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What is Design Thinking?

Solving problems of any nature calls for various techniques and thought processes. For business-related problems, decision-makers can use several routes to pursue solutions.

Design is one of them, and it is a critical business tool used to solve problems.

Enter the cool-sounding term - Design thinking. A novel term that has become quite popular in the design world.

So, what does it mean?

What is design thinking?

Design thinking is a framework that helps in solving business problems through design by understanding user needs and creating appropriate solutions.

That definition might sound complex and technical to a business owner reading about it for the first time but don’t worry, and this article will help you understand it.

We’ll explore the topic in its entirety.

Design thinking, unlike other design or creative solutions, is more strategic. It is a mindset that designers adopt to help them figure out the best solutions.

That makes the designer a matchmaker between the best tools to solve the problem at hand and the perfect solution.

Therefore, we must engage in deep thinking, analyse factual information, and then create and test and repeat until a solution is found.

We’ll explore the design thinking process in a short while.

But you might be wondering why you need design thinking, yet your business is not in the design industry.

Benefits of design thinking in business

Well, design is about bringing ideas to life through beautiful products and services. It could be a cup, a house, a door, a car, a beautiful dress, marketing strategies, and campaigns, among others. 

If your company focuses on innovative products and services, you must embrace design thinking.

Testing your ideas before investing fully in them is business wisdom understood by savvy entrepreneurs.

Businesses could validate a great idea through design thinking to establish if it is commercially viable. That helps the business invest in a product or service that will succeed because it meets a need and has been tested to work and solve the user’s problem.

Businesses are known to create a product or service then looking for users without understanding the users’ needs which ends up in epic failures.

Standing out from the competition is a common goal for all businesses, big or small.

It is a point of survival in the creative world, and every tool that will set you apart from the competition is a must-have.

Let’s quickly look at the application areas for a better understanding.

Application of design thinking

Design thinking is used in various industries, from the government to tech startups. Sectors that have embraced design thinking include the following:

  1. Education - Technology has evolved immensely, and innovations in educating the masses are being realized daily. The creation of those systems is far from random exercises. But rather, they are detailed processes that identify the perfect solution through processes such as design thinking.

  1. Government - Leadership and user-centred solutions are bosom buddies. The innovation cultivated by governments worldwide has a creative edge that calls top-level thinking, and design thinking is at the centre of most government-led projects.

  1. Healthcare solutions - To dispense complex solutions to health needs, government-led initiatives take a design thinking route that leads to excellent solutions. A case in point is Obama Care launched and advocated for by the former US president Barrack Obama.

  1. Automotive industry - The current trend in the automotive world is electric vehicles, and what better way to solve human mobility than design thinking. Tesla and other companies have dedicated teams to this course that ensures only great products are released into the market.

  1. Startups - In the technology world, startups are synonymous with digital products that solve specific user problems, and without design thinking, startups can not realize those products.

Now you are closer home in understanding - design thinking and its importance in society and business.

The question now comes in - who do you go about creating anything through design thinking?

The design thinking process

The design thinking process is based on 5 main pillars:
●     Empathy - Understand the people for who you will design the product.
●     Define - What are the user’s needs and problems that we need to solve using design thinking
●     Ideation - Time to develop ideas that will eventually lead to a solid solution to the above problems.
●     Prototyping - This phase allows you to narrow down on the best candidates because you could have several ideas
●     Test - The product needs to be tested, and the only way is to present it to the end-user and collect data that will enable you, as the designer, to polish and make it a good fit. 

The insights may lead you back to ideation and another round of prototyping and testing again and again until a final solution is realized.

We emphasized that design thinking is a mindset, and therefore, each step above has various tools and methods to realize results. That needs a fresh article to dive into and guide you through.

Design sprints and agile sprints are some of the tools that are used in design thinking.

A design sprint or agile sprint is a recipe or process used in design thinking. Choosing one over the other comes down to the problem at hand and the designer or facilitator running the process.

What is a design sprint?

An intense 5-day process based on design thinking is used to create solutions and prototypes that are then tested on actual users.

A design sprint allows you to predict a product or service and validate the investment in the long haul.

A typical week in a design sprint goes through the following steps:-

  1. Day 1 - Goal identification with key stakeholders where the user is also identified and their needs clearly outlined
  2. Day 2 - Exploration through storyboards or sketches begins, and brainstorming leads to several ideas
  3. Day 3 - The ideas are filtered to remain with the most sensible idea that goes to the next phase
  4. Day 4 - Prototyping happens on this day, and the winning idea needs to be transformed into a functional product through various tools
  5. Day 5 - Testing with a cross-section of users to capture feedback and either improve the product in case you go back to prototyping or discarding it, leading to exploration again.

The data collected from users as they test the product is invaluable. It set’s the stage for a full development that involves several other tests until the solution is close to perfect, if not perfect.

Design sprints become a success when the right people are involved in the process. Remember, this is a process that relies on speed to arrive at viable solutions.

The facilitator, who is the key driver of the entire process, plays a key role in bringing harmony to the stakeholders and design team.

We explore this topic on design sprints deeper in a separate article but let’s get back to the main topic on design thinking.

Executing great ideas calls for great procedures and solutions. That forms the core of design thinking.

A great process for user-centred design.

I hope this article helped you understand design thinking from a bird's eye view.

The BlueRoad is your design thinking partner, and we specialize in design sprints. Contact us for your next design thinking project, and we’ll deliver a solid product.

Photo by Vidar Nordli-Mathisen on Unsplash

Design Thinking