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Design Thinking: A New Tool to Innovate

Design ideation is strictly lateral as opposed to linear. The child in us can think out of the box, whereas the adult reasons it out to play safe. We find children thinking aloud and coming out with unexpected ideas & solutions. We are awed with their thought process, which is obvious for them but not so obvious to us.

Designers also have a child alive in them and they express it through a lateral ideation process. They have a unique combination of ‘thought of a child’ and ‘logic of an adult’. The way designers think and solve problems is called Design Thinking. Design Thinking is inherent in designers, by their aptitude and training.

Design Thinking is being re-discovered and evolved by the managers as a smart tool to reach out to the customers and provide solutions that have an emotional connect with them. An emotional connect builds relationships, which is damn good for organization!

What is Design Thinking? Some of the keywords & phrases that appear with this expression are user-centric, user insights, empathy, lateral thinking, exploratory, frequent prototyping, context, iterative, multiple possibilities, etc. If these words are put in the right order, an interesting process emerges. This process helps in finding a creative and optimum solution to any problem.

For spiritualists, the big question is ‘Who am I?’ whereas for Design Thinkers it is ‘Who is the User?’ Unlike the former, where the answer is tough to find, latter needs a sensitivity to define and empathize with the user. So, first and foremost is to know who the user is, understand her behavior, stereotypes, unmet needs, socio-cultural background, through certain research methodologies.

So when you have a problem to solve, always define the user & context and try playing her role. Then invoke the child in you and explore. Explore laterally! One will see a plethora of ideas churning out, with a few potential ones. These ideas could be validated by making some quick prototypes and testing with the users. While resonating the ideas with the users, there are bound to be some unexpected discoveries, which may lead to finer solutions with deeper thoughts.

Iterate, detail out and converge consciously to reach to the best solution. Continuous refinement during the process polishes the idea and makes it lean and attractive.

Design Thinking

Design Thinking is evolving and is now relevant for solving larger problems related social change, environment, systems, etc. From an appearance and object oriented design process, designers are now using Design Thinking techniques to solve more complex problems which have far reaching benefits for people and societies. It has become interdisciplinary and is being used by professionals from many other fields.

Design Thinking is a strategic tool that employs techniques from sociology and psychology, to dig deeper into the user’s mind and map them on a larger landscape. Technologies like 3D Printing, IoT (Internet of Things) and BDA (Big Data Analytics) will supplement the Design Thinking process for deeper penetration into the consumer’s mind.

Here is a good arithmetic of design thinking:

  1. Identify problem + research the user and her ecosystem + ideate = many innovative concepts
  2. Shortlist potential concepts + iterations + quick prototyping = proof of concept
  3. More prototyping =more quality
  4. Design + detailing + final proto = validation
  5. Test + revisit design + last mile details + manufacture = ready to launch

Creativity is exciting and so is Design Thinking! Use it to enjoy problem solving.