Design thinking is not a new concept. The idea of using design thinking as an approach to solve problems creatively was documented by authors as early as in 1959.
Design thinking is a way of solving problems
You do not need to be a designer to benefit from the innovativeness of design thinking. It is a way of solving problems in a creative manner. It is an ever-green strategy which can be used in all forms of product innovation.
At this point you might ask “Do I really need to learn how to solve my own problems?”. Design thinking is not only a great way to improve your problem solving skills. It is also one of the most innovative ways to solve complex problems that affect a lot of people, and may have several possible solutions.
Design thinking is an inherently optimistic and constructive process that seeks to solve problems through a bottom-up approach. The bottom-up approach involves understanding the root cause of a problem before coming up with a solution for the problem.
To understand the problem, design thinkers interact directly with the people facing the problem. Design thinking takes a human-centered approach that is very situation-specific, instead of imposing a top-down one-size fits all solution. Because of how specific the solutions need to be, they do not always work outside the unique cultural contexts they were created in.
Not a linear process
The number of steps involved vary depending on the publication you are reading. However, design thinking does not have to be a linear process. You can carry out one stage of the process concurrently with the other.
Here’s how to start using design thinking principles:
Define the problem clearly
First, is our ability to identify problems or opportunities clearly. Understanding the problem clearly helps determine the constraints and benchmarks to be used when you need to measure the success of your objective.
Second, is the ability to empathize with the people you are solving the problem for. Design thinking operates with the overarching goal of making life more enjoyable to people. To understand how to solve a problem, it is important to understand those who are affected by it directly.
Collaboration is the third step. Finding innovative solutions and creative ideas is often a collaborative effort. Individual creativity increases in a group environment due to exposure to divergent thinking. This increases the likelihood of coming up with innovative solutions. At the end of the day, the best ideas will arise naturally.
The fourth step involved in design thinking is implementation. At this stage, we turn the ideas which have been put forward through collaboration into real life solutions. The solution can be a new product, a new service, a new way of doing things or any other innovative solution to the problem at hand.
Once the solution is ready, we present it to the people. The people test the solution and validate the solution or give feedback regarding improvements that could be made.
Because information is constantly flowing between the people with the problem and the design thinkers, there is a continuous loop of insight that changes the way we view the problem and the solution. It allows us to counteract any human biases we might have when coming up with a solution. Through the diversity of thought that comes with collaboration and empathetic design, design thinking not only saves time and money, it also shapes positive experiences for people and society at large.