What is design thinking? Before I explain what it is, let me explain what it isn’t. It’s not something only designers do. Anyone can employ design thinking to achieve better results to any problem.
Design thinking utilizes analysis, empathy, and creativity in a problem-solving process to meet user needs and achieve improved future results.
What makes design thinking so powerful is that the three attributes it requires — analysis, empathy, and creativity — dovetail nicely with the attributes required by end users/consumers — analysis, experience, emotion —when deciding on which product or solution to go with. The same kind of analytical thinking that went into developing the solution is the same kind of rational thinking that consumers use to study the features and weigh the benefits of a product or service. The ability to empathize with the end user is to understand their experiences and how these experiences, both good and bad drive future decision-making. And last, creativity can take the consumer beyond simple understanding and lead them to a strong and memorable emotional connection to a product or solution. This is no minor feat, since research indicates that about 70% of the decision-making process is emotional.
The design thinking process involves the following steps:
1. Define the problem/audience. The better and more specifically the problem and audience is defined, the better the odds of arriving at the correct solution.
2. Do research. Get input from the people involved in the project, and understand what factors created the problem, and collect examples of other attempts to solve the same problem.
3. Generate ideas. Sift through the findings from step 2 and make sure it’s clear what the motivations and needs of the end user are. Starting from this point, generate as many ideas as possible to try to solve these needs — without debating or judging their merits.
4. Review your options. Discuss, combine, refine, modify or ultimately eliminate unworkable ideas. At the end, you should have a selection of ideas worthy of presenting for final consideration.
5. Choose one idea. Set aside any sense of ownership to an idea and select the most powerful idea. Avoid consensus thinking — too often, the most tepid, unmemorable ideas are selected this way.
6. Implement it. Execute the idea and present it to the world.
7. Learn. Gather feedback, measure the results and determine how effectively the solution solved the stated problem, and what, if anything can be done to improve the results.
8. Repeat. Use the lessons learned to refine the solution or to develop new ideas to solve the problem better.
Great solutions shouldn’t be the result of divine inspiration, and with design thinking, it won’t be. Instead, you’ll have a roadmap to better, and more predictable results.