The Significance of Design Thinking as a Skill for Professionals
Managers, executives, and senior leadership of top organizations of the world are preparing for the workplace of the future.
Many think that future transformations will necessitate some form of organizational restructuring, a reform in corporate culture, or perhaps a merger or acquisition.
Increased competitiveness for acquiring scarce talent and extensive disruption brought on by shifting consumer preferences are two more sources of concern.
These concerns highlight the demand for a highly robust, agile, and customer-focused workforce; nevertheless, leaders are unsure how to bring this about.
This is where the importance of design thinking comes into the picture. But what’s design thinking?
Simply put, design thinking is a comprehensive technique that centers on empathizing with and learning about a product’s eventual consumers and their needs, wants, and pain points to better solve their problems.
From there, the practitioners are better positioned to think of ways to fix the problem and serve the customer in the best feasible way.
Design thinking is an iterative process rather than a one-and-done approach.
As a result, professionals get prompted constantly to double-check their preconceived notions about the nature of the problem, the intended user base, and the proposed solution or to be creative to arrive at a more satisfactory one.
So let’s deep-dive into the design thinking process and understand why it’s considered an imperative skill for the future.
Five Stages of Design Thinking to Know About
Non-linear and iterative, design thinking can contain multiple distinct stages, based on who you consult.
Let’s zero down on the five-stage design thinking process developed by Stanford’s internationally renowned Hasso Plattner Institute of Design.
To elaborate, design thinking consists of five phases:
Stage 1: Empathize
User research is at the heart of the design thinking process’s initial phase.
The primary goal of the Empathize phase is to learn as much as possible about your target user segment, their wants and needs, and the issues that have plagued previous attempts to develop your product or service.
Observe consumers’ actions and talk to them about what they’ve noticed to better understand and relate to their needs. To fully grasp the problems at hand, the users’ perspectives, and what drives them, you might also want to spend time in their existing environment.
Stage 2: Define
The knowledge gleaned from the Empathize phase will be put into order in the Define phase. Analyzing your findings will help you and your team pinpoint the most pressing issues.
To address the issue at hand or, at the absolute least, to make it easy for end users to fix problems on their own, the design team will need to collect fantastic ideas during the Define stage.
Stage 3: Ideate
In the third phase, designers are prepared to come up with ideas.
Now that you and your team have a firm grasp on the problem, thanks to the work you’ve put in at earlier stages, you can begin to approach it from new angles and come up with novel approaches to solving the challenge you’ve defined.
At the end of this phase, you should choose numerous ideation approaches to assist you in exploring and evaluating your ideas and determining the best ones to pursue.
Stage 4: Prototype
In this experimental phase, we try out several approaches to each of the concerns uncovered in the preceding stages to find the optimal solution.
Each proposed solution gets tested within a prototype before being adopted, refined, or discarded based on feedback from the back-end team and actual users.
The design team will possess a deeper understanding of the product’s constraints and potential issues by the conclusion of the Prototype stage.
Stage 5: Test
In this stage, designers and evaluators put the best solutions found in the prototype through their tests, ensuring that the final product is flawless.
Despite being the last step in the five-stage approach, this process is also iterative, just like most design thinking steps. The outcomes are frequently applied to rethinking other issues.
To eliminate redundant solutions, you can continue to iterate and make the necessary adjustments until a viable solution emerges.
How are Today’s Leading Organizations Leveraging Design Thinking?
How does one see design thinking in action? The best way is to look at some instances from the real world.
So, here are some examples of modern-day, well-known corporations that have successfully embraced design thinking and critical thinking skills to address business-associated challenges and emerge as industry leaders.
Airbnb started small. Its founders noticed that the quality of the online advertising photos the hosts provided was a prominent deterrent for potential guests, so they set out to improve the situation.
The company’s founders spent considerable time in each location, putting themselves in the shoes of their potential guests and trying to imagine their needs in a short-term lodging option.
As a result, they came up with a solution. Invest in a good-quality camera and capture images your customers really want to see.
So, instead of trying to attract a broader demographic, the founders of Airbnb turned to design thinking to figure out why their current customer base wasn’t utilizing their offerings.
While trying to address a business challenge, they found that putting themselves in the users’ shoes was more important than concentrating on conventional business goals.
Although many businesses have found success with design thinking, Netflix has used it on multiple occasions to propel itself to the forefront of its industry.
At the time the company first started out, customers had to drive to physical stores to rent DVDs. Even more frustratingly, the same procedure applied to returns.
Netflix’s subscription strategy for delivering DVDs straight to customers’ residences eliminated the need for such a service.
However, Netflix’s true success has come from its constant pursuit of innovation. For instance, when the business saw DVDs becoming obsolete, it launched an on-demand streaming service.
In the following years, in 2011, Netflix applied this same design thinking and critical skills to meet the demand for novel, creative, thought-provoking content that was not available on the major broadcast networks.
Five years later, in 2016, it enhanced its user experience by incorporating brief trailers into its UI. A strong design thinking approach was the impetus behind every significant update Netflix has made in response to users’ needs.
UberEats, the dominant app in the food delivery services industry, credits its rapid iteration and customer-centric focus for its success.
The UberEats Walkabout Program illustrates these design thinking principles in action since it sends designers out into the field to study the cities where the business has a presence.
They delve into the food industry as a whole, from the cuisine to the facilities to the logistics systems used to deliver the food.
The driver app, for instance, is a product of their in-depth investigation of the problems faced by delivery partners when trying to find a parking spot in densely populated cities. The driver app solves this problem by providing detailed directions from the eatery to the end user.
UberEats’s ability to effectively adapt its service to tackle challenges in specific locations is aided greatly by its recognition that pain points differ between geographies.
The Importance of Design Thinking Skills in Business
In any business, irrespective of the industry, design thinking is crucial for spotting new opportunities, researching customer needs, understanding market dynamics, and developing innovative solutions in the form of products or services.
Learning design thinking and implementing their design skills is especially valuable for the following professions:
- Developers and product managers – They would benefit from design thinking since it encourages them to consider how consumers will interact with their products.
- Innovation managers – In its essence, design thinking is a methodological method for developing new ideas. Because of this, everyone whose responsibility is to foster innovation inside a company can gain by studying its techniques.
- Marketers and advertisers – To successfully advertise a product or service, it is essential that they have a thorough understanding of the needs and pain points of the target audience and user segment and the ways in which their solution stands out from the competition. With design thinking, they can achieve their goal.
- Entrepreneurs – Startup and business founders should pay close attention to design thinking because its principles and methodologies could be applied immediately in building and scaling a business.
How to Embrace the Design Thinking Approach in An Organization?
As more businesses begin to realize the value of design thinking, the challenge of adopting this philosophy successfully into a new setting arises.
So, some effective strategies to introduce design thinking in the workplace are as follows:
- Start by Taking Baby Steps
You cannot just have everyone in your company become a pro in design skills overnight. Time is needed to first educate others about the approach and then practice carrying out each of the five design thinking steps.
It’s best to take baby steps to begin. Make use of rapid iteration, frequent testing, and data collection by designing and executing a series of small experiments.
- Spot Quick Learners and Advocates
Some people may already be familiar with design thinking, while others may be highly driven to learn.
Use these evangelists as a platform to build a solid base of support. They can serve as advocates for design thinking, promoting it in cross-departmental meetings and initiatives while also coaching colleagues.
- Promote a Collaborative Approach
People with a variety of backgrounds and areas of expertise are essential to the success of any design thinking project.
Ensure your design workshops include employees from all divisions and disciplines, whether you’re conducting training to teach your company about design thinking or beginning with a smaller project to obtain hands-on exposure.
- Remember it is a Non-Linear Process
The process of design thinking is not sequential. There is no required sequence for the five stages, and they can occur simultaneously if the project demands.
So be sure you employ design thinking in a manner that is appropriate in the context of your problem.
- Figure out How to Measure Success
If you are investing so much time in training your employees, monitoring how far along they are in the process is essential.
You might keep tabs on how often design thinking is applied to various projects. Alternatively, you may conduct polls to find out how much of an impact design thinking has on workforce morale.
By adopting design thinking as a framework for coordinating and standardizing your creative processes, you can intensify innovative approaches among your teams, encourage greater levels of collaboration and confidence among your developers and designers, and establish a more robust design culture.
Eventually, the company will be on the right track to building potentially game-changing solutions that would benefit society as a whole.
So, work towards developing the requisite critical thinking skills and design thinking mindset to attract potential employers.
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