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Design Thinking – A Framework for Creativity & Innovation in Today’s Times

Updated: Jun 16, 2022

Design can help to improve our lives in the present. Design Thinking can help us chart a path into the future ….. Tim Brown Today’s world is all about innovation and futuristic thinking. Looking at the larger picture, so that actions are coordinated accordingly to achieve the desired results. Design Thinking is all about thinking made visual, through adopting processes, meaning cognitive, strategic and practical processes, by which design concepts - proposals for new products, infrastructure, projects, and so on are developed. A terminology which explains the importance of identifying and designing experiences that can lead to boost in loyalty and profits for businesses, satisfying experiences for customers and competitive advantage for employees. Design thinking has a human-centered core. It encourages organizations to focus on the people they’re creating it for, leading to better products, services, and internal processes. When your team sits down to create a strategy or solution for a business requirement, the first question, if you are using the Design Thinking process is, Who is it for? and What is the human need behind it? Design Thinking key concepts are different across various domains or activity. You cannot use the same concepts everywhere. This application is more requirement and project centric. For example - In HR's context, the principles of design thinking are applied to answer human-centered questions and challenge assumptions. It comprises developing an in-depth understanding of people for whom solutions are being designed and involve them in the process so as to come up with out-of-the-box ideas to enhance their workplace experiences. Similarly the process of Design Thinking can be applied in different areas and processes to expedite the outcome the organization desires from any particular process or project. Why is Design Thinking Important? Human beings are creatures of habit. We rely on building patterns of thinking in order to not have to re-invent the wheel every time. Thus, we keep doing everyday processes more or less unconsciously, like getting up in the morning, exercising, having breakfast, getting ready for work and so on – almost automatic. This automation also filters into our work area, where we assess challenges at work in an almost mechanical manner. It often becomes difficult for us to challenge our assumptions and everyday knowledge, because we don’t really like change and get into an automated pattern of thinking and doing – we like being in our comfort zone. With global changes in trends, business practices and practice deployment, over recent decades it has become crucial to develop and refine skills which allow us to understand and act on rapid changes in our environment and behavior. The world has become a ‘one market’, increasingly interconnected and complex, and design thinking offers a means to grapple with all these changes in a more humane-centric manner. It is the need of the hour. Design teams use design thinking to tackle problems that are not of common genre and more complex. Design Thinking processes, reframes these problems in humane ways, and focuses on what is most important for users. It uses ‘out of the box’ methods to dig that bit deeper into the problem and solves it with the end user in mind. It is an important method/ tool that managers can use to:

  • Reduce the risk associated with launching new ideas

  • It generates solutions that are revolutionary, not just incremental

  • Learning is achieved at a faster level

  • Helps deal with customers bringing customer satisfaction to a new level

Phases of Design Thinking

The Design Thinking Process has many variants in use today, from three to five to seven phases. However, the basics of all the variants are very similar and embody similar principles.

Empathize – Understand your user and user needs

Gain an empathetic understanding of user problems you’re trying to solve, through user research. Set aside your own assumptions and gain real insight into users and their needs to come up with a user-centric solutions.

Define - User Needs and Problems to be defined

Analyze observations gathered during empathize stage and compare the same with the core problems you and your team have identified so far. Always seek to define the problem statement in a humane-centered manner as you do this.

Ideate – Move from your Comfort Zone

Challenge assumptions and generate new ideas with your team to meet the problems. The background of knowledge acquired from the first two phases, is enough to equip you to start to “think outside the box”, look for alternative ways to view the problem and identify innovative solutions to the problem statement you’ve created

Prototype - Start Creating New Solutions

Be aware that this is an experimental phase. The aim of this phase is to identify the best possible solution for each of the problems identified during the first three stages. Produce a number of inexpensive, scaled-down versions of the product to help you to investigate and check if the problem solutions generated in the previous stage are correct.

Test it Out

Testing gives us a chance to get a product out into the world, test it in real life, and test it in real time. During this phase, you get to see if you’ve got the solutions for the problem correctly. Test the complete product using the best solutions identified in the Prototype phase. Although this is the final phase of the model, since Design Thinking is an iterative process, the results generated are often used to redefine one or more further problems. It is not the end of the process. Designers can return to previous stages in the process to make further changes, alterations and refinements till they achieve what the end user is looking for.

In this process, the testing stage is where the model gets tested by users in their real life setting. During testing, the user experiences the prototype without any explicit guidance which allows the designer to collect feedback and freely observe what is happening and the reactions of the user.

The design thinking process has become the key to the success of many high-profile, global organizations. This success has led companies across the globe to adopt this process as an integral part of their innovation and creativity processes. Now even Universities and Management Institutes have Design Thinking as part of their curriculum and are encouraged at every level of business.


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