Talk about the business catchwords and one label that wins the tag war is ‘Creative’. Yes, every company wants to ride high in this race of creativity and user with their idea of innovation. The slogan ‘innovate or die’ stands true to its words as brands can only survive in the market if they are constantly innovating and offering something new on the platter with time. That said, innovation and creativity don’t come easy.

They are like tight spots in the process not just accomplished by the mere presence of intent and involve much more action. Now, to delve more in this phenomenon of creativity, we must understand the dynamic concept of ‘design thinking’ that fully caters to the user-oriented, prototype-centered process of innovation ideally suited for product, service and business design. With design thinking becoming the hot topic in the design and startup community, it is high time we acquaint ourselves with the approach and benefit from the same.

Okay, the basics first. What is design thinking? How can we make the most of it? Is it a methodology or a philosophy? Well, actually design thinking is a systematic approach to handling problems and generating new opportunities. The concept is pertinent to any field and purpose. Say, if you want to build a new product or customer experience or even take the business to the next level, this approach touches everywhere. It is seen that the design principles contribute significantly in elevating the success rate for innovation. Even the design-centric firms like Apple, IBM, Coca-Cola have delivered extraordinary performance in the last 10 years by achieving 219% in S&P 500.

The Point

As we know design has a powerful quality that renders desirability and appeals to both the products and services. It is no longer limited to creating objects. Companies, now, aspire to ‘think’ like designers and make use of the design principles to excel at the workplace. Design thinking stands fundamentally to successful strategy development and organizational change. In fact, the firms those are eager on design-thinking shine in their endeavors of consistently redesigning their business. They leave no stone unturned in unleashing the best of innovation and efficiency; the dynamic duo that fires upconversion in the market.

Be it leading, managing, creating and innovating; everything can be designed. The robust design way of thinking is relevant to systems, procedures, user experiences and protocols. After all, the main aim of the design is to enhance the quality of like for people and planet. The approach arms the designers to sort out complicated issues and emerge with appropriate solutions for clients. Remember a design framework is not problem-oriented rather solution-oriented and directs action to lay a preferred future.

Design thinking drills on imagination, intuition, logic and systematic reasoning to churn out chances of what could be and also deliver results that satisfy the end user. It feeds on designer’s sensibility and methods to fulfill people’s needs with what is technologically viable and even brings to light business strategies that target customer value and market opportunity.

Design vs Design Thinking

The design is not all about looks. People are restricted to this façade of appearance and blinded with the illusion of visual appeal. Unfortunately, that is not all. The design is about crafting something new and shelling out a form through expertise so as to provide interactive solutions for complex situations. As a matter of fact, look around, you will find everything designed. And did you know that design ability is also one of the three basics dimensions of human intelligence? Yes, our cognitive ability comprises of science, art, and DESIGN.

So, it is best if we break free from the silo mentality we follow in organizations and start inculcating a cross-disciplinary outlook to encourage innovation. Design thinking brings forth a systematic framework for implementing innovation that fosters organic growth and serves real value to the clients. Creativity is the focal point in any design process. The design thinking stages include observation to learn about the left out needs in relation to the context and constraints of a typical situation, discovering the opportunity and the capacity of innovation, forming brilliant ideas, testing and improving.

The Human Touch


The user-oriented innovation surfaces through the knowledge based on customers’ or clients’ unmet or implied needs. In fact, the maximum scope of new ideas that can provide a competitive edge and thus, great margins lies in the tacit users’ needs. These can be uncovered by building customer intimacy and having a thorough understanding of the customers and their problems.

Design thinking reduces the ambiguity and risk present in innovation by involving the customers or users on a series of prototypes to find, test and improve concepts. Design thinkers dwell on users mindsets learned from real-world experiments, not merely recorded data or market research. Okay, this might come as a surprise but you don’t have to be a designer to think like one.

Yes, designing expertise takes years, nevertheless, you can think of a designer and design with your skill to lead, manage, create and innovate. The starting note for design is the strategic intention. If you are devising a strategy, it means that you are designing.

Get On Doing

There are certain strategic parameters to design thinking. Techniques for contemplating like a designer involve observing, interviewing, building personas, empathy mapping, creating storyboards, relative thinking, forming low-tech prototypes and decision-making analysis. In short, design is a whole-brain dynamic thinking process. Here, you refine the mindsets, skillsets, and toolsets of the designers, artists, and innovators.

Design thinking facilitates effective communication with the customers and helps to break through all the hurdles. As it is all about exploring, you experiment with ideation, critical thinking, aesthetic methods of problem-solving and rapid-prototyping. Actually, nothing can speed up creativity and innovation better. In a way, design thinking seeds your innovation ecosystem.

Common Mindsets

Below are certain mindsets that govern design thinking :-

1. Foresight

Avoid getting stuck with your previous work when it comes to ideas. Try to innovate based on your picture for the future. Let the vision pave the way for your thinking.

2. Get Inspired

Go to a place that is conducive for thinking and learning. Be around things that inspire and set your inspirations for creative ideas.

3. Uncertainty Works

Everything can’t be known in the beginning. It is important to understand that even the thought process goes in a flow. There are certain answers that strike eventually as you become familiar with the users’ response to your product or business.

4. Practical View

Do do do…you will learn only by doing. Stop overlooking things. Put your ideas into use. Whatever ideas you have, apply them practically and see how they work.

5. Head to Hands

Don’t let your ideas tumble in your head. Whenever an idea makes its way, try to get it into force and view it as a tangible thing. Put your ideas into action as soon as they arise either through sketching, discussing or prototyping.

6. Visual Impact

Visual aids are a great source for communicating the information. They give a clear definition to your ideas and establish a great connection with the users.

7. Fail to Nail

Remember it is okay to fail. There will come a time when you will experience failure and it is this failure that will hone your design thinking process. You will benefit if you fail earlier as it will save on your time and budget later.



Design Thinking Process

design-thinking-process-2

Let us distinguish the design thinking process with the usual innovation process. The regular innovation process consists of 4 stages – ideate, define, design and develop. These stages have to be synced efficiently so as to foster innovation in an organization. On the other hand, design thinking process has 5 stages- empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. As such these are not steps as the process is not stringent with the order to be followed.

Instead, design thinking welcomes the multi-dimensionality of a dynamic process and we have the liberty to juggle the stages in a manner that complies with our workflow or turns the thinking process awesome. The process brings out more ideas and refers more choices. It is then our decision to turn the fate of these ideas by making our choices. The design thinking process is more of a diverging and converging process as against the linear innovation process.

Yes, in a way it makes the best practices of agile development, iterative development, user experience, creativity, prototyping and testing shine. It enforces a framework to deal with problems and stimulate innovation. Following are the stages of design thinking :-

Empathize

Empathizing is central to the design thinking process. It highlights the significance of listening to the requirements and wants of our customers relative to the particular problem. The approach aids us in saving our discoveries and learnings during this stage in a systematic way such as empathy maps.

Define

Here we combine all the insights collected at the time of listening and observing people. We start to synthesize and face the challenge ahead of us. That means we start to define a problem. An aspect that design thinking proves vital at is framing a problem in a clear manner so that we end up devising solutions and exploring opportunities. Try framing the problem correct so that more avenues and solutions open up.

Ideate

So, now as the problem or the opportunity is clearly framed, we can search for methods to handle it. We should spur as many ideas as possible. Yes, we brainstorm or ideate. Design thinking stresses that during this phase we shouldn’t ignore ideas that seem obvious or easy. Any idea can sprout a brilliant concept. So, make sure to look into each and very idea with a fresh mindset.

Design thinking even encourages a team approach to brainstorming and very rightly promotes multi-disciplinary teams that bring across varied outlooks. This definitely produces better outcomes. To finalize this stage, we shortlist the best and leave the rest.

Prototype

Prototyping brings the solutions into vision. Different methods are involved in it such as sketching, rapid prototyping and many others. No matter whatever method you opt, the core purpose of this stage remains the same, that is, we intend to create rough drafts of solutions to decide if these will prove beneficial for the problem.

As advised, follow a simple, speedy and economical approach while prototyping. Looking onto its context, a prototype can later transform into a beta product or a minimal viable product (MVP).

Test

Next is testing. In this stage, we test our prototype with the customers so as to monitor the response and deem whether the solution satisfied them or not.

The Power

Thinking in design empowers the designers to create the right features for the right people. It defines the user experience clearly as a whole not merely in terms of interaction and visual design. It ensures that designers deal with real user problems and thus avoid creating something that is undesirable. Design thinking gives the edge to pass the right decisions when it comes to forming features.

Yes, building features are simple; however, the real trick lies in forming right features for the right people. The concept allows the designers to pose right questions, create right features and engage with the clients effectively. They can do the calculation as to whether a particular feature will fit in the product or not or if it will serve a real user problem?

UX design thinking process

Wrap Up

So this was it. To sum up, design thinking is an intricate, proven and rational approach to a new product design that should be given a thought during the product framework in an organization. Of course, it can’t happen overnight or emerge unless there is someone who adheres to the concept. But it is highly recommended for the companies who are keen on establishing a more interactive and holistic approach to design.

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Prince Pal

UX/UI Strategist & Usability Tester at Think360 Studio
For 12+ years I have designed, developed and marketed websites / apps startups in New York, California, Florida and in India. Always focused on great User Interface is key.

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