Design Thinking is dependent on two groups: the stakeholder and the delivery team. The stakeholder can be the customer or the client paying for the project. Either way, you need to understand what makes that person tick. The delivery team is you (the group who do the work).

In this article, you will see how to connect with the stakeholder and how to manage the expectations of the Delivery team.

Understanding Your Stakeholder

You can get to know your stakeholder through a couple of activities:

  • Stakeholder mapping
  • Interviews

Stakeholder mapping is a way to identify, understand, and visualize the various groups of people who will impact or participate in the delivery or consumption of a product or service. To put people at the center of your ideas and ensure you include their perspectives throughout the design effort. Plus, visualizing the system as a whole can lead to new ideas or new challenges—create a visual map of the individual stakeholders, stakeholder groups, and relationships.

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The Steps to Complete a Stakeholder Map Include:

  1. Identify all the stakeholders involved in the product or service, make a list. You can do this as a group, but it is typically more useful to have everyone do this individually and then share. Don't limit yourself—include everyone!
  2. Briefly define each stakeholder, including things such as responsibilities, needs, values and mindset
  3. Transfer onto post-it notes and draw a little picture of the person (remember, each post-it is a person, not an institution)
  4. Add the post-its to a whiteboard or flip chart
  5. Use Affinity Clustering to identify and describe relationships
  6. Document as a diagram on a smaller scale that can be shared

The next step is to interview your stakeholders.

Interviewing Stakeholders will help you understand the range of perspectives of people who will be impacted by your project. Talking by asking questions gives you a more abundant account of individual experience compared to a survey, for example. More than understanding only what people are doing, you'll find out the full story of why and how they're doing it – precisely the data you need for a user-centered, outcome-focused, agile approach.

Interviewing can be harder than it looks. However, proper planning will go a long way. And getting someone to help take notes, frees you up to concentrate on listening and observing.

  • Define your sample. Look at your research goal and objectives to help you decide what types of people you'd need to speak to. Stakeholder Mapping is an excellent place to start, followed by making a sample matrix.
  • Start scheduling the interviews
  • Write your Discussion Guide. A good flow starts broadly, narrows in, considers the future, ends with a good summary question
  • Do a dry run: test interview questions, Directed Storytelling topics, and stimulus. Refine, if needed
  • Get consent and create transparency – have the interviewee sign a consent form which explains how their data will be shared, and clearly explain the goal of the session
  • Find a quiet space to avoid distractions (and turn off your phone!)

If you're running other research activities, you'll want to integrate all your interview data. You could add to the existing Affinity Cluster you've created, seeing where hypotheses you've been developing might be challenged or reinforced by the additional data.

Being True to Yourself

Bias is deeply held and commonly accepted customs, conventions, or beliefs that underlay the way we do things now. This method helps you understand and breakthrough bias to bring innovation.

You Can Follow These Steps to Break down Bias During Stakeholder Interviews:

  1. You can start the session by showing the video on the sidebar or a sample for inspiration
  2. Give everyone a few minutes to write down all the things they would never hear a user say about the topic. Use one sticky per idea
  3. One at a time, add all the stickies to the first column, and everyone quickly shares their thoughts. Cluster similar ideas as you go
  4. Next, take another few minutes to individually write down the orthodoxies that correspond to the statements in the first column
  5. Add these stickies to the second column. Share and cluster as you add. You'll see that many of these statements seem false, illogical or unexpected
  6. As a group or individually, write down the pain points and vulnerabilities that result from the orthodoxies. Discuss how these beliefs limit you or hold you back from being innovative
  7. If you are split into multiple groups, have one person per group summarize the pain points and vulnerabilities of the orthodoxies they identified. Use Visualize the Vote to determine the top 2-3 to move forward with

Use these pain points and weaknesses to reframe the challenge using How Might We or Abstraction Laddering.

Once you know what your bias is, you can map out the point of view each person on the team brings to the assignment. This is known as Territory Mapping. Territory Mapping is a way for your team to acknowledge everyone's perspective and see how they fit into the overall point of view.

To collaborate well and make amazing products/services, you need the team to understand the challenge and align it from the start of the project. A visual map that represents a view of the project's territory as agreed on by the team, including the key people, themes, trends, relationships, and anything else you find essential in the landscape.

Here Are the Steps Needed to Create Useful Territory Maps:

  1. Working alone, each team member creates an overview of everything they think is essential about the proposed challenge. One idea per post-it note with people, themes and trends, etc. (use anecdotes)
  2. One by one, combine each post-it/idea into one overall map, grouping similar ideas to create clusters and placing clusters in proximity to related groups. (Affinity Clustering)
  3. Collaborate to agree on groups, name each and agree on proximity
  4. Individually produce sketches of the map that represent all the clusters and their relationships
  5. Share the designs and vote on which one reflects the territory most effectively. The team leader can also take input from people and combine ideas from individual designs into one master sketch

Place your territory map somewhere visible in your team's workspace. The plan can be shared with the client team for background introducing ideas.

Bringing it Together

Understanding who your stakeholder is and being clear about the bias you bring to the project lead only to one conclusion: clearly understanding what is being requested. From here, you can now explore the tools and methods needed to build successful solutions.

For further knowledge, check out Simplilearn's Design Thinking Certification Training Course that enables you to master the concepts of Design Thinking that involves problem-solving and understanding customer needs on a deeper level.

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