Design Thinking is an innovative approach to solve complex problems. Almost all major innovative companies apply the process of Design Thinking while developing new products and services, such as Infosys, Nordstrom, Toyota, Nike, Starbucks, PepsiCo, IBM, Intuit, etc. It is thus a part of multi-disciplinary collaborations to produce better solutions.
The term Design Thinking was coined by IDEO. Its founder Tim Brown once quoted that “Design Thinking is a human-centric approach to innovation.” As this evidently suggests, Design Thinking is the process of developing products and services revolving around the needs of the stakeholders involved. This, in turn, helps businesses and companies accomplish creative yet realistic solutions that are also desirable to the users, economically viable and technologically feasible.
The Three Lenses of Innovation: Desirability, Viability and Feasibility
Desirability focuses on understanding what the user requires and how the product/ service can incorporate the requirements. The main question to be addressed is “how well can we as a business solve our users’ problem/s?”
To test a product’s desirability, it is important to answer the following questions:
- Does the product/service solve the user’s requirements or pain points?
- Will the product or service be useful to the consumer?
- How can I help the user with their problem?
The entire scope of viability is structured on creating robust business models for the product. If the business is not able to afford the solution, it will not sustain in the market.
A product’s economic viability can be evaluated by answering the following questions:
- Can the business afford to implement the solution?
- Will the solution contribute to the profit of the organization?
- Is the solution long-lasting?
A business needs to understand it’s core technical strengths and weaknesses. A combination of an agile organization, culture and technology is more likely to produce positive results. The business should also be able to determine whether the product will be able to satisfy its specifications, including its technical functions and features.
Technological feasibility of the solution is also quite crucial. So here are some questions to help you test the same:
- Can the solution be developed into functional products/ services?
- Can the solution be built with the business’s core strengths?
- Can the business afford to support the solution with its existing operational functions?
What is the Design Thinking Process?
Broadly, Design Thinking is a five step process that innovative companies follow to create better solutions methodically. Here are the five major steps involved in the process:
- Empathize with customers
- Define problems, needs and behaviours
- Ideate solutions and challenge hypotheses
- Prototype your solution
- Test in the real world with users and iterate
Each step of the process has multiple sub-methods that help you reach the innovation sweet spot of your business, which is the balance achieved in desirability, economic viability, and technological feasibility. These steps and methods also help others who aren’t trained designers, to use creative methods to address a vast range of challenges.
Explaining Design Thinking With the Help of an Example
There is a growing need to keep senior citizens adapted to the evolving technology and company XYZ aims to do just that. Here’s how XYZ can apply Design Thinking to achieve the same.
Company XYZ’s primary goal is to understand their users and their wants and needs. The first step of the process is to empathize with the target audience, understand their problems through primary research (interviews, observations, etc.) and secondary research (trends analysis, literature review,etc ). A few questions that XYZ can address at this point are:
- Why is it hard for the target audience to adapt to the latest technology?
- What technology would better suit their needs? What technology would senior citizens prefer?
Once XYZ has gathered data regarding the problems and needs of senior citizens, they go ahead and break down the points to define the problem, their requirements and the scope. In this step they’ll also assess the technical and economical requirements and restrictions.They address questions like:
- What does the target audience need?
- What are the challenges?
- What problems do they face on using technology?
- What is the problem statement that will prove to be a guiding star for innovation?
Once the boundaries are set, XYZ ideates and develops solutions, ideas, and potential answers to the defined problems mentioned in step 1 and 2. It is at this point that teams brainstorm, listen to different perspectives, draw inspiration, and come up with a wide range of solutions that range from wild to pragmatic.
Out of these, the most realistic ideas are filtered out based on XYZ’s technical and economical limitations, and are proceeded for prototyping. This step in the process involves detailing the solution, modeling/ rendering a product, rapidly prototyping with materials to stimulate the similar experience.
XYZ goes back and forth between testing and prototyping. The prototype is tested in a real environment with actual senior citizens. Constant iteration of the solution can produce the most desired, viable, and feasible product.
Why Does Design Thinking Work?
Design Thinking is a holistic approach that involves a team of innovators, engineers, designers, and management personnel. Although it is vast, there is a beauty of structure throughout the processes and methods. It also addresses biases and subjective thoughts that can hamper innovation.
With constant iteration and collaboration, not just within internal teams but also with external stakeholders like customers, this process allows you to create a robust and intuitive solution.
Design Thinking is still relevant among organizations across industry verticals. It changes the way one tackles problems. The process allows organizations to explore new alternatives and create options that may have been overlooked otherwise.
Every successful business depends heavily on customers or its users. Major tech companies like Infosys, Intuit, IBM, Fidelity, and others have adapted the method to fulfil their requirements and formed their own Design Thinking process.