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Introduction to Design Thinking
Abir Banerjee

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the term ‘Design Thinking’? For a lot of people the term is met with confusion. Is design thinking only for professional designers? Do I have to know Photoshop? And what exactly are the benefits of design thinking?  

Read on to know what is design thinking in simple terms and  how to approach design thinking. 

What is design thinking?

First and foremost, design thinking is a mindset. It is an approach used for practical and creative problem-solving that is human-centered. It gets its name because it relies heavily on the methods and processes that designers use, but it has actually evolved from inputs from multiple different fields including engineering, business, and architecture. The good news is that design thinking is a process that can be applied to any field, not necessarily just those that are design-specific. 

Thinking like a designer can transform the way organizations develop products, services, processes, and strategy. This methodology is most useful to tackle problems that are difficult to define or the exact details are not known. Teams use design thinking to understand users, challenge assumptions, redefine problems, focus on solutions that they then test and prototype. 

What is the design thinking process and how can I use it? 

Innovation doesn’t always come easily and that’s where design thinking steps in. Design thinking has been considered the holy grail of innovation—and the remedy to stagnation. It has been credited with remarkable results, most famously for transforming Airbnb from a failing startup to a billion-dollar business.

There are 5 steps in the design thinking framework: Empathise, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test. Let’s dive into each step of the process: 

  1. Empathise
    During this step, your main agenda is to engage and observe your target audience - to paint a clear picture of who your end users are, what challenges they face, and what are their needs and expectations. This step allows design thinkers to set aside their own assumptions about the world in order to gain insight into users.

    This step typically involves conducting interviews, surveys, and discussions sessions.

  2. Define
    Based on what you’ve learned in the empathize phase, the next step is to define a clear problem statement. The resulting problem statement should be captured in human-centered terms rather than focused on business goals. For example, instead of setting a goal to increase signups by 5%, a human-centered target would be to help busy moms provide healthy food for their families.

    The key is to frame your problem statement on the user’s needs rather than those of the business.

  3. Ideate
    The ideation stage marks the transition from identifying problems to exploring solutions. It flows between idea generation and evaluation, but it’s important that each process remains separate from each other.

    There are a number of ideation techniques such as Brainwrite, Worst Possible Idea, 5 Whys, and SCAMPER.

  4. Prototype
    It’s finally time to put your ideas to work! Through trial and error, your team identifies which of the possible solutions can best solve the identified problem through scaled-down versions of the product or concept you want to test. This gives you a tangible way to explore your solution with real users.

    Depending on what you’re solving, prototypes can take various forms—from basic paper models to interactive, digital prototypes.

  5. Test
    All of the work and information come together to test the product in the final stage. It’s important to note that this is still an interactive stage. Based on user feedback, you can make changes and improvements before you spend time and money developing and/or implementing your solution.

    This step is done through user testing sessions, gathering verbal feedback, and making adjustments based on your learnings. 

What are the benefits of design thinking?

 Design thinking isn’t a solution in itself but a framework to provide you with the tools you need to develop a solution or at the very least, a first step in the right path towards a real workable solution. This approach can be applied more broadly throughout your organisation to create a framework in which you advance more ideas towards prototyping, which in the future, can become engaging and functional product designs or processes.

Design thinking helps businesses better identify, understand, and address the problems that plague businesses and their customers. It values solutions over processes and creativity and innovation over traditions. At the end of the day, you’re sure to be more collaborative and user-focused by adopting this process. 

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Written by
Abir Banerjee
Art enthusiast from Kolkata
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