How Design Thinking Will Revolutionize Your Business

How many times have you and your team dedicated your precious time to get together to try and solve business problems, just to feel like at the end of it all the only thing you did was put a bandage over the problem for the sake of moving forward? In this type of situation, you will waste countless hours and you probably know in the back of your head that you could have done better, you’re just not quite sure how to start. Design process is a tried-and-true method that could help you avoid the temptation of hiding problems with bandages and other quick fixes.

Diverse team collaborating on a project with focus and engagement.

Design thinking helps organizations consider how their product fits into a market by prompting teams to understand the past, current and future trends of the said market. This process seeks to understand a market’s users, challenge assumptions about the market, and evaluate problems through creativity and innovation. While traditional problem-solving processes tend to look at outcomes, design thinking prioritizes creativity and innovation as pieces of a problem-solving toolkit. Design thinking rejects the idea that there can be unsolvable problems by creating human-centered approaches that believe the people who deal with a problem regularly are the ones who hold the key to a solution. Design thinking puts the idea of a potential solution on hold as the problem is analyzed and framed as a part of a larger context first and foremost.

The Design Thinking Process

The design thinking process has five major steps, but it is important to understand that the process does not have to occur linearly. Try not to think of the following as a step-by-step, but rather as a collection of methods to be applied as appropriate to your specific problem’s needs.

  1. Empathize – Approach your product’s users with empathy to gain insights into their needs, wants, behaviors, thought patterns, etc. Imagine yourself in your users’ environment and ask yourself questions about how you would feel, what kinds of products you would like to see, what kind of routine you might develop, etc. to enhance user experience with your product
  2. Define – Synthesize observations you made while you empathized with your users. Create a problem statement to guide what direction your work should take you that focuses on specific needs you have been able to uncover about your product’s users and market
  3. Ideate – Brainstorming and idea development should be rooted in creativity and innovation to come up with as many ideas as possible. Then, use a process of elimination to trim down to only the most practical and innovative ideas
  4. Prototype – Prototypes come up in the end stages of design thinking. Test how users will interact with the product by developing a prototype and observing user reactions. Prototypes are scaled-down versions of the final product meant to measure user experience, which in turn provides insight for designers before the final stages
  5. Test – Generate feedback from users to understand how they interact with your product and also to understand users more fully (cycles back to empathy). This can be done concurrently with the prototype phase

Benefits of Design Thinking

Since design thinking is rooted in innovation and reimagining problems, it should come as no surprise that the method is hailed as being chock full of benefits for teams and organizations that use it. Design thinking has proven to be so effective that it has spread far beyond the engineering sector, where it originated. Recent trends even see design thinking being adopted by the education field.

An appealing aspect of design thinking is that it helps organizations identify their unmet needs as well as potential future needs. From here, organizations can use empathy and creativity to formulate effective solutions for complex problems. Adopting a human-centered problem-solving methodology doesn’t just benefit users. Employees who work on teams that use design thinking tend to be more engaged in their work because their insights and ideas are being valued.

Additionally, design thinking is not about finding temporary or partial solutions. Since the process values full, meaningful solutions, the outcomes tend to be much more impactful as well. Since the user was always the focus in this type of approach, outcomes aim to make peoples’ lives and experiences better. If the outcome does not have the desired effect the first time, then it continues forward with improved innovation until desired results are achieved.

For more forward-thinking individuals, design thinking is appealing because it often catalyzes expansion and evolution. Internally, the process helps to build strong teams as everyone’s input and creativity are valued as potentially holding the key to a solution. Externally, users wind up having better experiences with the organization which can increase overall company productivity, effectiveness and profit.

How to Apply Design Thinking in Your Work

When working towards solutions via design thinking, it is important to identify the most effective aspects of the process. Of course, design thinking will rely on you and your team to approach your target issue with an open mind and creativity. Design thinking is not a cyclical or step-by-step process, so you will need to adapt it to your organization’s specific needs.

  • Linear vs. nonlinear thinking – linear thinking involves following a step-by-step process in which one step must be completed before the next one can be started. When engaging in a creative problem-solving process, linear thinking tends to hinder results. Nonlinear thinking, however, recognizes that solutions can spiral out of any step. There can be multiple starting points to a process because nothing is started until the previous step has been fully understood. Because of this, there is potential for deviation away from the original plan—this is okay if a solution is kept in focus.
  • Brain dumps and mind-mapping – Brain dumping involves emptying your mind of all ideas so that you can focus on the most relevant and effective ones. Brain dumps are recommended before team brainstorming sessions because they can help increase focus and creativity during brainstorming meetings. Mind-mapping is similar in that it encourages all ideas to be expressed. It involves writing down thoughts and ideas and mapping them together so that you can see how ideas interrelate.
  • Inspiration and empathy – Remember that problem-solving efforts should have a clear purpose. Try to incorporate more experimental and creative approaches as opposed to using critical and analytical approaches all the time. Remember to let empathy guide your organization’s efforts. Understand who you create products for and why you create products for those people. What is the driving mission or spark behind your products and ideas? Gain more hands-on experience by talking to users in your market and let them inspire you firsthand.

Next Steps

Utilizing design thinking in a business setting can be challenging, especially if you are used to taking analytical approaches to problems. Creativity and innovation will not come naturally if your organization does not give them room to grow in your teammates. Improve your overall user satisfaction by encouraging your team members to start adopting a human-centered problem-solving approach. You can do this by checking out KnowledgeCity’s course, “Design Thinking.” The course will explain key design thinking concepts, how the process works, and how you can apply it in various settings. Believe in your organization’s ability to innovate, incorporate design thinking into your problem-solving efforts.

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