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The Beginner’s Guide to Using Design Thinking and Creative Problem Solving

Problems will appear for any business, regardless of how much time and effort in to avoid them. This has meant that every company will need to develop a way to minimize them while also overcoming them as quickly and easily as possible.

One of the more powerful and effective ways that this can be done is through Design Thinking. While this isn’t an inherently new concept, it’s something that many firms may not be aware of, which results in a considerable number of business owners not realizing how it can benefit their company.

Though the concept is primarily focused on website design and other customer-centric areas, many of the principles behind it can be used across the entire business. While these may need to be adapted somewhat, depending on where it’s being used, much of the underlying logic can still be applied.

While the concept of Design Thinking may seem complicated, it can be much simpler than you might believe. To implement it effectively into your business, there are a variety of things that you’ll need to know before trying to do so.

What Is Design Thinking?

Design Thinking is the process used for both creative and practical problem-solving and focuses on taking a customer-centric approach. This is primarily based on the means and methods that a designer takes, which is how it came to get its name.

It should also be noted that Design Thinking has evolved from a variety of areas, including business, architecture, and engineering, which means that it can be applied to almost any area of a company. This has meant that the underlying processes and methodology used in the process can help problem-solve in a variety of fields.

Being user-centric, Design Thinking is what’s known as a solution-focused approach to problem-solving. This is primarily because it looks to understand a customer’s needs and determine a way to overcome those needs effectively.

While much of this is done as a preventative measure, it can also be used when the problems have already occurred. For this to have the maximum number of benefits, however, it’s best to understand and overcome these problems before they present themselves.

Benefits Of Design Thinking

Many business owners may wonder what the benefits of Design Thinking are for their company. There are quite a significant number of them, with the majority of these focusing on improving customer satisfaction and engagement.

The first of these is that it can reduce the time it takes to bring a product to market, as the process can cut down on the amount of time needed for design and development. This is especially true when combined with lean and agile business practices.

As a result of less time being needed for these stages, a company should see lower costs associated with bringing the product to market, which then increases the return on investment.

Companies should also see increased innovation within the business, as Design Thinking encourages the workforce to think outside the box when tackling problems. While a design team will be the first to see this, it can also be extended to almost every area within the business.

As Design Thinking is user-centric, companies that implement the practice should see an increased amount of customer loyalty and retention. While some of this will be seen in the short-term, the majority of users should see this over a longer period.

What Is The Relationship Between Design Thinking & UX Design?

Many people will notice a significant number of similarities between Design Thinking and User Experience Design (UX Design). While this is undoubtedly true, there are a variety of differences, and both of them are somewhat intertwined. This would lead to many people wondering what the relationship between the two is.

The relationship between the two can best be highlighted by the distinctions between them, with one process feeding into the other, a vice versa.

Design Thinking is felt on a more strategic level and across the whole company and typically revolves around finding problems that customers will face. This is seen through understanding a consumer’s needs and the limitations that a business may face in addressing them.

Alongside this is the fact that Design Thinking can be implemented across the entire company, as well as each level of the firm, from customer-focused roles to C-suite executives.

Once solutions are found to the problems that a consumer will face, it’s then time to begin creating a way to implement solutions that will address them effectively. This is where UX design comes into the equation.

A UX designer will focus on creating this implementation in an effective, accessible, and usable way for customers. This means that Design Thinking can be seen as somewhat of a toolset that a UX designer can dip into, while still being a process that can be adapted across your company.

What Is The Process Of Design Thinking?

There are five phases of Design Thinking that companies will need to undergo for it to be effective. As this is customer-centric, this means taking your customer’s or user’s point of view throughout much of the process.

Phase 1

The first phase is to empathize with your customers and to understand their goals, needs, and objectives. This means that designers will need to set aside any assumptions that they may have about customers and look to gather real and actionable data on them.

Phase 2

The next phase is to define what the problem is, which involves gathering all of the data from the first stage and starting to understand the difficulties and challenges that they may be coming up against. By then end of this phase, you should have a clear problem statement, which should be phrased in a way that puts your customers first.

Phase 3

Phase three involves coming up with potential solutions to the problems that your consumers are facing. This should be a judgment-free part of the process and should include coming up with a significant number of solutions from a variety of angles. There can be several ways to do so, including roleplaying, brainstorming, and much more.

Phase 4

You’ll next need to enter the prototyping stage of the process, which primarily involves turning ideas into physical products and experimenting. These prototypes are typically scaled-back versions of a product that aim to implement the solutions that were developed during the previous stage.

Throughout this phase, you’ll need to continually enhance the prototypes depending on how well they tackle any solutions that customers may be facing. This could include accepting or rejecting any prototypes, as well as redesigning and improving on them.

Phase 5

The fifth and final stage of the Design Thinking process is testing, although it should be noted that this may not result in the end of the overall process itself. This is driven by how well the testing phase could result in you needing to go back to another stage and readjust.

During this part of the process, you’ll need to gather data on how well customers are receiving the solution and what they think about it. Should it not go as well as you may have wanted, then you’ll be forced to go back and reevaluate certain data sets and improve on this solution.

This means that the Design Thinking process can be a somewhat circular and time-consuming one, which means that you should be prepared to spend a significant amount of resources on it. While this will be done in the short-term, it could lead to a variety of long-term benefits.

Trends In Design Thinking

Over the past few years, there have been a variety of trends that have been affecting Design Thinking. There are a few in particular that have begun having an impact in recent years, with the first of these being to connect it to agile management, strategy development, and cultural change.

This has been on show with a variety of companies, who have used the process to modernize and optimize many areas of the business. This can be seen especially with agile teams who may need to define their user stories and update them based on a customer’s actual needs.

Alongside this is the trend of developing customer-focused teams and leaders, which could mean giving employees the freedom to respond to consumer needs. This could mean that you’ll need to flip the power structures within your business to provide customer-focused employees the ability to respond quickly.

This can be done much faster once those who interact with customers are free to do so with a certain sense of freedom and the ability to respond to their needs as early as possible.

Lastly is that companies that use Design Thinking will have to become more inter-disciplinary, which means that different teams will need to work together. In many companies, teams may compete with each other, which could result in adverse effects for customers.

Instead, businesses will need to foster more teamwork between these teams to focus more on the needs and preferences of the customer.

Stats About Design Thinking

Should the potential benefits of Design Thinking not be enough to convince you that you should implement it in your company, then statistics showing how useful some firms have found it might. This is because there are a variety of them that many business owners may find surprising, including:

  • 71% of companies that use the practice have reported that it has helped improve their work culture, with this being especially true on a team level.
  • 75% of organizations have reported that they use Design Thinking regularly.
  • 69% of design-focused firms have noted that the practice has made their innovation process more efficient.
  • Companies that foster creativity in their workplace have an average of 1.5 times the market share as others.
  • 83% of firms have the systems and tools to test their ideas with their customers.

Design Thinking can be seen as a practical toolkit that will help your business overcome many of the issues that it may face. Much of this will be focused on identifying them before they occur, which is something that many companies will want to capitalize on.

It should be noted that the process primarily works as a solution finding measure, which means that it’s best used in conjunction with UX Design and other measures to put them into practice.

Thanks for reading "The Beginner’s Guide to Using Design Thinking and Creative Problem Solving", by the Linchpin Team in Chicago, Raleigh, and Wake Forest.

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