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What is Design Thinking and why is it so important and prominent?

If you haven't come across the term Design Thinking yet, you might want to consider learning more about it, as some of the world's most successful brands including Google, Apple and Samsung are using this approach to better understand their customers and develop cutting edge products and technology. Furthermore the success of the Design Thinking approach has become so popular, that leading universities like Stanford, MIT or Harvard are teaching it.

But let's take a step back and get to the basics...

What is Design Thinking?

Design Thinking is both, an ideology and a process, that aims to solve problems (from small to highly complex) in a user-centric way. At this point we really want to stress the term user-centric, meaning, that the process focuses on humans first and foremost and seeks to understand what people's needs really are and then develop effective solutions to meet those needs.

The Design Thinking Process

According to the Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford the five stages of Design Thinking go as follows: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test.

Step 1 - Empathize

The first step of the process exists to set aside all your assumptions and everything you believe to know about your customer and their problem. It is now time to fully immerse yourself in the problem and gain an empathic understanding of the problem you are trying to solve. There's several techniques and methods to pinpoint the underlying problem such as expert interviews or empathy maps.

Step 2 - Define

During the definition stage you will synthesize the learnings you have gathered throughout Step 1 and

try to define a very clear problem statement. At the core, this stage helps you fully understand the goal of your project and steer you in the right direction during the ideation phase.

Step 3 - Ideate

Whilst step 1 and 2 dealt with clearly understanding and identifying the problem, the ideation phase deals with exploring possible solutions. There are hundreds of different ideation techniques from classic "Brainstorming" to "5 x Why" or "Brainwriting". The most important part in this phase is to get as many ideas or problem solutions as possible whilst challenging yourself to going beyond minor adjustments.

Step 4 - Prototype

Prototypes are an inexpensive way to get real user feedback to your proposed solution. The main principle of prototyping is

"Fail often and Fail fast" - John C. Maxwell

The goal is to start off with a low-fidelity version of your solution and improve it over time based on real user feedback instead of completely developing a product/solution from start to finish. Keep in mind, that in this phase we are basically testing assumptions, thus, when an idea fails, it is a valuable piece of knowledge gained before building the actual product for the testing phase.

Step 5 - Test

It's now time test the developed product in the ultimate user's real life settings without any guidance. This is another valuable step in which you'll be able to see how your target users interact with your solution/product and, most importantly, if you were able to solve the defined problem statement in step 2.

How can Design Thinking benefit your organization?

To put the whole process into one word, one could say that Design Thinking is a process of questioning everything. Questioning the problem, questioning assumptions, and questioning implications. It is extremely useful in tackling complex problems by using an agile process of ongoing experimentation.

Furthermore, Design Thinking, can be a wonderful catalyst for change and evolution. Internally it is a helpful way of building collaboration between siloed teams, to create a space for sharing ideas and building innovative solutions that have the broadest possible support and knowledge at their basis by tackling issues with cross-functional teams. Everyone in the organization can be invested in discovering and deploying a new solution – from the CEO to the sales manager, to the cash-desk clerk. Within such teams each and everyone benefits from an improved respect and understanding of the range of skills and how everyone brings great value to the organization.

You would like to understand how you can benefit from Design Thinking to develop better products, solve organizational challenges or develop new business opportunities? Get in touch with us, share your challenge and we develop the perfect workshop format for you.

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