Design Thinking Adoption in Real Life

October 2020

Design thinking, a process that gained popularity throughIDEO’s consulting firm, has risen the ranks in popularity with its widespread use in companies – from small startups to large-scale enterprises. Focusing on the critical pillars of social psychology, insights developed through design thinking have helped uncover new ideas while dismissing the parameters of old assumptions.

Throughout the years, I’ve seen how effective design thinking can be. Whiteboarding sessions at the accelerator were filled with doodles, scrap paper, markers, post-its galore. Founders came into the session with one idea in mind but were instead tasked with evaluating a spectrum of potential solutions when they walked out the door. The science behind design thinking is the exact magic that we need in our everyday lives to bring impactful change.

Here are my top reasons why we need to adopt design thinking with our daily routines.  

Abandon all assumptions and observe.

As humans, we all are in this world with preconceived assumptions and biases. Everything from the way we were raised, where we’re living, what occupation we’re doing, and the lifestyle we’ve decided to live – these help frame our way of thinking and approaching new situations.  Design thinking encourages the abandonment of these assumptions and biases, and instead, encourages real-world interactions.

For example – think about your favorite coffee shop that sometimes has a line out the door in the mornings. For some, the assumption to help expedite the line would involve having more baristas on staff. However, when you go in the morning to observe, you see that:

Ask questions – a lot of them.

To find the best solution, start asking questions to help drill down on what the true obstacles are.

To Customers:

To Baristas:

Based on your observations and the answers to the above,your approach and framework to problem solving will likely change. Your goal isto solve the challenges – not the perceived ones from an outsider’s glance.

Start brainstorming.

Imagine new ideas and see how they can be designed to problem solve. Here, the concept involves coming up with a quantity of ideas tohelp build off a solution. Jot each idea down on a sticky note. Some concepts that may come out of our café example include:

From there, take each idea and write down pros and cons for each. Consider the following questions for each idea:

  1. What are some of the obstacles we may face with each solution?
  2. Which solution solves the heart of the problem at the café? Note, this will likely differ from your initial assumption of a short-staffed café.
  3. Is this solution long-term or short-term?
  4. Which solution is the most practical to adopt from a business standpoint?
  5. What are the resources, time and budget needed to drive this solution?

Testing and trying with take-two’s.

Mastering a growth mindset can be tough. As humans, we either take a “glass-half-full” or “glass-half-empty” approach. Instead of seeing failure as the demise of one’s abilities, growth getters see failure as an opportunity to learn faster, grow farther, and continual evolve based on these learnings. This is the mindset that’s needed for the final phase of design thinking.

Based on your brainstorming, experiment with the ideas that you feel would be the best solutions to the obstacle you’re solving. Some solutions may require months of work and a larger-than-expected budget. With these, sketch them out and present your solution to the end-user – within this scenario to the baristas and coffee customers at the café. See what their initial reactions are.

After going through the design thinking process, you’ll be better equipped to present a well-thought out solution that has been considered through multiple lenses. In lieu of the assumption/bias approach within the initial hypothetical, you’ll likely come across surprising new ideas that you likely wouldn’t have considered from the start. That’s the beauty of design thinking. That’s the magic of true growth and innovation.

If you're a founder who is looking to incorporate design thinking in your product design and development, get in touch! Bringing design thinking earlier to the conversation will help increase your odds for success.

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