Design Thinking is a methodology or approach that provides a solution-based approach to solving problems. It is focused on addressing the problem in a user or human-centric manner and involves a hands-on approach in prototyping and testing.

Design Thinking is based heavily on processes that designers use but it has evolved to be used in different fields such as engineering, business and architecture. “The method of Design Thinking melds an end-user focus with multidisciplinary and iterative improvement and is a powerful tool for achieving desirable, user-friendly, and economically viable design solutions and innovative products and services.” – Leifer, Meinel, and Plattner (2011)

The 4 Principles of Design Thinking

1. The Human Role

All design activity is social in nature, and any social innovation will bring us back to the “human-centric point of view” –

2. The Ambiguity Rule

Ambiguity is inevitable – experiment at the limits of your knowledge.

3. All Design is Redesign

Basic human needs remain unchanged. Redesign is aimed at fulfilling human needs.

4. The Tangibility Rule

Prototypes help to make ideas tangible, enabling designers to communicate them effectively.

The 5 Phases of Design Thinking

Design Thinking

1. Empathize

Empathizing is the critical first phase in Design Thinking. It is about learning about your audience. It is about understanding the problem from the point of view of the user. Use your observations and engagements with people to understand your audience on a psychological and emotional level.

2. Define

Define is the second phase in Design Thinking. It is about analyzing, interpreting and defining the problem from the point of view based on user needs. You should have a clear problem statement by the end of the Define step.

3. Ideate

Ideate us focused on brainstorming and coming up with creative solutions to solve your defined problem. To produce better outcomes, have multi-disciplinary teams do brainstorming to ensure you generate varied perspectives.

4. Prototype

The fourth phase, prototyping, is building representation of your ideas. It is about creating rough drafts of the brainstormed solutions to find out if these solutions are fit for your problem. Prototyping is not about getting that one solution perfect, but it is more about producing a minimal viable product (MVP) which can be later improved on or transformed into a beta version.

5. Test

The last phase is testing the prototype with customers to determine if it is the correct solution for the defined problem. This phase demands review and revisions. The phases are cyclical in nature because one you test, you may find out that you need to rethink and redefine what you’ve previously done.

Common Mindsets that Govern Design Thinking

1. Foresight

When brainstorming ideas, don’t get stuck with your past work. Picture the future and let that be your way of thinking.

2. Get inspired

Use an area that is conducive for thinking. Surround yourself and your team with inspirational items that spark creativity.

3. Uncertainty works

You can’t know everything in the beginning. That is why the phases of Design Thinking is cyclical because you keep on revising and ideating until you get to the solution that best suits your problem.

4. Practical View

Apply all ideas and see how each works. Do not overlook any ideas.

5. Head to hands

Make it a point to turn all ideas into a tangible thing. Put all ideas into action as soon as you think of them.

6. Visual Impact

Use visual aids to communicate! Visual aids clearly define your ideas and allow for connection to your users.

7. Fail to nail

Failure is part of the experience. Fail early and benefit and learn from it rather than failing at the end of a long process only to find out that the tedious solution is not suited for your problem.

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