What is design thinking and why is it important?
Definition and basic steps.
Creative leadership isn’t about leaders simply becoming more creative. It’s about individuals leading for creativity. That means you, as a leader, must unlock the creative potential of people you are working with, no matter the industry. It’s your job to set the conditions for your team to generate, embrace, and execute on new ideas. All this with the help of design thinking.
What is design thinking?
Design thinking is an iterative process with a human-centered approach to innovation, that origin from the designer’s toolkits. Design thinking integrates the needs of stakeholders, technology potential, and opportunities for business success. It enables organizations to create lasting value for employers and end-consumers.
What is design thinking in simple words?
It is a powerful framework for innovation, collaboration, and product/process improvements.
What are the main steps in design thinking
There are many different design thinking methodologies and frameworks (more than 15), but usually, the design thinking process has 5 main steps:
- Empathize - You need to empathize with the whole team in order to understand needs, thoughts, motivations and blockers.
- Define — Analyze and interpret the insights from the first phase (needs and problems), put your insights and suggestions into, and build a blueprint for the next phase.
- Ideate — Brainstorm, challenge assumptions, produce ideas and start generating concepts for potential solutions based on all the prior findings.
- Prototype — Ideas are transformed into a low-fidelity or high-fidelity prototype so we can understand exactly how users will interact with a product. Prototypes are there so you can “experience” solutions in a “low” level (visual product, rather than ideas), as well as to fail quickly and cheaply if the prototype is not good (comparing investing in the development of the product which is a not-validated idea).
- Test/Validate — The testing phase allows you to form a deeper understanding of the users and their interactions with your prototype as well as behavior, feedback, and reactions to the overall design. (and based on user feedback you can validate or discard ideas)
Design thinking is way more than just “workshops.”
A Design Thinking workshop is an activity-based session built around the Design Thinking process. It can last a few hours, full day, two days, or even a full week—it all depends on the team size, context and the workshop goals.
Simplified design thinking steps
In order to get familiar with basic principes, we suggest you to scale-down the design thinking process to 3 main steps:
- Inspiration (emphasizing and defining)
- Ideation & prototyping (innovation & problem solving)
- Implementation (testing and validation).
The “three I” process is exploratory and as such, it is not rigid or sequential. That means you can go back to some previous phase at any time while dealing with the problem.
Each of them contains many processes that lead, step by step, to the completion of one step and moving to the next one. But, as I said, you can always consult any question you need from the previous phase.
1. DESIGN THINKING - INSPIRATION
This step includes the identification and definition of the business problem or the opportunity. The best thing is to answer as many questions as you can and make the problem less confusing and abstract. Here are some examples of questions you can make:
- What is the problem we are trying to solve?
- What are the business opportunities?
- Are there any restrictions or business dependencies?
- What has or could change?
- What do end-users (customers) want?
- What will give us business value?
- What are the technical dependencies?
For this phase you need to create a very comfortable environment for each team member: a very free and pleasant atmosphere, where people will have great psychological security. Holding a curious mindset is a great starting point when you’re leading a team.
2. DESIGN THINKING - IDEATION
Unlock your creative potential! Now when you have the issue you are facing well defined, you can start with the process of brainstorming.
During this process you and your team should investigate the ways you can solve the problem and generate as many ideas as you can. It is very important to have in mind what expected user value and the final user's needs.
When you’ve finished presenting different solutions, you should organize and synthesize the information. You can pick the best ideas with your team, by discussing the flaws and advantages of each one. Then you start to design prototypes, which will help you try out your ideas and communicate them with the external users (people that don’t have to do anything with the process). They will help you understand which idea they see as the most useful solution for the presented problem.
We recommend that prototypes are low-fidelity in order to optimize time and resources.
3. DESIGN THINKING - IMPLEMENTATION
This process includes picking up the best low-fidelity prototype and designing experiences (high-fidelity prototype). Then you start validating concepts with test users (internal stakeholder testing, focus groups, etc) and figuring out what works and what does not. You need to be sure that your product concept has value-proposition for end-users, and that it would be possible to achieve product-market fit. As you gain valuable insights and feedback, you need to go back to the drawing board and improve and adapt your prototype.
What else should you have in mind?
- Mix roles. We suggest blending the team members since the best ideas and initiatives sometimes come from people you are not expecting. (because design thinking really unleash all barriers even at introvert people without initiative and energy)
- Be optimistic. Viewing the whole process from a positive perspective, with an optimistic attitude. Enjoying problem-solving is very important.
- Be a future-oriented - Future-driven approach and consider new trends and emerging technologies in order to think of some disrupting ideas.
- Be experimental and explorative.
- Think agile (Design thinking is compatible with Agile development frameworks)
- Integrative thinking - Find the balance between validity and reliability.