Companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Disney, Uber, and Intuit generate a continuous buzz around their products and services because they have a knack for designing what customers want — a happy outgrowth of a process called design thinking.

Design thinking is a process of designing products and services around what a customer wants instead of offering products the company wants customers to buy and adopt. It draws insight from diverse sources and collaborative thinking. Businesses recognize the benefits of design thinking to meet their customers’ needs is a competitive advantage that leads to a healthy bottom line. 

Designer James Pikover said that design thinking puts understanding context and continuous engagement with people at the heart of the practice for determining what problem to solve, what metrics drive success, and what business will emerge from solving the problem. Pikover further wrote, “Design thinking was born out of big corporations’ lack of ability to be creative and create new products and services that serve the unmet needs of their customers. At its core, the methodology arises from and revolves around the customer. The design thinking process considers people’s ethnographic background, behavior, thinking, motivations, habits, and needs.”

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Design thinking breaks from the traditional business approach by emphasizing solutions and innovation over tradition. Michael Higgins, founder and CEO of PLANERGY, wrote that building a culture of design thinking is a great way to harness more of your human capital. It empowers front-line workers to explore new ideas, collaborate on diverse teams and consider new ways of getting work done faster, easier, and more efficiently.

Designers have long used creative approaches and tools to study problems, devise imaginative solutions, and find the best path forward. Design thinking follows a similar process for creative problem-solving rather than a set formula for results. 

The Design Thinking Process

Organizations across all industries are realizing the benefits of design thinking which are guided by five main principles

1. Empathize

Problem solvers first need to understand the problem from the consumers’ viewpoint. It requires observing and engaging with people to build a thorough understanding of all the issues.

2. Define the Problem

In this stage, the team describes the design problem and offers ideas and creative suggestions for addressing it. Solutions can include innovative features, approaches, and tools. However, these solutions have to be feasible and scalable. 

3. Ideate

In this stage, the team asks a diverse group of people for their ideas. It is a brainstorming session where big ideas are encouraged and recorded to identify possible future opportunities and directions.

4. Prototype

The team proposes a product or service to address the issues brought up in the prior stages. Problem solvers will seek feedback from users and project stakeholders in this stage. It’s important not to fall in love with an approach too quickly since the process calls for circling back and looking at other prototypes until it satisfies what users want. An extreme example is James Dyson, who came up with the world’s first bagless vacuum cleaner in 1983 after trying 5,127 prototypes. 

5. Testing

Once a prototype is selected, test how it works, gauge how users react, and determine if it solves the initial problem. Seek user reviews and record any glitches, bugs, or bottlenecks. Then make any necessary fixes or alterations.

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Benefits of Design Thinking

According to Marianne Chrisos, writing for Tech Funnel, the benefits of design thinking spread far beyond the confines of a design team. By its nature, the process can engage and inspire an entire workforce. Design thinking is:

  • Collaborative

It seeks feedback from the entire team. It engages with people who can lend a different perspective and offer creative new ideas to solving problems.

  • User-Focused

The design thinking process arises from and revolves around the end-user. Whether it’s a new product, technology, or service, defining who will use it and how is key to understanding how to develop it.

  • Carefully Tested

Testing ideas with prototypes or sketches and getting feedback early in the process can lead to breakthroughs or prevent a bad investment of time, money, labor, and materials. In addition, it allows for input from users, engineers, manufacturers, marketers, and the decision-makers who have to sign off.

  • Adaptable

Design thinking methodology can be used anywhere, from product development and finance to customer service.

Enroll for the Design Thinking Certification Training Course and be able to clearly define market fit and growth of your product and business!

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Our Design Thinking Leader Master’s Program teaches the design thinking methodology popularized by Stanford’s This program explores the possibilities and benefits of design thinking for organizations of any stripe and teaches the skills needed to implement it. It also features a capstone project where learners can apply their design thinking skills to develop an innovative product or a service, guided by industry mentors and with support from learner success managers.

There are no prerequisites, and this course is suitable for executives, product managers, consultants, marketing managers, UX/graphics/web designers, educators, corporate trainers, and researchers.

The program will show you why innovation is the key to survival and success in a disruptive business world. Even better, you will learn how to build an organizational structure that fosters innovation on a large scale.

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