When we are given a problem to solve, we spend time thinking about the problem and reframe the issue and try many things in our head to move towards a solution. Design thinking actually takes the problem to the customer or consumer whose problem we are trying to solve.
Design changes how we behave. Just changing the shape of the table from rectangular to circular changes the perception of hierarchy in the mind of the people around the table. Replace a wall in office with transparent glass walls and see the change in culture. Colleges are teaching courses on Design Thinking. Steve Jobs talked about Apple products being at the meeting point of technology and design. He moved the consumer from looking at just functionality in the product to aesthetics and design. Products that compete on features will always have the challenge of being ousted from the shelf by a competitor who offers more features at a lower price. When a product offers roughly the same technical specifications but packs in emotional appeal through better design, it becomes a winner in the marketplace.
The product design firm IDEO (pronounced eye-dee-oh) that is synonymous with this approach says, “Thinking like a designer can transform the way you develop products, services, processes—and even strategy.” Apple credits them to have designed their first computer mouse. David Kelley – a legendary designer explains the importance of keeping the user at the centre of the design process. In this video he explains what he learnt by observing children as they brushed their teeth.
Design thinking seeks to put the user at the center of the design process. The process involves actually watching the customer. To design a razor, the designer must observe the way people shave. Do they sit on the floor and shave or do they stand while they shave. What is the direction of the razor glide? How many strokes of the razor does it take to complete the shave? Do they shave using water from a tap or do they dip the razor in a cup of water? No question is too silly to ask.
Based on their observations the designers generate insights that affect the design. To do this they need to listen to the customer and identify what they desire out of the product or experience. This requires deep empathy. The design that they come up with must be technologically feasible and be viable enough to make money for the business. Design thinking requires people who have curiosity and empathy. It requires people who are not afraid to experiment.The designers integrate desirability, viability and feasibility.
The approach uses human behavior as a key input to solve everyday problems. To solve the problem of getting kids to eat healthy and avoid being overweight they observed what matters to children, what their daily routines are and what choices they make as they eat. You can see the video here <click to see video>.
You could learn the steps of this methodology from this 90 minute course offered by the design school at Stanford. My suggestion is that you actually find a partner and take the course together. <take the course>
I would love to know about your experience of solving a problem using this approach. Mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org