One of the most significant benefits of design thinking is that it helps leaders envision how they want their company to be in the future without being constrained by current realities or past successes. This innovative perspective allows for new possibilities and leads to more quantifiable results and better customer satisfaction and engagement because these insights are often based on actual needs.
Nowadays, it isn’t uncommon to find design thinking taught at well-known universities such as Stanford University or Harvard Business School; but what exactly does design thinking entail? Let’s break down its components so you can get started with your own!
Design thinking is the art of solving problems creatively and innovatively. Designers can help us extract, teach, learn and apply these human-centered techniques to solve any problem, from designing an object or business strategy to how we interact with one another.
What is Design Thinking?
Design Thinking is a process in which one challenges assumptions and redefines problems to find alternative strategies. The goal of the design thinking method is to consider others’ perspectives with an open mind, then work towards finding solutions that might not be readily apparent at first glance.
The process starts with a deep interest in understanding the people we’re designing products or services. It helps us develop empathy by observing and questioning. Design Thinking questions everything, including what problem needs solving, assumptions about how to solve it, and implications that will follow from our decision-making process
Design Thinking helps tackle problems that don’t have any defined and known parameters. Instead, with Design Thinking, you explore the problem in a human-centric way by brainstorming many ideas then creating prototypes or sketches to test them out; this process of continual experimentation helps lead to an effective solution.
Design Thinking´s Phases
The Design Thinking process has many variants, some of which have 3-7 different stages. However, they all embody the same principles that Nobel Prize laureate Herbert Simon first described in The Sciences of the Artificial back in 1969.
The Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford, more commonly known as d.school, is the leading institute in applying and teaching design thinking to a wide range of industries based on their 5 phase model, which they described with these phases:
The five phases, stages, or modes are not always sequential. They can happen in parallel and have repeated iterations. Since the process is often iterative, you should think about it as an overview of the various ways that innovation happens rather than a step-by-step guide to how things go down when innovating for work.
The 5 Stages of The Design Thinking Process
The Design Thinking process begins by understanding the problem. This includes consulting with experts and immersing yourself in the physical environment to better understand the issue at hand. Without empathy, Design Thinking would not be as successful because it is the only way to set aside assumptions and gain insight into users and their needs.
The goal of this stage is to gather as much information about the user and their needs. This includes creating surveys, talking with users in person or over a phone line, observing people using similar products, etc.
2. Define (the problem)
The Define stage is the time to put together all of your findings and observations from the Empathize process. Then, you’ll analyze what you’ve been able to find out so far, synthesizing it into a problem statement that’s based on a human-centered manner.
In this stage, the designers will research and develop ideas for features that could solve user problems. One way they can do this is by asking questions like “What are some potential solutions?” or “Is there a better solution to our problem than what we have now?”.
During the third stage of Design Thinking, designers are ready to start generating ideas. You’ve grown to understand your users and their needs in the Empathise step; you’ve analyzed and synthesized your observations from the Define stage into a human-centered problem statement that reflects how people live day by day with those issues.
Brainstorming and Worst Possible Idea sessions are great tools for the beginning stages of problem-solving. They help with creativity, new ideas, expanding our understanding of a difficult situation or task at hand. It’s essential to get as many ideas out there during these brainstorming sessions because you never know what will work!
Ideation is an essential part of any creative process – from product development to art creation; it always starts somewhere, if not everything (even when discussing something like coming up with your next conversational topic). Brainstorms inspire by throwing all sorts of crazy thoughts into the mix that might eventually lead us down some path towards whatever goal we have set ourselves on achieving course. Of course, the worst possible scenario can also be used as input.
It would be best if you got as many ideas or solutions to solve a problem in the Ideation phase and pick other techniques by the end of it so you can find out which one is best.
After a product or specific feature is conceptualized, it may be necessary to design many scaled-down versions of the final production. These prototypes are then explored and tested for possible solutions with different components being linked together.
Prototypes might be shared within the team and other departments outside that original department to identify which solution will work best. This phase can also include testing on small groups who were not involved during any previous stages to get an unbiased opinion about what works best.
By the end of this stage, you’ll have a better idea if your product will work for customers and what needs to be changed.
A critical component of the design process is to test different solutions and see which works best. Testing at this stage will often lead designers back into earlier stages to redefine problems or better understand users, needs, desires, feelings, etc.
The evaluators test the prototypes to see which is most effective, and then they proceed with total production if it has no flaws or constraints.
Examples of Design Thinking in Action
What is design thinking, and how can we apply it in our own lives? Let’s take a look at five examples of how this innovative process has impacted companies worldwide.
Netflix is an entertainment company that has been blazing its path for the last few decades. They are one of the most prominent players in this industry, and they have innovative design thinking to thank for their success so far.
Their business centers around personalized content delivery, which means they use a powerful recommendation engine to serve users with engaging media while staying focused on what makes them unique: customer satisfaction through personalization.
This dynamic approach shows how Netflix constantly improves upon their original idea by leveraging innovations and techniques over time; it’s something we can expect from them from now on as well!
The article “How Design Thinking Transformed Airbnb from a Failing Startup to a Billion Dollar Business,” published in First Round Review, outlines how the famed startup went from $200 profit per week to what it is today.
Airbnb was born out of necessity when Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky struggled to pay rent in San Francisco. They saw an opportunity for a hospitality revolution once they put up their first iteration of the service but had one problem that needed solving: researching users’ travel preferences.
Young millennials are educated, financially stable, and want to stay in a comfortable environment; Airbnb found that appealing to these affluent customers with unique experiences instead of hotel guests on its site became more popular than ever before! Now you can rent a space from locals worldwide on this platform which has become a traveling agent!
IBM, one of the world’s largest corporations and global companies, has seen a 301% ROI by banking on design thinking. Designing for user experience is something that IBM takes seriously—they have their internal design team to ensure everything they do aligns with this philosophy.
To promote innovation outside of just production processes and product development cycles (aka “the way things are done around here), an open toolkit was created to give everyone opportunities for growth through creativity and new ideas–even if you’re not technically minded or from a technology background!
The UberEATS team has a design thinking mindset that allows them to offer food in cities worldwide. One of their top takeaways from this article is how there’s no “one size fits all” way for everyone. It takes empathy with your customer base to make any progress addition; the company is committed to understanding its products and the places where they are sold.
Bank of America
Bank of America has a history in design thinking, going back to their partnership with IDEO. They ultimately rolled out the Keep The Change program, which solved an issue that customers had been facing for years: rounding up on checks and not saving any money! This initiative came from research done by IDEO, where they found savers were intentionally doing this, but there was no way for them to easily keep track of it all or use those funds elsewhere- until now.
“Empathy is at the heart of design. Without the understanding of what others see, feel, and experience, design is a pointless task”.TIM BROWN
What has changed about the way we think and design? Design thinking does not just understand what customers want at a particular moment in time. It also understands how their needs will evolve as they continue to use your product or service. Design thinking is the art of solving problems creatively and innovatively. Designers can help us extract, teach, learn and apply these human-centered techniques to solve any problem, from designing an object or business strategy to how we interact with one another daily.
This article has been designed for you to quickly understand what design thinking is in a simple yet comprehensive overview and explore some examples of when it might be most useful. We hope that this blog post was helpful! If so, please share it on social media and sign up below to receive more content like this by email every month!