We can actually comprehend Design Thinking as a mindset more than a method or a process. And we can use this mindset in almost any scenario, like in a business context for example. In fact, the business world is increasingly embracing Design Thinking as an essential toolkit. Business schools used to emphasize on developing analytical skills like strategic planning, rational decision making and forecasting. While these skills are essential when it comes to stability and predictability, they do not help when it comes to innovation.
The five phases of Design Thinking
Although we can define clear steps and perceive a logical sequence, Design Thinking is a fluid and non-linear process. This way, you might want to go back and rethink what you have done before each time you discover something new. Creativity demands flexibility!
Phase 1: Empathize
Design Thinking is a human-centered process, hence the first and most important step is to understand the consumer. It is important to set assumptions aside to observe and engage with people. Empathy allows us to gain real insights into consumers and their pain-points, unmet needs and objectives. The goal is to understand the context of a problem. This step is usually done through user research. An Empathy Map Canvas is also a useful tool.
Phase 2: Define
Once you have gathered information about your customer and their culture, it is time to analyze your insights to define clear problem statements. Remember to keep your work human-centered by using personas - fictional characters created based upon your research in order to represent types of consumers.
Phase 3: Ideate
After having a clear picture of your consumer and formalizing the problem statement, the next phase is about generating solutions. Find new angles to view the problem and try to innovate by following unusual pathways. Creativity comes better in non-judgmental environments. That means the business team should be comfortable to expose their ideas and opinions without the fear of being criticized or the aim of being rewarded. There are no incorrect or correct anwsers. In this step you can use brainstorming, a simple method in which the more ideas you generate, the bigger the chances you innovate. Quantity leads to quality.
Phase 4: Prototype
Prototyping is the experimental phase. Consider the ideas you have gathered from the ideation phase and find out which ones have more chances of success. A prototype consists of a scaled-down version of the final product with the potential solutions incorporated from the previous stages. As a result, each solution is tested and any limitations or weaknesses are highlighted. A prototype test will determine whether the proposed solutions will be considered for further development, improvement, redesign, or rejection.
Phase 5: Test
Even though this is the final phase, Design Thinking is an iterative process: the results you get from the testing phase frequently are used as insights to redefine one or more problems from previous stages. Your goal should always be to improve your understanding of your consumer and find the best solution for them.
Design Thinking encourages us to find alternative solutions rather than repeating the same methods. It does not only rely on rational analysis; it combines it with intuition and emotion to help us think out of the box.
By having an humanistic approach, it improves the ability of the organizations to create meaningful user experiences. That means happier customers and thriving businesses.