The design-thinking ideology asserts that a hands-on, user-centric approach to problem-solving can lead to innovation, and innovation can lead to differentiation and competitive advantage. This hands-on, user-centric approach is defined by the design-thinking process and comprises 6 distinct phases.
Design Thinking Process Overview
- Empathize: Conduct research in order to develop knowledge about what your users do, say, think, and feel.
- Define: Combine all your research and observe where your users’ problems exist. In pinpointing your users’ needs, begin to highlight opportunities for innovation.
- Ideate: Brainstorm a range of crazy, creative ideas that address the unmet user needs to be identified in the define phase. Give yourself and your team total freedom; no idea is too farfetched and quantity supersedes quality.
- Prototype: Build real, tactile representations for a subset of your ideas. The goal of this phase is to understand what components of your ideas work, and which do not. In this phase, you begin to weigh the impact vs. feasibility of your ideas through feedback on your prototypes.
- Test: Return to your users for feedback. Ask yourself ‘Does this solution meet users’ needs?’ and ‘Has it improved how they feel, think, or do their tasks?’
- Implement: Put the vision into effect. Ensure that your solution is materialized and touches the lives of your end-users.
Why should we introduce a new way to think about product development? There are numerous reasons to engage in design thinking, enough to merit a standalone article, but in summary, design thinking achieves all these advantages at the same time:
- It is a user-centred process that starts with user data, creates design artefacts that address real and not imaginary user needs, and then tests those artefacts with real users.
- It leverages the collective expertise and establishes a shared language and buy-in amongst your team.
- It encourages innovation by exploring multiple avenues for the same problem.
- Flexibility, Adapt to Fit Your Needs.
- Scalability, Think Bigger.
In essence, the Design Thinking process is iterative, flexible and focused on collaboration between designers and users, with an emphasis on bringing ideas to life based on how real users think, feel and behave.
Design thinking tackles the complex problem by:
- Empathising: Understanding the human needs involved.
- Defining: Re-framing and defining the problem in human-centric ways.
- Ideating: Creating many ideas in ideation sessions.
- Prototyping: Adopting a hands-on approach in prototyping.
- Testing: Developing a prototype/solution to the problem.