In this series till now, we’ve looked at some myths around design thinking, took a closer look at how Design Thinking comes up with innovative solutions for day-to-day problems, and began to flesh out the process of design thinking, beginning with defining the challenge (at the end of the ‘Discover’ stage). We now come to the fun part of design thinking, where the rubber hits the road. So, strap yourselves in for the last mile of this rabbit hole 😊
I say fun part, since this is what most of us enjoy – overcoming a challenge. And that is exactly what we do in the ‘Ideate’ and ‘Deploy’ stages. However, we need to note that the success of these two stages depends heavily on the discovery phase, else we stand the risk of creating a solution that is irrelevant.
To quickly summarize what we do in the ‘Discover’ phase:
- Observe the consumers or users of the product or solution, to see how they interact with it
- Empathize with consumers by mapping their pain and gain areas
- Pinpoint their challenges by defining a problem we’d like to solve for them.
In short, we diverge, while exploring, the root causes of a challenge and converge to define what problem/s we will solve. We’re now primed for ideation.
The ideate phase comprises three activities:
What we seek at the end of this stage is a solution or idea that addresses the needs of the users, that is validated by the users. This is a necessary phase since we can ascertain that the solution will be adopted before we g all-out and implement it.
Brainstorming: This is where it begins. We pick up from the challenge definition and as a team, brainstorm on the possible or impossible solutions to the challenge. This is when we will diverge again in terms of ideas. There are a few ground-rules, though:
- Articulate a challenge statement. Prioritize the challenges in the order of importance and the perspectives to consider while coming up with a solution.
- Have a diverse group. A diverse group not only ensures that ideas cover multiple angles, it can also enable us to club similar ideas to arrive at very clever solutions.
- Allow incubation. Introduce the challenge to the team and allow them a couple of days before the ideation session. This helps the brain connect dots in the background.
- Do not validate ideas. The purpose of ideation is to generate a volume of ideas that can further be processed to arrive at the right fit to the challenge.
- Build on ideas. Do not hesitate to take up from one person’s idea and build on it. You could also look at tweaking existing solutions to suit the brief. Cluster similar ideas to arrive at solutions that offer the most promise.
- Be visual. Being visual will enable people to appreciate ideas better. It compensates for any gaps in articulation and enables everyone to ‘see’ the big picture.
My first job was that of a Marketing Consultant for Mitsubishi Motors. We were launching the Mitsubishi Lancer in India in 1998, and I was responsible for a state. The challenge was to convey the hi-tech capabilities and features of the Lancer to a customer at a time when the state of the art dial-up modems could reach a blazing speed of about 56 kbps! So, somebody had an idea: Why don’t we take the experience to the customer on a laptop? A typical laptop at that time was priced at about $3,000, but Mitsubishi (India) did not shoot the idea down and built on it to create a stellar experience. That was a huge success (at least in my territory where we dominated the segment for 2 years) with the buyers to experience the technology in a car, outside the car, enabled by technology!
Prototyping is the next stage in ideation. The purpose of this stage is to create mock-ups of the ideas that one may ‘touch and feel’. This allows a user or a user persona to experience the solution and iron out minor inconveniences.
The common misconception of prototyping is that it is expensive. Far from it. Think of frugal and innovative ways to bring your ideas to life. Like drawing up what each screen may look like for an app, or a poster that communicates the benefits of a policy change. This stage will also allow you to predict some early execution challenges for the designed solution.
Testing is the final stage of the Ideate phase. This is where the solutions are validated on their DFV parameters. DFV here stands for:
- Desirability: Is the solution something that the users/consumers/customers want?
- Feasibility: Is the solution going to be practical to build and deploy?
- Viability: Is the solution sustainable?
There are also other metrics that we may create to validate the solution based on the challenge. These will be unique to the specific solutions and will look at solving sub-challenges identified in the discover stage. In this stage, we converge for the second time in the design thinking process to identify the idea/s that will make it to the final phase.
Deployment is the phase where the draft solution becomes an actionable. This is the final phase of the design thinking journey and can be broadly divided into ‘Socializing’, ‘Piloting’, and ‘Integration’.
Socializing is the part where we gain buy-in for the idea and get people on board. A key skill to possess here is the ability to tell stories. And the reason why storytelling is important is that people think in terms of stories more than numbers. Some of the greatest ideas were brought to life with stories. Take for example how Steve Jobs introduced the Macbook Air, with his “there’s something in the air’ talk at Macworld San Francisco in 2008.
Piloting is the stage where the solution is introduced to a ‘pre-determined’ group to gain real world feedback and reviews. This is the stage when the solution leaves our hands, so we need to be extra careful that the solution is spot-on and that the early users are properly identified. Even tech giants have fumbled at this stage. Take for example, the Sony Walkman. It was initially given out to a test group of journalists who were disappointed that it did not have the recording ability that ‘Pressman’ had. But like any great innovation, probably its time was yet to come, and when it started getting noticed by music buffs, it spread like wildfire and became the cult icon of the 1980s and went on to revolutionize portable music players.
Integration is the final stage of the design thinking process and it seeks to incorporate the new design into the business model of the organization. Looking at markets and customer segments that will drive growth, identifying secondary markets that will sustain growth, creating a supply-chain or delivery model that goes together with the product and organizational aspirations are all part of this phase.
Now that we have understood the design thinking process, our next post in this series will introduce you to our Design Thinking Simulation, and how you can learn, apply, and master the design thinking process in just a day! We created it using the design thinking methodology, and our pilot groups were raving about it before its release. So, stay tuned!