Design Thinking or: How to innovate (un-)structuredly
A short introduction into the why's and how's of one of the most popular innovation methodologies
Innovation is driven by questioning old methods. New ideas are proposed, tried and discussed. This is what Design Thinking is based on: Innovation. It encourages creativity and helps considering alternative solutions rather than repeating the same ways of solving a problem to design a user-centered product.
So what exactly is Design Thinking?
"Design Thinking is an iterative process in which we seek to understand the user, challenge assumptions, and redefine problems in an attempt to identify alternative strategies and solutions..." according to the Interaction Design Foundation.
Therefore this process encourages companies to focus on the people they're creating for, which ensures a more successful and user-friendly product. Since products meeting the users needs are way easier to recognize than the ones that do not, it is in the company's interest to create a human-friendly device or outcome.
Overall Design Thinking will separate the problem identification from the solution creation and provide a foundation for finding the intersection of human desirability, business viability and technical feasibility to iteratively create user centered solutions that will bring value.
The big question: Why?
Through reevaluating the problem and finding a new user-centring definition of it, Design Thinking allows companies and product designers to concentrate on what is most important for users.
The 6 phases
Design Thinking is divided in six non-linear phases, which can occur simultaneously and sometimes it’s even necessary to repeat one of the phases a couple of times.
Phase 1: Empathize
Empathizing with the user is the first step. In order to produce a product, which meets the users' needs, it's important to find out all about the users' pains, desires and goals. For the purpose of getting to know the customers pains, it's necessary to let go of any assumptions or expectations, because you really want to avoid bias.
Phase 2: Synthesize
After getting a deep understanding of the people you're designing the product for, defining the most pressuring problem to solve is the next step. Therefore you need to synthesize the data and insights from your observations and interviews.
Phase 3: Ideate
Once you defined the problems, it's time to brainstorm possible solutions that will solve the customers pain. It's important to think outside the box, to not get stuck with old ideas and to be creative.
Phase 4: Prototype
This phase is about finding the most promising idea and visualizing it. It's not meant to be a finished product. It's rather about not investing too much money or time and getting feedback from the users as soon as possible. This leads to the next phase.
Phase 5: Test
After finishing the prototype, it's unavoidable to seek feedback. Keep in mind, that it's not important whether feedback is positive or negative, it either confirms your hypothesis or indicates that you should start the process again.
Phase 6: Iterate
Depending on the results of the prior phase, you iterate the process with new insights and hypotheses.
Design Thinking is an iterative process which gives significant insights of the users needs and helps developing a user-friendly product. Additionally it's important to remember that these 6 phases are not linear and you might repeat a few of these phases several times before finding a promising solution.
Svea Becke is part of the Data Science team at Design AI, a start-up focusing on agile AI development and use case identification through Design Thinking. She pursues a B.Sc. degree in Information Systems at University of Hamburg, focusing on Statistics and Operations Management. Within Design AI, she is currently following her interests in Interpretable Machine Learning and Lean Start-Up Methodology.