Tim Brown, president and CEO of IDEO defines it as “…a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”
It’s a strategy for innovation. It requires being comfortable with the fact that there are multiple solutions to any given problem, and exploring them all fully to find the best solution within the constraints of the project. The basic premise is brainstorming—thinking of every possible crazy angle—until you build yourself forward and find something that works. Great design comes together in a way that algorithms, spreadsheets of data or technical specifications could never achieve. It has a look and feel all of its own, a beautiful aesthetic that strengthens engagement by focusing on the experiences offered. Everything in our lives today was created because there was a problem—the spaces we work in, live in and touch were created through the process of design thinking.
There are 6 mindsets and tools that designers use to achieve innovative results: curiosity, action, reframing, awareness, empathy, and collaboration.
– This makes everything new by encouraging exploration and innovation. It is key to achieving a state of mind where nothing is off the table, being able to explore any aspect without judgement. Intrigue is created out of being able to look at something that you encounter on a daily basis and see it from a different perspective. Curiosity is going to make you unbelievable at being lucky.
– Designers don’t stop with the first idea. When you have a bias toward action you are committed to exploring possibilities and building your way forward. This requires expanding on ideas by prototyping and testing them to fail fast and discover the successful directions. Sometimes this means realising that the problem is actually a symptom of a different problem that needs to be solved and shifting focus. By being action-oriented, designers are able to embrace change and focus on what will happen next over the final outcome.
– Reframing is one of the most important aspects of being a designer: being able to look at something from a different perspective. This is how you become unstuck and ensure your working on the right problem. This involves asking questions and challenging the problem to step back and examine your biases, opening up new solution spaces. Reframing is essential to finding not only the right solutions but the right problems.
– Awareness of the process is key. This means acknowledging that it’s a process, mistakes will be made and it’s important to let go, note the key learnings, and explore another angle. Amazing things can come out of those disasters, some of the products we use on a daily basis e.g. slinky, play dough and super glue, were all results of projects that weren’t fit for the specific purpose but fulfilled another. None of these things would exist if a designer somewhere didn’t get something wrong.
– Empathy involves engaging with your audience to develop a keen understanding of the people that will deal with your creation—what they need or want, how they think, and what their perspective is. This knowledge guides towards a more poignant solution that is embraced by the target audience.
– Collaboration is an incredibly powerful tool, you don’t have to do this alone, the best designers are radical collaborators. Collaboration requires the ability to be fluid with your ideas, allowing others to build on and challenge them. Don’t be possessive of your ideas, at the end of the day it’s the team’s success not the individual.
Next time you need to solve a problem don’t run with the first or most logical solution. Instead, challenge the problem by asking questions of it, keep an open mind toward the potential of crazy solutions, be aware that not everything will work, and do this with empathy toward the people that are impacted. Ensure that each step of the process involves collaboration, a broader set of minds will help test ideas and hone in on those that are worthy.
Design thinking is a journey, let go of the end goal, focus on the process, and see what happens next.