Design Thinking: what it is, phases and methodology


Design Thinking: what it is, phases and methodology

May 19 / 2021

Design thinking focuses on understanding the needs of humans and finding effective solutions to satisfy them. At Cloudworks we detail what this design thinking is.

What is design thinking?

As we mentioned earlier, design thinking is an approach used for practical and creative problem-solving. It not only applies to the field of design because this methodology can be used in any sector. 

The main characteristic of design thinking is that it focuses on human beings, understanding people’s needs and finding effective solutions to satisfy them. 

To do this, you must question assumptions, redefine problems, and create innovative solutions to prototype and test. 

This system consists of 5 practical phases to deal with poorly defined or unknown cases.

  • Empathy
  • Definition
  • Ideas
  • Prototypes
  • Tests

We will delve into these stages later, but first, let’s see why its implementation is relevant in current work systems. 

What is design thinking for?

Now that we know more about what design thinking is, let’s consider why it is so important and what it is used for

There are many benefits to using design thinking as an approach, whether in a business, educational, personal, or social context.

First, design thinking serves to foster disruptive thinking, innovation, and creativity. As human beings, we draw on the knowledge and experiences we have accumulated to guide our actions. Although useful in certain situations, we form patterns and habits that can limit our perspectives when it comes to problem-solving.

Rather than repeating the same proven methods, design thinking enables us to remove our barriers and consider alternative solutions. The whole process questions prior established assumptions and encourages us to explore new avenues and ideas.

Sometimes this methodology is perceived as the middle ground of problem-solving because it is not based entirely on emotion and intuition, nor does it rely solely on analysis, science, and rationality. Design thinking uses a combination of both approaches.

Another great advantage of design thinking is that it puts human beings first. By focusing on empathy, you encourage companies and organisations to consider the people who use your products and services, creating success through more meaningful user experiences and interactions

For the consumer, this means more useful products that significantly improve their lives. For businesses, this translates into satisfied customers and a more profitable return on investment. 

Phases of design thinking

The design thinking methodology consists of 5 phases; however, these stages are not always sequential, and teams often execute them in parallel, without order and in continuous repetition.

Phase 1: Empathize – Research until you understand the users’ needs 

During the empathy phase, you engage with your target audience, and you dedicate yourself to observing their behaviour. The goal is to get a clear picture of who your end users are, what challenges they face, and what requisites and expectations need to be met. 

To create empathy with the user, you must conduct surveys, interviews, observation and follow-up sessions. This process will help you to put aside your assumptions and open yourself up to new ideas. 

Phase 2: Define user needs and issues

At this stage of the design thinking methodology, it is time to accumulate the information collected during the first phase. The observations are then analysed and synthesized to identify the main issues. 

Before moving on to the ideation phase, profiles can be created based on these issues so that later proposals can revolve around them.

Phase 3: Create – Break paradigms and conceptualize

This is one of the most important steps in design thinking and is the next stage in the process, coming up with solutions to the problem at hand. Here, members of different teams are encouraged to work together and contribute ideas (the brainstorming technique is especially useful in this case). This unites different perspectives and leads to suggestions for improvements

Phase 4: Prototype – Start creating solutions

You don’t need a lot of time or resources to create a prototype. Start with pencil and paper or other accessible resources, like a slide projector, to stimulate ideas and get feedback to better understand your customers’ needs before investing in production.

Phase 5: Testing for errors

The above steps of design thinking allow you to learn from your mistakes if you have misinterpreted their behaviour or needs. That is why you must test all the potential solutions and make the necessary modifications to make sure that everything works.  

Creative techniques and tools

To help you identify and execute profitable ideas, here are 5 creative techniques that will help you view the difficulties of your business from another perspective. 

  • Visualization: using images. It is not about drawing, but about thinking visually. It pushes us beyond the use of words or language. It is a way of unlocking a different part of our brain that allows us to think non-verbally.
  • Mapping the experience: This is an ethnographic research method that focuses on tracing the client “journey” when interacting with an organization while receiving a service, with special attention to emotional ups and downs. Experience mapping is used to identify needs that clients do not often articulate.
  • Mind maps: are used to represent how ideas complement the main work concept and enable better organization and prioritization of actions. 
  • Co-creation with the client: this is one of the growth and innovation approaches that add the most value and reduce risk because they directly involve the main client in the search for solutions. 
  • Storytelling: helps build better stories and present new solutions attractively and persuasively so that both company managers and consumers successfully adopt them.

How to develop design thinking in start-ups and large companies

Design thinking fosters disruptive ideas, which is why we presented some tips to implement the design thinking methodology in your company, whether it is a start-up that is just starting or a consolidated multinational. 

Start small

Find a small, low-risk project within your company to apply the design thinking method. One option may be to plan the organization’s party and then scale it up. 

Demonstrate the positive side without offending anyone

It is difficult to change the norms and ways of working in any company. The trick is to find a way to demonstrate the value of a different way of thinking without upsetting the current way of doing things. Find the right words so that your comments are positive. One tip is to find out which companies your bosses admire and share articles from these organizations highlighting the use of design thinking.

Find a necessity that does not seem obvious

When a problem seems huge or desperate, look for a necessity that does not seem obvious. That is, ask questions, experiment and find the hidden benefits of a situation until you discover a real shortcoming within the organization. This is when you can start working to find the solution.

Using design thinking to solve problems, you can detect if your project needs a flexible workspace such as the coworking and serviced offices we provide at Cloudworks. The advantages, both for companies and for the professionals who work in them, make them the ideal work alternative to traditional offices. Contact us, and we will help you find the perfect space according to your needs. 

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