No matter what kind of business you have in mind, if your product isn’t good enough, you will not see long time success anyways. That is just how the world works these days. You are entering a global market, my friend. Your customers come from all over the place and want to be served well. They demand products that are specifically made and designed for their situation. And we are not specifically talking about real designer pieces here, a product needs to be made well, it doesn’t matter what kind of product it is.
But how can we develop such a product? How can we transform our idea into something better? How can we understand our customers?
I guess, that’s the moment when “design thinking” has its glorious moment, right? It just appears out of nothing and saves the day.
But to be honest, design thinking is not the solution, design thinking plays rather a role in the background. Telling you what you should do, but in the end, it will be up to you, as always in life, to figure out the improvements and changes your product needs.
So, what is that bespoken design thinking anyways?
Design thinking can be defined in quite some different ways, depending on the person you are asking. But generally speaking, it is a method, that combines different tools in such a way, that it supports an innovative product design and development process. So, it is not really something new, but rather a collection of the greatest hits of methods and strategies out there.
The method, which was originally used by architects in the 1960’s and probably before that, was firstly taught at the University of Standfort in 1967. Over the years, the method was continuously optimized and adapted to the ever changing world we live in.
Today, I want to introduce you to the method, widening up your portfolio of useful strategies and methods.
How does it work?
A good question. Design thinking can be considered as a process of different steps, that will be repeated over and over again in different loops, until you are finally satisfied with the outcome. So, it is not the one creative brain writing session and you are done, but rather an ongoing process. But let’s go step by step.
Being a kind of a creative process, you will definitely need a team for that. The more people you have, the better it gets, but please be careful, not to chose too many people, they still need to fit into a room. Speaking about the room, you need a place where you can do that. It would be preferable, if you have a lot of space, some tables, seats, some flip charts, white boards, or what ever, but in case you have neither the money to buy all that, nor the room available, you can also just use your dinner table, some sheets of paper and anything else you will find in your apartment. The more diversified your group of people is, the better. So don’t be afraid about inviting your partner, or your business colleagues, or even the nice looking woman next door. It doesn’t really matter what they are usually doing, because that is basically the asset they bring within the team, their unique life experiences.
Step 1 – Understanding
Get your group together. Tell them what they are about to do. Organize some breaks, the next meetings and stuff. Bring them some food and let them talk to each other. Create a positive environment, where people have fun. If you are doing that in a boring white painted meeting room at work, why don’t you play some music in the background, or show some funny videos over the projector? Your team needs to forget about their day to day life and really focus on this new project that lays ahead. Give them a good briefing and tell them what your problem really is all about.
Step 2 – Observe
In this next step, the main focus will be set on the customers your product will be made for. The aim is to get a better understanding about who your costumers really are and what they want and need in their life’s. How do they think? What are they afraid of? How do they react in certain situations. What do they need?
You can separate your team, letting some talk to real customers on the streets, or via the World Wide Web, or just ask the members of your team to think themselves into the situation of being a customer.
Write down the information you collected and create some so called “personas” which is like a personal description, or a profile of a certain kind of customer you have in mind.
Step 3 – Point of view
In this step, it is time to get your team onto the same page. Give everyone an update about the current status of the project. Tell them about the customer groups you have analyzed and so on. You get the message, right?
Step 4 – Find ideas
Now, the creative part can start. You can basically use any tool and method there is on the market. From brainstorming, to clustering, to what ever you can come up with. There are no rules or what ever. Just find as many ideas as possible and write them down, or make some sketches. Figure out which kind of ideas you like, which ones you want to test and which ones you don’t want to have after all.
Step 5 – Develop prototypes
In the next step you need to do something, you probably haven’t done in a while. Because you will pretend to build something out of very easy materials and stuff you can find in your room or apartment. Like using Lego, or modeling clay, wood, or what ever there is. The goal is to build your idea of a product right in the moment, to be able to have something in your hands and actually show it to someone who will understand your idea much better. Most of the time, drawings are not the easiest way to present an idea, right? But a physical model? Something you can hold in your hands? That is a game changer!
Step 6 – Testing
In the last phase of the method, you will take your prototypes and test them. You can show them to real costumers, or just some people from the group and think about the product. What is good? What is bad? Where do you see some improvements? Where do you need to change something? Which kind of alternatives are there to solve the problem as well?
And this is it. At least, the first loop. What? Wait a minute? The first loop? What do you mean?
This was the first loop. Now, you can go into the second one. And after that into the third one and so on and so on, until your product gets better and better. Of course you can stop the process at any time, either as soon as you have figured out the right project for your business, or when it gets clear, that this is totally not your thing and you will go with another strategy.
I personally think that this method is a kind of a very intuitive approach, and most of the time, I would do the same steps, even without knowing the design thinking method at all. It just makes sense to take these steps, but then of course, I wouldn’t document my process in that kind of way. Which actually helps you a lot to improve upon your ideas, or simply share them with others to get their opinion. But as always in life, it is up to you, what you will do with it. You can change the process, do it reversed, or stop in the middle. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as the outcome is satisfying you, right?
I wish you a good luck with the method, in case you actually want to try it out. Here are some images from my last design thinking session. It was for a project for university.
See you next time!