What is Design Thinking ?
What comes in to your head when you hear “Design Thinking”? You are probably thinking of a print you’ve seen on your shirt or a well-designed building? Yes! That’s what you need to be thinking of! Do you know how simple life gets when initially visualize your plan? Likewise, we can apply this process to other aspects in our life.
Well, let me first define what design thinking is, it is an iterative approach to problem solving that intentionally seeks out people with different perspectives, knowledge, skills and experience and enables them to work together to create a practical solution for a real-world problem. Different authors have different perspectives to look at this. As an example, Tim Brown,CEO of IDEO, defines this as :
“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”
Design thinking was initially based upon cognitive process. However, today it is not only a cognitive process or a mindset but, has become an effective toolkit for any innovation process connecting the creative design approach to traditional business thinking for planning and problem solving. Organization’s today are looking forward to build strong knitted business relations with their customers by giving their utmost efforts in delivering a quality service. This way, the user-centred approach helps businesses to receive ongoing feedback and help achieve their business objectives.
After all, design thinking is all about iterative prototyping, where you test each idea to evaluate if it results in a solution that will address the customers problem.
End Goal of Design Thinking
Based on the above it is understood that Design Thinking emphasizes on problem solving and finding solutions as its end goal.
Hence, there are three aspects which we, as design thinkers need to focus on when it comes to meeting the end goal, which would also be our successful solution :
In design thinking, we balance these 3 aspects to find the sweet spot of innovation( the intersection).
Design Thinking is for Everybody
The word design thinking itself, makes us presume this is an approach only used by designers.
Is it the actual case? No, this is an approach which can be used throughout various organizations as well as industries. This can also be used by diverse roles including creative employees, freelancers, and leaders who seek to infuse design thinking into every level of an organization, product or service, to drive new alternatives to businesses and society.
Time and time again, leading companies such as Apple, Airbnb, Nike, Starbucks and etc have demonstrated the intrinsic value of “design thinking” as a competitive advantage that impacts the bottom line and drives business growth.
Harvard Business Review cites a 228 % growth of stock performance of design-led companies over the Standard and Poor’s (S&P) Index over the past decade. The UK Design Council finds that 83 % of design-led companies saw market share increase at twice the industry average. Adobe says 50 % of design-led companies reported a relatively more loyal customer base.
How to Use Design Thinking?
Before we move on to the steps in the design thinking process, let us look at the model which the steps have evolved from, so that it would help us connect the dots.
The Double Diamond Design Thinking Model
There are various models which could be used when it comes to simplifying and adapting the design thinking process to your respective projects or companies. However, the most suited and the recommended model would be the “The Double Diamond design model”.
This model has been used since it was officially invented by the British Design Council, back in 2005 and it has evolved throughout the years with additions to it .
Design Council’s Double Diamond clearly conveys a design process to designers and non-designers alike. The two diamonds represent a process of exploring an issue more widely or deeply and then taking focused action. To capture the essentials of the design thinking process and for more clarity, I have come up with an upgraded double diamond model which consists of the below 3 elements.
- Thinking Modes (Convergent thinking and Divergent thinking)
- Stages of Design Thinking model (4 stages)
- Steps of Design Thinking creation process (5 steps)
As it can be seen above, in design thinking a number of possible ideas are created (Divergence) before refining and narrowing down to the best idea (Convergence), and this can be represented by a diamond shape (as above). — the Double Diamond is a simple visual map of the design process.
But the Double Diamond indicates that this process happens twice — First to confirm the problem definition (Problem phase) and then to create the solution (Solution phase). The design thinking creative process would be iterative.
Now, let us go through the above mentioned elements (Thinking modes, Stages & Steps)
Thinking Modes — Convergent Thinking & Divergent Thinking
There are two-folds of thinking modes which we will have to be familiar when it comes to Design Thinking.
Divergent Thinking :
This is the process of thinking that explores multiple possible solutions in order to generate creative ideas. Divergent thinking refers to opening the mind in various directions and trying out multiple solutions for a problem.
Convergent Thinking :
The is the process of figuring out a concrete solution to any problem as opposed to divergent thinking.It’s a straight forward process that focuses on figuring out the most effective answer to any problem, which is accurate most of the time, and no room for ambiguity is left.
Stages in Design Thinking Model :
There are 4 stages in the Design Thinking Model (refer the above model) which would eventually lead to the 5 step design creation process. We as design thinkers need to ensure that we use the appropriate methods and tools in each of these stages to arrive at a concrete solution in the solution phase.
1. Discover Stage
The first diamond helps people understand, rather than simply assume, what the problem is. It involves speaking to people who are affected by the issues and spending time with them.
2. Define Stage
The insight gathered from the discovery phase can help you to define the challenge in a different way.
3. Develop Stage
The second diamond encourages people to give different answers to the clearly defined problem, seeking inspiration from elsewhere and co-designing with a range of different people.
4. Deliver Stage
Delivery involves testing out different solutions at small-scale, rejecting those that will not work and improving the ones that will.
The 5 Step Design Thinking Creation Process
The Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford, commonly known as the d.school, describes design thinking as a five-step process. It’s important to note these steps do not have to be sequential and could be run in parallel and also in an iterative way. These 5 steps could also be seen in the above model. In other words, this is merely a detailed break down of those 4 stages in the diamond model.
1. Empathize -Research Your Users’ Needs
The first stage of the design thinking process allows you to gain an empathetic understanding of the problem you’re trying to solve, typically through user research. In order to create desirable products and services, you need to understand who your users are? what they need? What are their expectations in relation to the product you’re designing? What challenges and pain-points do they face within this context?
During the empathize phase, you’ll spend time observing and engaging with real users (or people who represent your target group) — conducting interviews, seeing how they interact with an existing product, and generally paying attention to facial expressions and body language.
Empathy is crucial to a human-centred design process. Since it allows you to set aside your own assumptions about the world and gain real insight into users and their needs.
2. Define -State Your Users’ Needs and Problems
In the Define stage, you accumulate the information you created and gathered during the Empathize stage. You analyze your observations and synthesize them to define the core problems you and your team have identified so far. Once you’ve synthesized your findings, you’ll formulate what’s known as a problem statement.
A problem statement -sometimes called a point of view (POV) statement -outlines the issue or challenge that you will seek to address.
Therefore, by the end of the define phase, you will have a clear problem statement which will guide you throughout the design process. This will form the basis of your ideas and potential solutions.
3. Ideate -Challenge Assumptions and Create Ideas
By this point, you know who your target users are and what they want from your product. You also have a clear problem statement that you’re hoping to solve. Now it’s time to come up with possible solutions.
Designers are ready to generate ideas as they reach the third stage of design thinking. The solid background of knowledge from the first two phases means you can start to “think outside the box”, look for alternative ways to view the problem and identify innovative solutions to the problem statement you’ve created.
4. Prototype — Start to Create Solutions
A prototype is essentially a scaled-down version of a product or feature — be it a simple paper model or a more interactive digital representation.
The aim of the prototyping stage is to turn your ideas into something tangible which can be tested on real users. This is crucial in maintaining a user-centric approach, allowing you to gather feedback before you go ahead and develop the whole product.
This ensures that the final design actually solves the user’s problem and is a delight to use!
5. Test — Try Your Solutions Out
Designers or evaluators rigorously test the complete product using the best solutions identified in the Prototype phase. This is the final phase of the model but, in an iterative process such as design thinking, the results generated are often used to redefine one or more further problems. Designers can then choose to return to previous stages in the process to make further iterations, alterations and refinements to rule out alternative solutions.
As I have detailed the 5 step creation process, I believe the video below would help you connect all 5 steps visually and help you understand how you can execute it practically in your respective organization or project.
What can design thinking do for your business?
Design thinking enables organizations to create great value for the end consumers. As explained, this approach can be used in any complex systems or by people from all disciplines because it:
1. Facilitates meeting customer requirements effectively
As Design Thinking involves prototyping, all the products at the MVP (Minimum viable product) stage will go through multiple rounds of testing and customer feedback for assured quality.
With a proper design thinking approach in place, you will most likely meet the client expectations as your clients are directly involved in the design and development process.
2. Higher Shareholder Value & ROI
Delivering successful products to market faster ultimately saves the business money.
Design Thinking has been proven to yield a significant return on investment. For example, certain teams that are applying IBM’s Design Thinking Practice, have calculated an ROI of up to 300%.
Design Management Institute, in its study on design thinking, discovered that design oriented firms such as Starbucks, Steelcase, and Walt Disney outperformed S&P index by 224% over a 10-year period from 2002.
“Design thinking helps you seek a balance between intuition and analytics, between exploration and exploitation, between reliability and validity, and between art and science” — Roger Martin
3. Improves customer retention and loyalty
Design Thinking ensures a user-centric approach, which ultimately boosts user engagement and customer retention in the long term.
It is a well-known fact that emphasis on design was a significant factor in Apple’s success.
Enterprise IT teams indeed, has a great opportunity to improve the design of their products and convert customers and users into a loyal base.
4. Fosters innovation
Design Thinking is all about challenging assumptions and established beliefs, encouraging all stakeholders to think outside the box.
This fosters a culture of innovation which extends well beyond the design team.
When cross-disciplinary teams collaborate to solve a problem, they tackle the problem from different perspectives leading to an innovative solution.
In order to innovate, it is necessary to learn what your people’s needs are? At the intersection of people’s needs, technological feasibility, and business viability, design thinking empowers you to create innovation opportunities.
Design Thinking Success Stories
It was already pointed out that this particular model could be used across diverse industries and organizations. Now, let’s see how the big names have succeeded adopting this approach.
The value of Design Thinking is hard to measure and define as part of a business strategy. However, there are statistics out there that show the positive impact made by Design Thinking within organisations. One such statistical data is the Design Value Index. This was calculated in a study conducted by The Design Management Institute.
Design Value Index : The Index stated below tracked the value of publicly held companies that met specific design management criteria, and monitored the impact of their investments in design on stock value over a ten-year period, relative to the overall S&P Index
The below results shows that over the last 10 years design-led companies have maintained significant stock market advantage, outperforming the S&P by an extraordinary 200 +%.
Despite the staggering stats, maybe its time that we take a look at the individual success story of few organizations from the above list.
1. Apple Inc.
Why are Apple products different from their competitors’ products? How does Apple manage to achieve innovation in its product families?
Apple makes no secret of what drives everything that happens inside its massive compound in Cupertino, California. In one recent interview, Tim Cook said :
‘’Our products are all about the people who use them. What drives us is making products that give people the ability to do things they couldn’t do before.’’ — Tim cook (CEO, Apple Inc)
Surely, user focus is what many companies purport as the driving force behind its operations. But Apple not only talks the talk, but walks the talk in this regard. The company puts a premium effort on Design Thinking in all of its products. That starts with figuring out what customers really want, developing products based on identified needs, and then creating prototypes and testing them to see how successful they are.
For example, Apple’s operating system was built by focusing on what consumers wanted and then figuring out how to achieve it on the technical side.
Certainly, this human-centred approach has led Apple to become one of the worlds largest tech giants and its success surely indicates how much of an impact design thinking has made in its journey.
Think Different !
2. Nike, Inc.
Nike struggled to become a prominent brand amongst the skateboarding community. They struggled to gain the same level of support given to brands like DC and Globe.
Nike decided to engage skate borders. During conversations with skateboarders, they examined what the community was looking for in a skateboard company and also attitudes towards Nike. As a result of this approach, the team gained a better overall understanding of the needs and wants of the skateboarding community.
Nike released the Nike Dunk SB after applying learning from their customer engagement along with including skateboard insiders in their design team. Since releasing its Nike SB line of shoes, Nike has experienced tremendous success within the skateboarding culture.
And with all Nike became one of the most successful athletic brands in the world. It was no rocket science but a simple user focused approach. Today, Nike stands here :
Just Do It!
I believe this article helped you to gain certain basic insights about the core concept of Design thinking !
Thanks for reading this article! Leave a comment below if you have any questions. Furthermore, please feel free to follow The Creative Consultant publication in medium.com, to get the latest and trending stories on Innovative consulting models and Trends. You may also request to write for the publication if interested.
Atheek Razick is currently serving as a Business Consultant & Product owner at TIQRI Corporation Limited. TIQRI is a global technology and development company with a focus on digitization and Innovative technologies.Prior to this , He also worked as a Lead Business Analyst at leading IT companies such as Accenture Plc and Virtusa Corporation.
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