Summary: Using a co-creative process, Design Thinking helps organisations to build on unmet user needs and create value from user insights.
Before I started my Service Innovation and Design (SID) studies and went through the Design Thinking masterclass hosted by Professor Katja Tschimmel, I never realised how much published content such as books, reports and essays existed on the subject of Design Thinking (DT).
Design Thinking is a framework for how to come up with ideas – loads of them at the beginning all way until refining and develop to prototype the bests ones. Design Thinking is human-centred and aims to foster creativity and innovation – the principal sources for businesses differentiation and competitive advantages.
Design Thinking is not new, throughout history good designers have applied a human-centric creative process to build meaningful and effective solutions. Perhaps this justifies the big interest from strategists and businesses on the topic and the big demand on articles and methods variations.
DT puts user needs and their preferences at the core of the process and it develops rolling out a system of overlapping stages (Brown and Wiatt, 2010) and an iterative process (Stickdorn & Schneider, 2010).
Instead of seeing its primary objective as consumption, Design Thinking aims to explore the sense of participation. The shift from a passive relationship between consumer and production to the active engagement of everyone, in experiences that are meaningful productive and profitable.
There are many methodologies and tools that support the Design Thinking process on finding new needs and unleashing innovation for your business. All of them involve and are rolled-out in a cycle through contextual observation to discover new needs and constraints, framing the opportunity and scope of innovation, generating creative ideas, testing with rapid prototyping and refining solutions.
Design Thinking facilitators aren’t necessarily experts in the fields they are acting in, but surely in facilitating and tailoring the suitable Design Thinking methods to solve each briefing.
Some of the most popular methods are from IDEO’s 3 I’s or HCD model with a massive contribution for social change and empowerment. The Double Diamond, from British Design Council or the Design Thinking from the Hasso-Plattner Institute, and there are many more. More recently, we also see some experienced independent studios, coming up with evolutionary versions, such as the Evolution 6² from Mindshake a small DT consultancy based in Portugal. The reason why there are many variations of the model, is because we are talking about different systems and companies acting in different sectors and needs.
The DT process is action based and divided generally in four different stages – discover, define, develop and delivery. ‘Divergent Thinking’ is promoted in the two first phases, where team look at exploring a big number of possible solutions – quantity, variety and fluidity of ideas. After this exercise, it’s time for ‘Convergent Thinking’ where teams start voting, refining and narrowing down to the best idea.
Design Thinking resorts to multidisciplinary and collaborative teams. It fosters positivism and embraces failure and experimentation. It is found on the ability to combine empathy for the context of the problem, creativity in the generation of insights and solutions, and rationality to analyse and match solutions to the context (Katja Tschimmel, others in Research Report D-Think 2014).
Using Design Thinking will minimize the uncertainty and risk of innovation. By engaging customers or users through a series of prototypes to learn, test and refine concepts, you lower the risks and setup expectations once the real product is launched.
The “Design Thinking” label is not a myth. It is a description of the application of well-tried design process to new challenges and opportunities, used by people from both design and non-design backgrounds. I welcome the recognition of the term and hope that its use continues to expand and be more universally understood, so that eventually every leader knows how to use design and design thinking for innovation and better results. (Moggridge, 2010.)
To conclude, we live in an world where things are constantly changing, and new set of unmet needs arises. Design Thinking is simply an approach to problem solving that increases the probability of success and breakthrough innovation.
I’m Margarida, a Senior User Experience Designer at OutSystems and a Service Innovation and Design MBA Student. I live between Helsinki and Lisbon, study at Laurea University in Helsinki and work helping my beloved worldwide customers.