Design Thinking as a strategy for Innovation

I have been fortunate to be able to do what I am passionate about in my work here in Hong Kong. I want to share what design thinking is and how it can help you do things differently. Please note that I am no expert in the topic and I have tried my best to give credit for ideas that aren’t mine.

What is design thinking?

Design thinking is a methodology. Nothing super fancy. Like many methodologies that exist, it’s just one of the ways to approach a given challenge.

What distinguishes this approach is that it is solution, not problem, focused. This is an important distinction because design thinking is always focused on the future client/consumer. This approach is also evidence backed and relies little on intuition. To understand this better, it is beneficial to understand abductive reasoning.

Source: Google images

Abductive reasoning

I came across this amazing article by Caerid about abductive reasoning. I will borrow examples and summarize it here but I highly encourage you to read it!

Deductive reasoning

Deductive reasoning is the simplest form of reasoning. Chris is a dog. All dogs can bark. Therefore, Chris can bark. In deductive reasoning, the conclusion is always true when the premises are true.

Inductive reasoning

Inductive reasoning weighs in our experiences. Every dog I’ve seen has a tail. Therefore, the next dog that I see will have a tail. As this example illustrates, inductive reasoning gives us a likelihood that the conclusion will be true. It tells us how weak or strong our conclusion is.

Abductive reasoning

Unlike the above two, abduction is the act of sense-making and the process of serendipity. When it rains, the grass gets wet. The grass is wet, so it may have rained… (this is a fallacy if taken as absolute and deductive). Abductive reasoning involves working out the best explanations given the circumstances, and given the experiences of the reasoner. It is an analogical process. Deductive reasoning can be measured by validity and soundness; inductive reasoning can be measured by strength/likelihood; abductive reasoning is unique because two different reasoners can abduce two different answers.

Design vs. Design Thinking

“It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”
 — Steve Jobs

Many people confuse design with design thinking. While there isn’t one definition for design, there is one for design thinking. Professor John Heskett, the former Dean and Professor of design at Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s School of Design, defines design as follows:

Design thinking, on the other hand, can be illustrated by the following diagram:

Source: Nielsen Norman Group

Design thinking in my work at The Wørkshop

Due to confidentiality reasons, I am not able to share my work in detail publicly but I will briefly describe the projects where I used this process.

  1. While creating wireframes for a consumer survey iPad application, I employed this approach to design the various prototypes of the application. The application was used for an internal brand launch and was targeted towards company employees.

2. My fellow intern and I used design thinking to create user personas for creating the Wørkshop’s social media strategy. Using this method of reasoning, we were able to define our target users and capture their preferred social media platforms. We also won the Rockstar award for our work. The Rockstar award is given to individuals for going above and beyond what was expected of them.

How this ties into innovation

Source: Central Office of Design

Design thinking allows us to better define the problem statement and attain the single most important component of growth for most organizations in today’s economy: Innovation.

How we define innovation can differ.

Innovation could be this:

Source: Google Images

or could be this:

Source: Google Images

However we define it, design thinking makes it easier to achieve.

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