Anyone can use design thinking to get extraordinary results.
Design is problem solving with flair.
If we take flair to mean stylishness and originality, it conveys the notion that its purpose is not merely to embellish or adorn as so many people misinterpret, but to achieve better more elegant results. The power of design often lies not in the outcome but in the process by which great outcomes are realised.
At art school we learned all about the process of design and how design thinking could greatly benefit the world but we took it too literally. We believed that we were going to make the world a better place with our stylish widgets and doodads. But it was not the work that would change the world but the thinking behind it.
It is only now, decades later that I truly appreciate that it is design thinking, not just design that can change the world and achieve extraordinary results across all business sectors, not just in the design of products.
Design thinking is a process, a methodology that can be applied to all situations where a problem needs solving.
There are four key stages of design thinking
Stage#1 Defining the Problem
Knowing what problem are you actually setting out to solve might sound obvious but it is something that is often overlooked in a bid to create something new. Observation and immersion are crucial to getting a full understanding of the problem (and ensuring that you are solving the right problem). Don’t rely on preconception and assumption, get out there and experience the problem first hand. Three useful questions to be asking are Why? Why? and Why? By drilling down in this way you can get to a deeper understanding and discover the real issues. Avoid assumptions and always question the brief. Check out Warren Berger’s book “A more beautiful question” for more insight into the power of questions.
Stage 2 Try a lot of different options
If something has worked in the past it is tempting to use again and again when looking for a solution but there is a danger of falling into the trap of “that is the way that we have always done it”. Exploring several different solutions that can be assessed on their relative merits can lead to the discovery of a better solution. Spread the net wide, explore multiple ideas. Bring in different perspectives and viewpoints.
Stage 3 Narrow down your options
Once you have spread it wide you need to narrow down your selection and nurture a handful of ideas. Test them out, experiment and make mistakes. Combining ideas to make new ideas, always refining. If needed, take a step back and then repeat stages 2 & 3 to get a better solution.
4. Pick a winner and implement it
By the time you reach the fourth stage in the process you will have a much stronger solution or at least a better understanding of how to solve the problem. Create prototypes, and test critically.
This type of thinking is not ground-breaking or new but it is the kind of logical and result-focussed thinking that leads the best creators to come up with the best ideas.
How could you apply design thinking in your business?