How ‘Design Thinking’ Gives You A Competitive Edge
As a brand owner, you’re well aware of the countless assets that need to be created in order to keep a seamless brand image. A website, business cards, even employee uniforms (if you have those) are all necessary to telling your brand story. Chances are, to help with the above, you’ve hired a designer at some point. But what if you (or someone on your team) were the designer and could create those assets in-house? The savings in money, time, discussions, and lost emails would be worth its weight in gold, right? Best of all, there would be vested interest in making the assets the best they possibly can be.
But there’s more to this equation than being able to avoid contracting a designer. In actuality, when approaching problems you’re facing within your business, using a “design mindset” can not only change your entire outlook, but can streamline the problem-solving process. Tim Brown, CEO/president of the design firm IDEO, calls design thinking “a method of meeting people’s needs and desires in a technologically feasible and strategically viable way.” The primary aim of the five design thinking steps is to use creative and critical thinking as tools from the start of the problem-solving workflow. Typically, a design mentality is used at the end of the creation process to stylize and make your product aesthetically pleasing. But when you take what is typically a “final step” and move it to the front of the process, you are allowing for a free flow of ideas which won’t get bogged down in non-collaboration, stagnant meetings or pressure to solve the issue at hand. One of the other benefits of using a design mentality is that this system lends itself to unleashing creativity in others. The fact that the barriers and judgments are taken away with this malleable process can really bring the best out in your team. Team members who never felt comfortable sharing ideas might just have the best ideas hidden in them and the open collaboration can inject energy and morale into the process.
What are the 5 steps of design thinking?
- Empathize: In this stage, you (and your team) must do as much as possible to gain a deep understanding of the problem at hand and your customers who are being affected by it. Go to experts, study, interact, pick people’s brains. You need to truly understand what you are facing before you move forward. Using empathy allows those involved to set aside their preconceived notions and truly understand what is in front of them.
- Define: In this stage, you take all the information you gathered in stage one and dilute it down to the core of the problem. This is where you truly know exactly what you are facing and what it is you that are trying to achieve.
- Ideate: This is the idea generation stage. It’s all about formulating ideas from the information you have gathered and synthesized in the first two steps. This stage should be completely open, no bad ideas, in fact one of the idea generating tools is to come up with the “Worst Possible Ideas” as a way of knowing where you don’t want to land while fostering creativity. There should be no censorship, no NOs, and everyone on your team should have an equal chance to share their input.
- Prototype: This stage includes the creation of prototypes of your product or a specific feature of the product. The goal is to test real versions of the ideas gathered in the first steps with the team, other departments or trusted outside sources to figure out potential problems or pitfalls and to reassess and, if need be, make any changes.
- Test: In this stage, the team rigorously tests the final product or solution. It’s an iterative process and, while the last step, meant to be a culmination of all the steps. The goal is to ensure a proper solution has been reached while informing the previous steps and even revisiting them if need be to workshop potential curve balls and redesign if necessary.
Design thinking is the ideal tool for you and your business. It’s creation-based, fosters enthusiasm, collaboration and is a fluid process that involves everyone no matter their role. You and your team will be able to learn about problem solving but most importantly you will become intimately informed about your customers and in finding ways to please them.
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