Can design thinking help you find solutions in unstable environments?
If the pandemic has reinforced one of the bitter truths of life more than ever, it would be the fact that change is a constant (sometimes for the worst) and that we need to stay prepared for what it brings along the way. This past year has made the markets volatile, taking away thousands of jobs, stalling the recruitment process.
The challenge is to adapt to this environment and stay relevant in the ever-changing space. The secret to staying ahead of the curve is constant innovation but that is easier said than done. How do you bring something fresh to the table each time when we have an existing huge body of work that has every idea to ever occur covered?
Well, strange as it may sound, innovation can be engineered through practice. This process has been standardized through Design Thinking – an empathy-driven formula that has become a favorite with entrepreneurs and business gurus alike.
With empathy at its core, Design Thinking is an effective way of crafting human-centric solutions. If you can crack the code to a successful solution, you will by default be able to drive innovation. Businesses around the world are always on the lookout for ideas that are both actionable and effective. Design thinking helps you make innovation a habit and not just an occasional inspiration-induced outcome.
To understand the process of design thinking better, let’s look at the stages and how they all come together to create an iterative design.
Design thinking stages
Design thinking can be divided into five specific stages – empathy, definition, ideation, prototyping, and testing.
Each of these stages hones your ideas further to deliver the perfect solution in the end. We need to remember that since Design Thinking is an iterative process, it gives you ample scope to build on your ideas and craft the best possible result.
Following are the five different stages of Design Thinking:
Design thinking tries to uncover potential solutions that respond to the end-user in unique ways. The Empathy stage encourages you to place yourself in the user’s shoes and react to your product or solution. Think of how they will interact with the service that you are offering. In this stage, you will try to uncover the human experience and enable technology to shape that experience. Empathy allows you to bring out the unique element that your users might be looking for and gives you a chance to stand out in the crowd. While working on a product, you must think ahead and visualize how it addresses your end user. Essentially it’s the idea (and not technology) that is capable of driving innovation.
You can also reach out to SMEs or any e-learning companies like Great learning who does free sessions on Design Thinking to enhance your knowledge and try to apply this design process in your development area.
The best way to start the process is by researching your target audience. The more intel you have on your user, the more customized your solution will be. You can also engage with your target group to understand what they are looking for. Immerse yourself in the physical environment of the product development to understand how the product is intended to interact with the user. When you pair your findings with expert advice, you are more likely to hit the sweet spot.
In the Define stage, you will address one of the core principles of Design Thinking. Since design Thinking aims to solve the ‘wicked’, it is in this stage that you will define it and acknowledge the problem. These ‘wicked’ problems are extremely complicated and are hard to even define. However, it is important to give some shape to the different kinds of interrelated complicated problems that you have set out to solve.
Define the problem by forming a problem statement that captures the intricacies adequately and can be broken down for further analysis. It is not just important to understand what your company or brand wants but also the problems that can be solved and the areas of improvement. Synthesize the information gathered during the empathy stage to define what the user needs.
Ideation is the stage where you get creative. Understand the problem statement and look for clues to come up with potential solutions. Device as many ideas around your problem statement as possible. Focus on the user perspective and identify the missing element to stay right on track with the end goal.
Ideate along the lines of not just what is required but what could be. This is the stage where you do not get tied down with limitations regarding scalability or feasibility – that’s for more later stages to decide. Brainstorming is a very effective way of formulating unique solutions.
The prototyping stage is all about experimentation and elimination. Prototyping helps in understanding user reactions, and expectations from your solution. The goal here is to interact with the idea and identify all the possible roadblocks that could come along the way and figure out the top solutions which are more likely to work.
To validate your idea, you need to get them tested for their effectiveness. The testing stage is all about real users and real data. Testing allows edits, reforms, and other changes to optimize the solution. However, this is often an iterative process where the final solution is crafted after going through all the previous stages of design thinking to ensure only the best solution reaches the user. You can ensure the best outcome only after you have reiterated the process a few times. Without an extensive testing phase, you can’t ensure the possibility of scaling up the solution.
Design Thinking has emerged as a go-to toolkit for business leaders across various industries and this has led to increasing in design thinking job opportunities as well. It is the secret sauce to staying relevant and constant innovation. Use it to your advantage and make the best of your situation.
Story by Ranjitha Sadashiva