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What is Design Thinking?

Nov 26, 2019 | Insights

Eunice Jean Patron

Communications
Officer

Hearing the phrase “Design Thinking” might lead you to believe that it’s only applicable to designers – but that is not true. What’s amazing about design thinking is that people from different fields such as business and science can apply design thinking to innovate and solve problems at the workplace.

Some of the world’s biggest companies, such as GE, Apple, and IBM, practice the design thinking approach on an everyday basis to create and improve their products. Design thinking is also being taught at various top universities across the globe, such as Stanford, Harvard, and MIT.

Design thinking is in the limelight nowadays, and there’s a good reason for it. But before we delve into the specifics of design thinking, let’s first define what design thinking is.

What’s amazing about design thinking is that people from different fields such as business and science can apply design thinking to innovate and solve problems at the workplace.

Design thinking seeks to understand your user, question the norms, and reevaluate your problems to identify other solutions. Through design thinking, you’ll be able to think of outside-the-box solutions.

The users are the center of a design thinker’s world. Design thinking prioritizes understanding the people whom we’re creating a product or service for. The Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford proposed a five-phase model which most design thinkers use nowadays.

The first phase is to empathize. Empathy is the ability to understand, share, and be aware of the feelings, thoughts, and emotions of others. We should put ourselves in the shoes of the people we are designing for to know what solutions will align with their needs. By interviewing, observing, and immersing with your users, you’ll be able to gauge what their problems are.

The second phase is to define. This is the stage where you make sure you’re solving the right problem using the data you’ve acquired during the empathy stage. In defining the main problem, design thinkers usually shift their thoughts into “How Might We” questions.

The third phase is to ideate. Ideas are the meat of a design thinking process. In this phase, you think of solutions for your main “How Might We” question. Don’t be afraid to create as many ideas as possible. After coming up with lots of ideas, then you proceed with selecting the best idea you have on your choices. Keep in mind that the idea of your choice should be feasible in both technological and business aspects and that it seems like an idea your users would never hesitate to try out.

The fourth phase is to prototype. This is the time for you to build a sample of your idea for other people to visualize. You’re free to use any material you’d like – what’s important is that it brings life to your ideas! Some design thinkers use paper to create their prototypes, while others use sketches. You can also try roleplaying or old, reliable PowerPoint presentations!

The last phase is to test. You’ve come a long road from empathizing with your users to create a prototype for your proposed solution! Now’s the time to see if your idea is exactly what your users need. Invite a sample of your users to try the prototype you’ve created and take note of their feedback. Use that feedback to improve your prototype. You may have to trace your previous steps, but now you have an actual product you can test on!

Sometimes, our minds are so occupied of the rules society dictates we follow that we fail to see that the obvious solution is right in front of our eyes.

Design thinking allows us to go wild with our ideas and decide which among them is the most feasible.

The reason why design thinking is at its peak is simple – it lets us free from our restrictive thinking. Sometimes, our minds are so occupied of the rules society dictates we follow that we fail to see that the obvious solution is right in front of our eyes. Design thinking allows us to go wild with our ideas and decide which among them is the most feasible. 

There are a number of companies that use design thinking to help other people such as IDEO, and Limitless Lab is also one of those! We use design thinking to transform mindsets and create new opportunities. We’ve also worked with different organizations from across different industries and seen how the method can help change mindsets and promote innovation. To know what it takes to be a design thinker just like us, grab a free copy of our Design Thinker’s Manifesto!

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