“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success. Design can help to improve our lives in the present. Design thinking can help us chart a path into the future” —Tim Brown, IDEO.
Design thinking is a method for developing innovative solutions for complex problems, by deliberately incorporating the concerns, interests, and values of humans into the design process (Brown, 2009; Meinel and Leifer, 2011). Design thinking is deliberately iterative and aims to rapidly develop and test multiple possible solutions to arrive at an optimal one (Brown, 2008; Denning, 2013). The concept originated with the company IDEO, which was founded in 1991 by David Kelley and partner design firms. Kelley further popularised design thinking in academia and design practice by founding the Stanford Design Centre in 2006, and the concept has also gained considerable public attention through successful government projects (Denning, 2013). Design thinking has five core characteristics:
1) a human-centred approach,
2) a strong integration of experimenting with artefacts,
3) collaboration in multidisciplinary teams,
4) an integrative and holistic view on complex problems, and
5) a characteristic five-step process consists of ‘Empathize, ‘define’, ‘ideate’, ‘prototype’, and ‘test’
Design Thinking revolves around a deep interest in developing an understanding of the people for whom we’re designing the products or services. It helps us observe and develop empathy with the target user. Design Thinking helps us in the process of questioning: questioning the problem, questioning the assumptions, and questioning the implications. Design Thinking is extremely useful in tackling problems that are ill-defined or unknown, by re-framing the problem in human-centric ways, creating many ideas in brainstorming sessions, and adopting a hands-on approach in prototyping and testing. Design Thinking also involves ongoing experimentation: sketching, prototyping, testing, and trying out concepts and ideas.
Design thinking is a deeply human process that taps into abilities we all have but get overlooked by more conventional problem-solving practices. It relies on our ability to be intuitive, to recognize patterns, to construct ideas that are emotionally meaningful as well as functional, and to express ourselves through means beyond words or symbols. Nobody wants to run an organization on feeling, intuition, and inspiration, but an over-reliance on the rational and the analytical can be just as risky. Design thinking provides an integrated third way.
The design thinking process is best thought of as a system of overlapping spaces rather than a sequence of orderly steps. There are three spaces to keep in mind: inspiration, ideation, and implementation. Inspiration is the problem or opportunity that motivates the search for solutions. Ideation is the process of generating, developing, and testing ideas. Implementation is the path that leads from the project stage into people’s lives.
Design thinking isn’t about how good you are at design tools such as Photoshop, but rather it’s about using human elements when figuring out how to create products that addresses the real needs of people.
Using the design thinking process, everyone is a designer and design is everywhere – the way you plan out your day, the way you arrange furniture in your room, the way you match clothes. In the corporate setting, it’s important to find out and integrate the end users’ needs from the beginning, so that you don’t end up spending all your time solving the wrong problem.