Design Thinking

“Put simply, design thinking is a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.”

– Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO

Design Thinking as a Human-Centered Approach to Innovation

Design Thinking is a mental construct quite separate from that of being a designer, who creates a product within the malleable context of his vision. The design thinker rather is in the search of a solution desirable for a customer that could have validity for others as an innovation for future improvement of the quality of life. Design Thinking attempts to understand the psychology or mindset of the customer. This means that those working on a consumer-oriented project are using empathy to enter into the mind of the customer. Innovation in this context becomes disruptive innovation in that the solution sought for the customer is not found in current products but rather in the search of a unique solution by design thinking, meaning design thinking is fundamentally human-oriented or human centered.

Lenses of focus

Design Thinking approaches the customer’s needs with empathic foresight by assessing the challenge from beginning to end through sensitivity to the desirability of the product on the part of the customer and the technological feasibility of the development of what is desired as well as the viability of the finalized results.

Desirability by the customer must be appreciated by the designer so that both parties can be fully engaged in the project. The needs of the customer must be clearly understood and accepted by the designer for a smooth, workable relationship throughout.

Feasibility is the ground on which the process of a challenge will be built. It is the simple reality of the possibility of getting it done at reasonable cost and effort.

Viability is the long-range understanding that the project will be worth the effort of time and cost once all is said and done. It should be valuable not only for the customer but also for other segments of society. After thoughts or second guessing have no part in the planning and development of any product.

Design Thinking Innovation Process

The three main phases of the design thinking process are INSPIRE, IDEATE, and IMPLEMENT. INSPIRE focuses on the problems and opportunities that motivate the search for a solution. IDEATE involves generating a number of ideas that will shape your final solution. And IMPLEMENT bridges the project room and reality, with a focus on evolving ideas into successful solutions.

Design thinking is an iterative process that aims to understand the users, the challenges faced, and preferences in detail through empathy toward the users. Based on that information, the team working on the product can devise strategies and create solutions, which can only be possible with a detailed level of understanding about their intended consumer base. In other words, design thinking promotes a solution-based approach to solving problems using techniques like brainstorming and questions such as ‘how might we…’, as well as prototyping and testing rather than being product-oriented, while staying aware of their consumers’ demands. This is systematic and logical thinking channeled to the customer.

Empathize (learn about the audience for whom design thinking is engaged)

To better understand the issue, the design thinking group consults subject experts and work the solution as a group to reach deeper comprehension. This stage gains insight into customer needs and sets aside assumptions about the challenge to define the problem and learn how to deal with it. The entire process is an endeavor in empathy that focuses on the needs of the users through this directive process.

Define (construct a point of view that is based on user needs and insights)

Here the group analyses data to clarify the issue gathered from consulting the subject experts and using the tools like brainstorming and questioning outlined in the next stage of ideation.

Ideate (brainstorm and come up with creative solutions)

The group of design thinkers use and analyze the gathered information and ideas to generate logical possible solutions to the issue. In this stage, the group will look for alternative ways to generate solutions. By the end of this stage, the group should have generated many usable ideas from which to choose ones that can be next prototyped.

Prototype (build a representation of one or more of your ideas to show to others)

In this stage, the group will create a number of inexpensive products with specific features, which provides possible solutions to the problem spelled out early in this process. With each prototype, the team explores suggested solutions that could be appropriate resolutions to the challenge. By the end of examining all the prototypes, the team should come up with ‘best models’ for possible production.

Test (return to your original user group and test ideas for feedback)

This stage tests the prototypes to verify that possible solutions have been created to resolve the challenge defined in the first stages of the process. In this stage, the team can make alterations and refinements to the best products, even revising previous information. The team continues its revisions until a solution is finalized to their satisfaction.

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