How to optimize your business using the design thinking process
Now more than ever, people no longer play by rigid scientific approaches. Rather, they are devising innovative ways to tackle problems and increase productivity and sales in their businesses. There has been a shift from what business owners want to what the product user wants. The user may be said to be the power center of design thinking.
What is Design Thinking?
Design Thinking is a creative process that designers adopt to build a people-based product or service. The focus of the designer is the user from start to finish. This mainly includes what the users need, how they want it, what influences their purchasing decisions, and how they interact with other people.
The five stages in the Design Thinking process today
These five stages of design thinking will help you discard assumptions about your product buyers and open your eyes to the real problems of the users. This new information will shape the solutions you provide to the problems.
Oftentimes, what we think we know about others is not always correct. Even if our idea of them has some truth in it, it cannot be precise. Therefore, the right thing to do as a designer is to observe the end-user of your product or simply by asking questions. Companies sometimes employ experts to empathize with their users, study what is important to them, and understand their experiences. At the end of this stage, a designer must have a clear understanding of the user's needs and wants.
This is the stage where the designer has a clear-cut problem statement. Now that you understand the needs of the product users, you can define the problem by focusing on the users rather than on what the company needs to do.
For instance, a company-centered problem statement will look like
"We need to increase the sales of our womens' clothing by 80%?"
While a user-centered statement will go thus;
"Women need more affordable dresses in distinct colors to project their ideal selves".
The second statement is built on the understanding of the needs of the customers and not the feelings of the company.
This is where ideas come to play. Designers who completely understand the lack of the consumer during the empathy stage initiate creative ideas to address the problems discovered.
The design team can confidently share their ideas as no idea can technically be wrong. The more ideas submitted, the better the chance at getting creative with the solution(s). This allows the team to think creatively.
Some of the techniques that help in the ideation stage are The Worst Possible Ideas. The idea of this game is to get every team member to feel relaxed and participate in the ideation process. If every member of the team can produce the silliest and ridiculous ideas, everyone would participate without fear of being humiliated.
Another interesting technique is the SCAMPER. This method helps the design team to replace, combine, adapt, modify, put the product to other use, eliminate and reverse some of the features. This is a game that produces great ideas for the prototype.
This is where the design team creates a cheap version of the products for testing.
The design team will have modified the features of the products based on the problems observed in the first three stages. The solutions are then implemented in each of the prototypes. The team will now have to document which of the products needs to be revised, which is rejected and which ones are accepted based on users' experiences.
A prototype must pass usability testing. This means that the user must be able to interact with the product features without frustration.
This is the final stage of the design thinking process. This is where usability testing is carried out. Here the prototypes are shared among a small group of people outside the team. This stage is experimental.
By now, the design team should have a better understanding of the product's features that best meet the needs of the users. If the outcome is satisfactory, the company can produce the products in large quantities. If it does not meet the needs of the users, the designer will need to return to the Empathize stage. Perhaps, they missed something.
How to adopt Design Thinking in your business
If design thinking is new to your business, one of the first steps to take is to educate every department in your company. This Is to ensure that the rest of the company shares the user-centered approach with the design team.
Charles Chu advises that a business should start with small projects when adopting design thinking. This is because larger projects would be complicated and as such require more financing and expertise to carry out.
More specifically, business managers may need to introduce user experience (UX) designers into their teams. This is because UX designers do better prototyping and usability testing to address users' problems. Similarly, a friendly user interface (UI) is significant in designing for your business, especially if you want to thrive in the international markets or even a locally-run online business.
In essence, UI/UX designers must focus on the users and the usability of the products. How easily can users interact with your prototypes without the influence of any of the team members?
The origin of the five stages
The five stages of Design Thinking are built on Herbert Simon's principles outlined in his 1969 article, "The Sciences of the Artificial". Although Simon established 7 stages in his work, these five stages are proposed by Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford (d.school).
It is important to note that the five stages of Design Thinking are flexible. This means that the process is not rigidly linear. Diverse groups within a team may conduct more than one stage simultaneously I.e., one group could carry out the first stage, and define the problem as they go. Another group may ideate and create prototypes concurrently. What is important is that the team arrives at logical user testing.
In addition, a designer should always remember to iterate if the prototype fails to meet the needs of the users.