Published on 08 Apr 2017 · 8 min read
If you’ve ever attended a conference or workshop with any kind of a design focus—instructional, graphic, web design, etc. — you may have encountered the term “design thinking.” Sounds serious and important, doesn’t it? And in a field where so many of us have no formal design background, the idea of adding “design thinking” to your already full plate of responsibilities may sound like a nonstarter.
But before you write off design thinking as yet another impossible task or dismiss it as a trendy buzzword, let’s give it a closer look to uncover what it is, why it matters for training, and how it works.
In a nutshell, design thinking is a process for creative problem-solving. Using techniques like brainstorming, along with other collaborative activities, a project team puts themselves into the end user’s shoes—to experience problems from their perspective. By getting everyone to set aside their preconceived ideas and truly empathize with users, the design-thinking process paves the way for identifying creative solutions that actually address a user’s problems in a meaningful way.
If that explanation feels a little squishy, here’s an explanation of design thinking that really struck a chord for me. It comes to us via Ideo CEO Tim Brown from his book Change by Design:
Design thinking taps into capacities we all have but that are overlooked by more conventional problem-solving practices. It is not only human-centered; it is deeply human in and of itself. Design thinking relies on our ability to be intuitive, to recognize patterns, to construct ideas that have emotional resonance as well as functionality, to express ourselves in media other than words or symbols …”
What resonated with me is the idea that we all have the capacity to be design thinkers! In other words, you don’t need to be a degreed designer or a creative genius to embrace design thinking practices. If you care about solving a problem by using empathy and evidence to inform your decisions, and can embrace a spirit of collaboration and experimentation, you’ve got what it takes to be a design thinker!
If you’ve ever spent any time around a three year old, you are no stranger to the question “Why?” Let’s momentarily unleash that inner curiosity and explore WHY we need design thinking.
The times that we live in demand innovation. It is impossible for a business to really make waves without innovating. Design Thinking is the tool kit for innovation. And yet, it’s laser targeted to focus on the core problem. Too many once massively successful companies have disappeared into oblivion by believing what worked before will work. Times have changed. Customers have changed. Lifestyles have changed. The way we communicate has changed. In order for a business to stay current, they must move with these changes. It’s impossible to predict the future. Design Thinking is like a map…you may not know from the beginning exactly where it will take you, but you can be confident that the destination will be innovative, relevant and amazing!
Understanding the need to innovate is one thing. But being tasked with the challenge of doing it is another. It can seem insurmountable and overwhelming. Like telling a novice to climb Mt. Everest. Design Thinking takes the challenge or problem and drills it down into small bite-size pieces, enabling you to drill down to the core issues. From there, you can see clearly and piece together the most critical aspects to devise a strongly relevant solution.
A common concern in developing a new product or service is “Will there be a market?” Design Thinking involves the market from the get-go. In fact, before you even think about developing a product or service, you are spending time with the market, understanding their needs and the realities of their world. In essence, your market is working in tandem with you throughout the whole process – from zoning in on the real problem, to tweaking the solution throughout development. The problem of having a market isn’t a problem at all with design thinking. This is because design thinking begins with, and is rooted in, people.
Statistics and market research can give you certain insights, but when an engineer gets out and spends time with the end-user, the insights become far more tangible. Beginning with a thorough understanding of the people and problems you are developing for empowers you to create and solve on an entirely different plane. Now, you aren’t targeting faceless 35 year old women, but Lisa, a 35 year old professional, mother and wife, with real needs, challenges – and a real voice. Design Thinking is empathetic and personal in nature and doesn’t exist without people. Design thinking keeps you in tune with the real customer with real problems, empowering you to create real solutions.
8 out of 10 businesses fail. Design Thinking eliminates the risk of ultimate failure by encouraging failure. Sound counter-intuitive? The truth is, we learn far more from failure than we could ever learn without it. Design Thinking is systematically developed to encourage experimentation, coupled with prototyping and feedback, allowing you to fail and fail fast, leading you to recognise and eliminate the weak areas so that you can ultimately succeed.
Design thinking breaks your preconceptions of what a good solution would be and unleashing new undiscovered possibilities. A good example of this is Proctor & Gamble who initially set out to develop a better cleaning detergent. Design Thinking led them to realise customers didn’t need another detergent on the market – but did need a faster, easier way to clean. The result was the Swiffer, a revolutionary new mop which proved to be massively successful for them.
As with any process, design thinking is broken down into phases. Here’s a quick overview of each of the seven phases placed in the context of a typical e-learning instructional design project.
It’s important to clarify that design thinking isn’t a linear process. It can get messy and repetitive as you iterate and refine ideas. The process encourages experimentation and the exploration of ambiguity as a means of personal growth and innovation, but that doesn’t mean everyone will be comfortable with it. While you may find that some areas of design thinking come more easily to you than others, the important thing is to embrace the growth mindset at the core of the process.
Here at Antares Code Studio, we apply design thinking principles to deliver meaningful projects to our clients and to improve the usability of the difital products we work on.
If you have an idea in mind, or need a website or app, get a free quote by completing the form at the bottom of this page and giving us some details about your project.
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