Design Thinking 101

So what is design thinking? I like to break it down into two parts: First an ideology — or maybe simpler — a mindset: A hands-on user-centered approach to innovation. Think about it like applying methods from the creative process: So curiosity, focus on the user, of eyes towards action to solving any problem. The second half of design thinking is a process: This is the more systematic side of things. A step-by-step framework to guide you through problems. It breaks down into 6 phases that act as a guide. These phases make design thinking packaged, so it can scale from large organizations to societal issues. So what are these 6 faces? First is “empathize:” Get to know your users and how they feel, what they’re motivated by. That brings you into face 2 which is “define.” You can make sense of what you’ve observed, finding patterns that point towards opportunities. The third is “ideate.” This is when you brainstorm a range of crazy creative ideas that address your needs. You give your team total freedom: no idea is too crazy. 4, “Prototyping:” this is when you build and make stuff tangible. The goal of this phase is to understand what components in your idea work and what doesn’t. Next, “test.” Tweak and improve your designs. Return to your users and make sure they [the designs] work. And then last, the 6 is “implement.” Don [Norman] likes to say “less design thinking; more design doing.” And I think that’s true; you have to put the vision into effect. So while these different spaces often have different jargons, they always follow an overall flow of understand, explore, and materialize. So don’t think of it as a prescribed step-by-step recipe. You can really mix and match, and use as you need. Each phase is meant to be iterative and cyclical, rather than a strictly linear process. Ultimately, the idea of design thinking is to help you translate ideas into solutions, that can lead to innovations, and hopefully growth and profitability.

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