Design Thinking: the Road Towards Innovation

Design thinking is methodology that combines creativity and logic to improve operations, products, and decision-making. Its iterative cycle identifies a need or opportunity and ultimately improves profitability by adding to your knowledge, and boosting productivity.

Below, you’ll discover how design thinking provides inspiration and how it can be used to drive your company’s success.

What is design thinking?

Design thinking is a methodology employed by professional designers to address complex issues and work out effective solutions. People most often think of design as a plan or blueprint defining a goal or product. But in reality, design is a verb that refers to the entire process of attaining goals. When applied to business environments, design thinking becomes a set of protocols for investigating new opportunities or improving business functions. It provides a systematic framework that allows you to gather information, explore possibilities, and create positive outcomes for your company and your customers. Design thinking integrates project scope, fresh ideas, and testing of results to afford an optimal solution to every challenge. It is best used in situations where innovative solutions are called for. Often this can mean satisfying needs or improving processes where standard tools like data analytics and customer feedback provide information but don’t present a clear solution. Design thinking is a structured process that demands critical thinking but also relies on a flow of creativity.

The process

There are a number of variations to design thinking processes used in many industries. However, these different techniques all follow the same basic principles. According to the Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford, there are five modes of the design process: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. 1. Empathy Empathy means acquiring a full understanding of the problem at hand. This can involve observations, interviews, consulting with experts, and measurements. It’s important to relate to physical as well as conceptual elements to avoid assumptions and make objective assessments. 2. Defining Defining the issue means evaluating all the data you’ve gathered to identify the core problem in the context of human need. Your definition statement shouldn’t come down to your company’s own specific goals. Instead, it should be angled towards the needs of your customers. 3. Ideation Ideation is the stage where you begin looking for new possibilities. It’s important to produce as many ideas as possible and narrow them down by eliminating those that are unacceptable in terms of cost, customer value, resources, timeframes, and so on. 4. Prototype Prototypes don’t need to be a physical object but should be a clearly formulated procedure. It should be an actionable proposition that can be shared, examined, and tested. Every solution is assumed to be experimental until its value can be demonstrated. 5. Testing Testing rigorously analyzes the proposed solution to see if it resolves the initial problem. Important issues such as accuracy, performance, repeatability, and value need to be confirmed. If no further refinements are needed, a working solution has been provided. These phases don’t need to be sequential. Rather, you should regard theses five modes as an overview of essential functions, not a fixed workflow. Design thinking shouldn’t be implemented as a rigid approach. Instead, it should manifest as a mindset that’s useful where innovative ideas are needed. It can also be used to augment or support other tools and methodologies to drive progress.

Applications

The main purpose of design thinking is to make improvements to products and services by evaluating how consumers will interact with them based on specific needs and operating conditions. In addition, it helps you to embrace an innovative, cooperative culture by motivating and engaging employees. As a methodology, design thinking helps you to determine the appropriate paths of research for producing innovative prototypes that can be tested for each new feature. Creating a prototype enables your team to test their solutions before different focus groups and suggest refinements that will provide greater value in both the specific solution and future products. Each change is then investigated and either accepted, rejected, or further refined. A productive environment for design thinking requires a cross-disciplinary team working on a shared goal. By involving all members of your team, who are individuals with a range of backgrounds, personal styles, and talents, design thinking encourages fresh input from different perspectives. It provides a more fertile environment for addressing multi-dimensional challenges. Not only would this increase the likelihood of original, high-value outcomes, but also lead to healthy cooperation between creative and logical influences.

Setting the stage

Your surroundings and the tasks you do every day influence your thoughts, skills, comprehension, and ability to create. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that nowadays the most innovative companies fill their workspaces with odd furnishings, striking décor, peaceful sanctuaries, and an impressive collection of toys to stimulate creative ideas. Innovative companies are learning to think like designers, not businessmen. They look for new ideas to develop strategies or make organizational changes. By building a dynamic culture of ideation in their companies, they inspire employees to explore the unknown and generate new ideas.

Final Thoughts

Innovation is the driving force that continuously redesigns businesses and design thinking is the road towards introducing creative solutions to numerous business challenges. It’s best suited to address complex issues rather than fast, simple answers. Though implementations will vary from one company to the next, all follow the basic five-modes of design to implement new ideas in problem-solving. By creating a design mindset in your company, you’re able to develop a workforce that’s focused on producing the innovation you need to stay ahead of the competition. By Heather Redding

About the author

Heather Redding is a tech enthusiast and freelance writer based in Aurora, Illinois. She is a coffee-addict who enjoys swimming and reading. Street photography is her newly discovered artistic outlet and she likes to capture life’s little moments with her camera. You can reach Heather via Twitter

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