What is design thinking?


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During the first five years of operation, about half of all small businesses fail. This statistic should not make you feel hopeless.

Rather, it should push you to find innovative ways to help your business succeed. Design thinking can help!

Read on to learn all about this concept and the way you can use it to help your profitability.

What is design thinking?

This type of thinking leads design teams to solutions through creative problem-solving. Originally, scientists and technologists used it to explore possibilities for advancement.

Now, design teams found that they can use it for everything from product development to marketing regardless of their field. It works especially well for UX design since pleasing people often requires ironing of all the intricate details.

How does it work?

Using this process, design teams identify the needs of their users and perfect their product with continual review, inquiry, and enhancements. At the core of design thinking, five phases perpetuate this.

Note, in the beginning, you may naturally follow the linear form as one phase leads to the next. But, as the process continues, these phases pop up out of sequence and occur over and over again.

Phase 1: empathize

Empathizing means understanding and sharing the feelings of other people. When creating a product for consumers, you must empathize with them. This requires you to step outside of your own wants and needs and into other perspectives when solving a problem.

During this stage, you must keep an open mind as you research the surroundings, wants, needs, trends, and thoughts of your target market. For marketing purposes, you need to know how something will make them feel prior to them even feeling it.

To improve your empathy, identify your own personal biases and remove them and remain inquisitive. Consider all feedback, even that of outliers, and do not get stuck in a tunnel vision of only one or two perspectives.

Phase 2: define

Once you gather the information and internalize it from others' points of view, you can apply that to define both the desires your consumers hold and the problems that they face. People often search for things that either, help them survive, offer them frivolous pleasure, or make life easier by removing obstacles. 

Different populations may seek different proportions of each thing. While those who live comfortably may seek more pleasurable experiences, those in tough situations might simply need survival tools. This makes applying empathy to this stage crucial so you can properly define what they seek.

Create problem statements for each need or issue they may face. A good problem statement is meaningful and actionable, begging for solving.

It serves as a guide for your team to cultivate ideas that work but should leave room for creative thinking. Make sure it focuses on a specifically defined group of people.

Phase 3: ideate

Once you create clear problem statements through empathy, you can begin generating ideas! Here, you find solutions that satisfy the wants and needs of your target market. 

Ask, 'Does anything exist to solve this problem?' If not, then begin bouncing brand new ideas around. If so, then think laterally on how to advance on the old way or develop a new solution.

Let ideation get a little messy. Allow people to scribble ideas or speak out of turn, but also let everybody be heard. You want to both look at problems from all different points of view and create a number of unique solutions.

You might begin this process by allowing everybody time to quietly journal ideas. If anybody feels stuck, sit on desks with feet on chairs or move around outside. Literally changing your physical perspective can refresh your brain.

Once everybody constructs ideas, brainstorm them together! Use markers on a whiteboard or chalk on a blackboard.

Get colorful in your ideation to boost ingenuity! Here you can adjust, combine, toss out or generate more concepts.

To optimize this stage, collaborate without judging other ideas. Also, document everything in case you want to circle back around to something later on.

Phase 4: prototyping

Sort through all of your ideas to find your best solutions to each problem. Then scrutinize your ideas on paper by making a list of possible pros and cons.

If possible, make a watered-down version of the product for experimenting. From the point of view of a real consumer, decide whether to accept, reject, or revisit the idea of it.

Phase 5: testing 

If you accept your prototype, test it. Ideate on possible tests it could require for real application, and run each one. 

Become a scientist here. One smooth run can indicate luck while one mishap could indicate a mishap in the testing process. 

Test thoroughly, and keep doing so. Record every detail to the point of monotony, so you can see what went wrong where and jump back to other stages to fix any issues.

Pros and cons of design thinking

The human-centered problem identification and solving of design thinking experiments with all different points of view.

Design Thinking also creates room for unique ideas. While many companies take old ideas and rebrand them, this paradigm encourages ingenuity so you can come up with something totally new.

The process also keeps ideas a work in progress after testing by allowing you to bounce back to other stages for reworking. Revamping your ideas can save resources compared to throwing out concepts that did not work well and starting over from scratch. Even if you do throw out one solution, by design you kept others waiting for a chance to be prototyped.

Unfortunately, this does not always work as planned. You do not even know the things you do not know until you know them, which can limit forward-thinking during the process.

Also, too many minds can actually water down an exceptional idea that came from one person. When you try to please everybody, more people end up disappointed.

Keep thinking forward

Design thinking does work in many businesses. Keeping the cons in mind can help you avoid them and problem think the obstacles away!

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