions to the identified problems. Remember, this is still experimental, so work on inexpensive solutions, often scaled-down and sometimes in paper prototypes.
This may seem to be the final “stage” of design thinking, but since this is a rigorous process, you will often revisit other facets to redefine some problems previously uncovered. Only when the team is satisfied that results are meeting the needs and wants of the people for whom it is designed is the test considered final and the design process complete.
Four Ways to Master Design Thinking
Mastering design thinking involves skill, which can be easily developed through practice. Here are four methods which will help you hone the design thinking skills you are learning:
Listen, Empathize, and Respond – learning to better listen, empathize, and respond builds greater rapport, trust, and transparency with the people you want to serve
Minimal Prototyping – you can spend lots of money on pretty prototypes, but it’s much better to start with pen and paper before investing heavily in new supplies and materials
Problem-to-Question Conversion – reduce the stress and pressure for a quick solution to a problem by instead turning it into a question, which allows time for a considered and reasoned response
Research – you can’t read the future, but you can get a good reading on likelihoods through research; more importantly, you can learn from past and present experiences through disciplined research, which helps reveal human behaviors, drives, and needs to be served
Mastering design thinking is a journey, not a destination. The above methods will help you refine and strengthen your improving design thinking skills.