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The Design Thinking Process

A methodology to solve complex problems.

Illus. 1: The Design Thinking Process puts the user first and defines the problem to encourage innovation through exploration, prototyping and testing.

How Design Thinking Works


Design Thinking is a integrated human-centered collaborative approach to problem solving that leverages the different perspectives and collective knowledge of a team and users to generate ideas and outcomes beyond what is possible from individuals working alone or without a process. It can be applied to any size organization with any size problem. In fact it is extremely well suited to take on complex or poorly defined problems.

The process begins with developing an understanding or empathy for the user. This includes discovering what motivates the user to use a product or service, what issues they encounter along the way or revealing an unmet user need that exists. From there you broadly define the problem that needs to be solved. We say broadly, because if you define the problem too narrow you have already dictated the solution. Think of it this way, if you are asked you create a new vase, you will create a vase, but if you are asked to design a new way to display flowers, you have opened the problem up to more interpretations that may generate exciting new innovative results. Once the problem is defined you begin to explore ideas. These ideas are then evaluated based on feasibility, viability and desirability (Illus. 4.) Priority ideas than move to prototyping and testing, and most likely back to the drawing board for some revisions. This process is repeated until all issues are solved. The chart above shows the process moving from empathy to testing.


Design Thinking Brings Balance


Design Thinking seeks to balance design considerations (illus. 2) by taking into into account business considerations of budget, time, skills and resources, technology considerations, people considerations with empathy for the user, and environmental considerations including the physical space and the actual impact on the environment. The benefit of a balanced solution is that it feasible, viable and desirable thus reducing risk and increasing the odds for success. 

The Advantages of Design Thinking


Design Thinking offers several advantages over individual problem solving.

  • It focuses on the end user.
    Higher chance of delivering a relevant solutions while reducing the risk of a missing the mark.
  • It is collaborative
    You unlock the power of we with collective knowledge that can build on the ideas of others.
  • It redefines the problem to encourage innovation
    Making the problem more open ended will lead to more innovative solutions.
  • It tests the solution
    This builds relevance to the user into the solution.
  • It works on big hairy complex problems
    By breaking the problem down into manageable pieces you can tackle any size concern.

Creating a Culture of Innovation


Best of all the Design Thinking process is repeatable. When companies adopt this platform for solving problems they can consistently produce new, exciting and even breakthrough ideas. The process then shifts from a linear process to a circular one, where as soon a one innovation is implemented it is building a understanding of the next problem to solve or how to take the latest implementation further. This is the essence of a culture of innovation that always has the user front and center while continuing to develop new precess, systems, products and services. Furthermore, a culture of innovation has several additional advantages such as staying ahead of the competition, being a desired place to work with lower turnover and most importantly they consistently grown their bottom line.

Design Thinking for Your Company

Red Catapult can put the power of Design Thinking to work for your company. We can design a workshop around a specific problem that needs solving, facilitate an innovation session or strategic plan, or we can teach your team the principals of Design Thinking and how to integrate them into your product development workflows. Call us today to discuss how Design Thinking can give your company a competitive advantage.