Some tools for adopting Design Thinking and cultivating innovation
Understand, explore, materialize. These are the three main objectives of Design Thinking, an approach to design and organizational transformation that centres people and technology. When used properly, Design Thinking provides a way to rethink how your company operates, redefine its direction, reinvent the customer experience and even an entire department.
A brief history
Although the Design Thinking concept dates back 50 years, it is relevant to businesses now more than ever before. The method—which can be summed up as an approach inspired by the process of designers, including how they think and act—was first described by economist and sociologist Herbert A. Simon in his 1969 book The Sciences of the Artificial. He wanted to turn design into “a way of thinking.” En français, d’ailleurs, on traduit souvent « Design Thinking » par « esprit design » ou « pensée design », ou encore « démarche design » ou « conception créative ».
The “design” in Design Thinking is not strictly a reference to an object’s appearance or aesthetic, but also its functionality, cohesiveness, utility and effectiveness, or its smart and creative vision, according to which everything runs smoothly and is designed to meet the user’s needs (including needs the user doesn’t even yet know they have!).
Also, instead of merely thinking about your object (or project) with the resources at your disposal and trying to avoid risk (like in a traditional company structure), you think more broadly about the desired human experience. This is how you come up with new and innovative ideas.
The Design Thinking process was further refined by Robert H. McKim in his 1973 book Experiences in Visual Thinking. It solidified into the approach we know today through the work of Rolf Faste at Stanford University in the 1980s, then that of Jeremy Gutsche and Tim Brown in the 1980s and 1990s. Brown popularized the term by showing how he could integrate the method into his company, IDEO, applying it to products, procedures, services, communication methods and workplace relations.
Innovation for long-term success
As entrepreneurship experts will tell you: innovation is critical to the survival and growth of all organizations. Without it, your company will not survive in a world with ever-evolving technology and increasingly demanding and better-informed customers. Companies can stay one (or several!) step(s) ahead by cultivating a culture of continuous improvement a creative vision of your work, products and services.
At TALSOM, organizational Design Thinking is the core of our expertise, not least of which because it cultivates innovation by encouraging companies to identify the right problems and rigorously examine them before researching and implementing a solution. A good problem statement is people-centred, meaning it is based on the needs of specific users. This is the most critical step and the key to thinking differently and stepping outside the box to find solutions that create value.
We help you formulate your problem statement in our Design Thinking Toolkit, which you can download for free. This guide includes tools and the steps to follow to achieve the three major objectives of Design Thinking: understand, explore and materialize.
Understanding a problem
There are a couple of questions you need to ask yourself before getting started. What are you trying to understand? What information do you want to know, confirm and validate? Then ask yourself what the best way would be to collect this data, given your particular situation and resources. Sometimes this will mean observing customers and clients (in-situ observation), and other times it will mean asking them (user interviews) or putting yourself in their shoes (“If it were me…”). Sometimes you may also need to conduct a market study or consult experts. There isn’t just one way of applying Design Thinking, which is why the toolkit offers a series of tools you can use at this research stage. We recommend starting with the Research Plan and the Stakeholder Map. These tools will put things into focus.
Our Design Thinking Toolkit suggests, for example, starting by mapping stakeholder roles, meaning identifying all parties involved in the project, concentrating on the roles rather than the individuals. This will help you identify the ideal people to consult to best identify the problem.
The guide also presents other tools for the next steps: developing a research plan, in-situ observation, and individual interviews. Each of these interviews can then be logged using another tool, the “experience map.” As you can see, the way we apply Design Thinking at TALSOM involves a very concrete approach and well-defined processes.
The process of understanding the problem concludes with what is referred to as “framing the challenge”, during which you will identify the most important challenge and reframe it in an open-ended way to develop new solutions. We recommend using processes, models and templates, which are a big help at this stage.
Explore possible solutions
The toolkit suggests two main steps for achieving this important objective: the initial creative step where you imagine solutions and a step to evaluate your ideas and select the best ones.
There are tools to help you with the ideation stage, like “Watch 101,” that suggests seeking inspiration from innovative practices in and outside of your field. There’s also a complex brainstorming process, during which you let your craziest ideas flow. You can then display them on a concept poster.
The guide also offers tools to complete this assessment step, like the effort-impact matrix and idea evaluator.
Create the ideal solution
To implement the ideal solution to your problem, Design Thinking proposes two key steps: first testing the ideas, then pushing the concept forward. The testing phase can be guided by various tools, like prototype mapping. This tool will be helpful for establishing what will be tested and how. The Feedback Capture Grid is another tool for collecting feedback from people who have tested your prototype.
When it comes time to push your concept forward, meaning apply your chosen solution to resolve your problem, you can refer to the Toolkit, which offers a pitch template, a model concept sheet and a model user scenario. This complete range of tools will help you concretely come up with your solution and convince internal stakeholders of the project’s potential.
Our Design Thinking Toolkit has everything you need to guide you through the Design Thinking process. The steps are explained in detail, using a clear and concise approach with customizable tools for every stage. The method is simple to use for all your teams at every level of your organization.
Download our Design Thinking Toolkit