Companies like IBM have become design-centric because the usual way of coming up with solutions is no longer cutting the proverbial mustard.
The term “design thinking” has come to the fore when looking for ways to overcome obstacles or to create better products and services. But what exactly does design thinking encompass, and how can utilising this method help you come out at a solution that is simple, elegant and, most of all, functional?
Design thinking is a solution-focused method of solving a problem where we start out with a goal and work our way back from there by considering what the present and future conditions and parameters of the problem are. It’s in exploring and investigating those conditions and parameters that we can uncover unconventional and often ignored aspects that could affect the end result.
We’ve been in workshops with a few different clients recently and have found a great way to use design thinking to find solutions that are remarkable, often delightful, unconventional and functional. There are 5 easy steps:
Get everyone to describe the problem in his or her own way – this often provides individual thinking and could open up new ways to approach the solution. Empathising with people also helps them to contribute to the workshop and identify the real problem you’re tackling. Once you’ve done this, try to make the problem as simple as possible to enable a wide range of ideas.
Ideate solutions– as many solutions as possible, they do not have to be in any way practical, it’s more important to encourage divergent thinking. This is also to encourage people in the workshop to participate in it. We’ve found that providing a time limit creates a sense of urgency and handing out post-it notes means that participants have scarcity of space – which means the solution is written very simply.
Choose the best solutions to move forward with – the interpretation of ‘best’ is quite loose here, they don’t need to be the most practical, it’s more about finding interesting solutions to the problem that aren’t always the most obvious. In order to get the wisdom-of-crowds vibe going, we allowed people 3 votes for whatever solutions they loved the most (including their own) – just make sure that when you consult a crowd, that the crowd is intelligent. Another hint: leave the “close the company” idea as a last resort.
Prototype – once you’ve identified the ideas you want to work with, think about how you can quickly prototype that idea and make it real. Ideally, the prototype would be something that can actually be built or actioned, preferably within a day, and with a low budget. It’s about making something quick and dirty, to see how people react – this is often referred to as making an MVP or Minimum Viable Product.
Test – the final stage is designing a simple test that you can do in order to test the validity of your idea, preferably on a group of customers or a small test group of the target market. There is research that shows that if you gather a group of five ideal target customers or users, and test a prototype on them then you will find up to 85% of the problems with that prototype and get a real sense as to whether the idea actually has legs moving forward.
Design thinking is meant to shake things up and, if done right, obliterate the status quo. It’s one thing to admire this process, it’s another to have the guts and grit to see it through to crescendo.