What is design thinking?

Is design thinking right for your business…

One of the next generation business problems is making people’s lives easier. This is prevalent more than ever in creating a positive user first experience for your customers.

Nowadays, business will lose customers the moment they make life hard for them. In your own personal life how many times have you half filled out a contact form, abandoned a shopping cart or left that subscription tab open because it was too damn hard to complete?!

No longer can businesses expect customers to expend great effort. If this does occur, a competitor will come along and make life a lot simpler for that customer, causing that business to lose out. Everyone has had a problem when engaging with business of all sizes. Fixing experiences can be achieved with design thinking.

A design mind set is not problem-focused, its solution focused and action oriented. Involving both analysis and imagination.

So, what is design thinking?

Design thinking put simply is about problem solving. Solving problems in a creative way, however, not like it was a few years ago. Design has changed, design is not about aesthetic application. It is more about social engagement & strategic process.

Let’s break it down. 

Designing is more than creating a product or service, it can be applied to procedures, system, protocols and customer experiences. Times are changing and design is transforming the way leading companies are creating value. The focus of innovation has changed from being engineer-driven, to design-driven, from product- centric, to customer-centric and lastly from marketing-focused to customers-focused. This is why user first experiences are becoming more important than ever.

The 5 stages of design thinking

Design thinking is a five stage process

Design thinking can be broken down into five different stages – Empathise, Define, Ideate, Prototype and test. It is important to note that these stages are not always in chronological order

Stage 1: Empathise – Research your customers needs

The preliminary stage of the design thinking process is to gain an empathetic understanding of the problem you are trying to solve. The word empathy is really really important. Empathy is crucial to a human-centred design process. This approach allows you to step aside from your own assumptions and beliefs and really put yourself into your customer’s shoes.

Stage 2: Define – What are your customer’s needs and problems

In this stage, you can use the preliminary and secondary research you have found from stage one to analyse your findings. Through analysing and synthesising your observations you should be able to identify key findings/core problems that your users are facing. 

Stage 3: Ideate – Challenge beliefs and develop ideas 

Now that you have the research and identified the problems it’s time to start thinking outside the box. Continually look for alternative ways to view the problem and identify innovative solutions to the problems you highlighted in stage two.

Stage 4: Prototype – Begin creating solutions

This is very much an experiential phase, with the aim being to create the best possible solutions for each and every problem identified by the previous three stages. Design teams will aim to create inexpensive, scaled down versions of the product or system that will address the problem.

Stage 5: Test  – Try out your solutions

Designers will rigorously test the complete product using the best solutions identified in the earlier phases. This may be the final stage, however, in an iterative process such as design thinking, the results generated are often used to redefine one or more further problems. A designer may choose to return to an earlier stage in the process to make further adjustments, alterations and refinements to rule out alternative solutions.

How design thinking is not always in order

Why is design thinking important?

Design thinking is one of our best tools for sense-making, to put it simply, making a simplifying process and improving the all round customer experience. Additionally, design thinking can minimise risk, reduce costs and improve communication and speed. This way of thinking provides leaders with a framework for addressing complex human-centred challenges and making the best most informed decisions  concerning:

  • Reinventing business models
  • Changing markets and behaviours
  • Redefining value
  • Organisational cultural change
  • Complex societal issues
  • Problems around diverse stakeholders.

How can you apply design thinking to your business?

Design thinking can be applied to many businesses of all sizes, the trick is to start small and teach others about the mindset and then practice executing each of the five phases.

So start small. Create small experiments that will allow your team to practice gathering data, testing frequently, and iterating quickly. 

Design thinking day in day out improves the world around us because of its ability to create ground breaking solutions in a disruptive and innovative way.