Design Thinking is an approach to problem-solving based on the processes used by designers to resolve issues creatively and innovatively. This particular technique can be applied in a wide variety of situations including the design of products and services, the formulation of business strategies and staff training.
This approach is characterised by the fact that it places end users at its centre and the results it provides are aimed mainly at understanding users’ needs and wishes as well as tracking their behaviour. Although companies have been exploiting this system’s potential for over 20 years, people are now starting to consider its limitations to be too restrictive.
How does Design Thinking work?
A crucial aspect of Design Thinking is the open, experimental philosophy that it promotes. Instead of looking for one definitive solution from the start, it encourages rapid error and ongoing learning. It basically consists of a non-linear process which enables new challenges to be identified and tackled along the way.
For a better grasp of how it works, it is essential to understand the relevance of analytical and intuitive thought, which, combined with empathy, creativity and rationality, are able to provide efficient, innovative solutions. This process can be divided into five main phases:
- empathy: the team emerges itself in the context of the problem while trying to understand the needs of the end users. Interviews and observations are carried out and the team looks for insights that can help it to obtain deeper understanding;
- definition: the information gathered is summarised to provide a clear and focused description of the problem. The so-called ‘challenge statements’ are drawn up, aimed at guiding the subsequent, ideation phase of the process;
- ideation: ideas start to be generated creatively and without any limits. The objective is to produce as many as possible, without judging or assessing them initially;
- prototyping: selected ideas are transformed into tangible prototypes. These prototypes can be of different kinds such as physical models, digital mock-ups or even scripts or storyboards;
- testing: the prototypes undergo testing and assessment by the end users. This enables the team to gather useful feedback and observations to help assess the efficiency and usability of the proposed solution.
Future Thinking to overcome limits
As outlined above, Design Thinking is quite an interesting approach to problem solving but what renders it unique is the very same thing that limits its potential.
After several years of use, in fact, companies are now starting to realise that it is not ideal when dealing with big changes (as required by today’s businesses) and also that ‘userism’ (or an excessive focus on the user) has already been over-exploited.
In order to combat this stagnation, training courses devoted to Future Thinking are being promoted. This new problem solving technique focuses on exploring and predicting possible future scenarios, which can be used to shape present decisions and actions.
The formulation of these predictions is based on methods and tools such as current trend analysis or the observation of social, technological and economic change. Thanks to this data, it is possible to make a range of forecasts which help the company to establish the best route to follow, freeing them from the restrictions imposed by Design Thinking.
Translated by Joanne Beckwith