What Is Design Thinking: 8 Business Tips for Beginners

Design thinking is utilized every day by teams to better understand their target audience, overcome problems, and deliver creative, highly effective solutions. This form of non-linear problem-solving anticipates challenges and responds proactively in such a way that success is brought closer to reality. A design thinking workshop will offer skills that every team can benefit from.

Imagine going into a conversation having already memorized every line you’re going to say. Regardless of the other person’s responses, you continue on with these memorized lines and sometimes they come off completely unrelated or ignorant to the other person. This isn’t how conversations happen. They’re give-and-take and based off listening. Why should design be different – it doesn’t have to. Let the user guide you and the sorts of solutions you want to present.

Design thinking can be defined into five steps. These aren’t sequential and can be run in parallel by different teams. They are:

  1. Empathize with your users
  2. Define the problem
  3. Ideate and create innovative ideas that overcome challenges
  4. Prototype to investigate proposed solutions
  5. Test solutions

All of this boils down to a sort of user-centric, solutions-driven troubleshooting strategy that can be applied in everything from sales and marketing to product development. Here are the collection of design thinking steps to take you from ‘here’ to ‘there’:

1. Empathize with your users

Your target user is a real human being. They have desires, needs, ambition, and values. Through research on your user, you better understand what motivates them and what the challenge is between them opting in or opting out.

For empathy in design thinking to work, you must remove assumptions you have about your target user and zero in on the data. If you understand the person, you can understand the problem. That’s design thinking 101.

2. Think about the problem

Empathizing is all about researching the user. Once you have your research, you then analyze. Through this analysis, you can further identify the core problem you are dealing with.

Write a problem statement that outlines it. What you may think is the problem may not inherently be the problem. You really have to listen to your user, empathize with them, and dig deep into the information you have.

3. Ideate, ideate, ideate

This is where things get obsessively creative. Start generating ideas based off the prior two steps. Come up with out-of-the-box ideas. Go wild. There is no stupid idea. Search for alternative solutions and make a list.

Ignoring all assumptions and limitations, if you know the problem, chances are there are multiple ways to solve it. With unlimited resources, define those ways. Everything we’re doing here is just thinking, saying, writing, and listing. No objections.

4. Prototype the best design solutions

From your list, experiment with each idea you have. In prototyping, we define the most likely solution. Beyond discussion, map it out. See how it would actually work.

If it’s a product, an inexpensive prototype can help investigate the idea by having it in front of you. Try to recreate your solutions in a way that you can demonstrate to other team members the positives and negatives behind them.

5. Test your design prototype

Once we have narrowed down our solutions to what’s most logically going to be the correct choice, it’s time to test them. As we test out a solution, surely, there could be more problems. Unexpected issues come up. When they do, we return to the empathy step to solve individual issues as they present.

At the end of the day, this is all done while maintaining a user-centric approach. Understand the user. Understand what their ideal solution would be.

6. Share the design thinking solution

As a sort of sixth step (a bonus step, if you will!), once you have your testing done, it’s time to release the solution and see how it does. If it fails, you may need to return to design thinking, analyzing according to new information procured and dreaming up a new solution. The user response will tell you very quickly whether the solution you brought to market by your team is working.

Expect to receive critiques. You may be able to identify additional features or accessory-like designs that would further improve and make better your solution. Be open.

7. Use design thinking for branding

User behaviour changes. The market changes. What works today won’t necessarily work tomorrow. Design thinking presents solutions in real-time and can be used to update to new products, services, strategies, and more. As a team, you have to constantly be reacting to everything going on around you. With everything so interconnected and complex, design thinking’s value is that it is simple, straightforward, and yields high ROI in the right context.

8. Reinvent with design thinking

One can’t be innovate without being innovative. For design thinking to work, a team has to be selfless and avoid falling into the trap of assuming they already know what it is they’re trying to solve. That will only lead one down a path of moderate success at best, if not outright failure.

Innovate based off the actual challenges and real-world information you procure during the empathy stage. The solution you arrive at should rely solely on problem-solving the right problem. Do that and follow the steps to arrive somewhere new and promising. That’s how you problem-solve with design thinking steps.

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