As businesses look for innovative solutions to problem-solving, engage employees, and identify cross-technical synergies, several methodologies from different areas of expertise have been adopted and adapted to fit different parameters of business functions. Famously, the Agile methodology, which was originally designed for software development, has been imported and adapted by several organizations for use in areas outside software development. Design thinking has experienced a similar trend over the years as it provides a systematic approach to tackle uncertainties and constraints with a human-centric mentality. In this article, we will be discussing what is design thinking, its process, and some of its use cases.
Although several different definitions can be found online, the common understanding is that design thinking is a framework which employs a series of tools and resources to guide individuals, organizations, and institutions in their problem-solving journey. Ideo.org defines design thinking in the following way:
The widely known human-centered aspect of the methodology comes from the fact that although it tries to find solutions to a problem, it first seeks to understand who the solution will be designed for and what their needs are. Once those stories are heard/ parameters are defined, then the problem-solving process begins by following the design thinking process.
Even though different consulting practices, organizations, and institutions use different nomenclature to describe the process, the design thinking process generally follows a 5 step process which has been immortalized by Stanford’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design:
Despite design thinking having a step-by-step process, it is important to note that at any point problem-solvers may go back to a previous step that has already been “cleared” to further refine their findings. Remember that design thinking is a human-centered approach to problem-solving whereas user desirability, useability, feasibility, and operational efficiency are at the centre of the solution.
Design thinking can be applied across a multitude of organizational profiles and environments because of its broad encompassing nature. Below are different case scenarios from Ideo.org and other companies and organizations who implemented design thinking to revolutionize their products, services, industries, and improve their bottom lines:
The former CEO of Pepsi, Indra Nooyi who is responsible for growing the company’s sales in 80% during her 12-year tenure, gave an interview to HBR in which she describes her journey to implement design thinking in the company with the help of Mauro Porcini – Pepsi’s current SVP & Chief Design Officer. In the interview, she showcases the importance of assuming a customer perspective, specially on how manufactured products are acquired and consumed. Design thinking led the company to rethink packaging, dietary concerns, and the company’s strategy in general.
At the time, Peru faced a shortage of qualified teachers and socioeconomic challenges that ramped up the prices of land which made it difficult for middle-class families to access private education in the county. IDEO, a global design thinking company, was hired to redesign the education system for a private network of schools. The project has resulted in more than 60 new schools in Peru and it is being exported internationally to other countries such as Mexico.
To some, the hospital experience can be challenging, ranging from long wait times, misdiagnoses and more. Instead of continuing to follow the standard approach, Stanford Hospital decided to take combine data and design thinking to drive further improvements in health and wellness for its patients.