Design Thinking principles? ALWAYS start with the user in mind!
Here, I am sharing my personal top three of the core principles of Design Thinking with you. Some people might swap one principle for another or would do a much longer list altogether. If you want to get the full picture, try googling Design Thinking Principles and enjoy the read. Here is your 5 minutes kick-start on the topic ;)
1. ALWAYS start with the user in mind
In human centered design, innovative solutions always derive from a sound combination of user desirability, technical feasibility and financial viability. However, the starting point is always the user and the reason for it is very straightforward. If a solution is viable and feasible but not desired by the user, it cannot be a good solution.
This logic is not exclusive to “make the world a better place” non-profit organization, but equally counts for profit driven organisations. It’s really a pain in the ass for the sales and marketing department (and usually not very viable) if a product or service are not desired by the user (customer). This should really be a no-brainer, but actually it is not. Companies with a strong background in sales and marketing often emphasize viability a bit too much. Companies driven by engineering and technology usually have a strong focus on technical aspects while neglecting user desirability.
A good example for the importance of user-desirability is the first iPod, which helped Apple regain a leading market position. Back then, MP3 players had been around for many years, the iPod however was the first device that offered a truly great user experience and was a break-trough business success unlike any MP3 player before. Note that this happened at a time, when Appel was not nearly as successful as it is today.
Above, I used the term human centered design, which refers to an overarching framework of processes that integrates a broad set of practices around understanding the needs, wants, and limitations of users. Check out this great article on the topic on linked-in: Human Centred Design vs Design Thinking vs Service Design vs UX …. What do they all mean?
2. Focus on co-creation and collaboration
One key aspect of Design Thinking is identifying, understanding and connecting different perspectives to really understand the challenge you are facing and develop a suitable solution. This affects both the project team you need and the way you involve stakeholders in a Design Thinking process.
Ideally, their is diverse perspectives and professions in a Design Thinking team to cover multiple aspects important to the challenge. It may sound counter-intuitive, but do not deploy a group of topic-experts, which tend to have similar knowledge, thinking patterns and barriers in their heads. Innovative solutions typically derive from a combination of different approaches and ideas.
In Design Thinking you not only seek different perspectives within your project-team, but you also involve your most relevant stakeholders in a very collaborative way. At the beginning of a process, you harness their knowledge and wisdom on the challenge. Later you could involve them as active participants in an ideation process or when evaluating your team’s ideas. The most important stakeholder is of course the user of your solution, which brings us to the next principle.
3. Use prototypes and experiments to test your assumptions
Design Thinking is a method that is used when facing complex challenges, which means that reliable data and experience is only available to a certain degree. This is why you usually jump into a Design Thinking process with a lot of uncertainty. Interviews, multi-professional teams and intense collaboration are a good way to gain important insights. Solutions developed upon these insights however are still assumptions “I believe, this will fix the problem”. In Design Thinking we test these assumptions by working with prototypes and simple experiments.
The results of experiments help us to better understand the true nature of the challenge. In this modus operandi, it’s not unlikely that your conception of the challenge drastically changes over time. This is when you really understand the story behind the story, and of course this is a great launch pad to develop really innovative solutions.
Sometimes, running experiments is more about fine-tuning a solution, in other cases you’ll find out, that what you believed to be a good solution just isn’t. It’s important to understand that prototyping and experimenting is not a one shot game but a steady process to eventually get to a point that’s good enough for the time being or the goal set.
What are YOUR fundamental Design Thinking principles and what do the mean for your daily Design Thinking? Feel free to leave me a comment or question! If you now want to dig deeper, here is more on Design Thinking for you…
- Story 1: When to use Design Thinking (and when not to)?
- Story 3: How do we structure the Design Thinking process at INNOVATION RADICALS?