We always try to find a solution to any problem we ever face. However, the idea is not always to find a solution but to find an optimal solution. ‘Design Thinking’ is a problem-solving approach. It can be applied by businesses to figure out strategies and solutions to enable seamless and perfect end results with a user-first and user-satisfaction approach. What does this mean? Let us understand this with the help of a problem-solution example:
The Problem: The Good Kitchen
In 2007, 1,25,000 of Denmark’s senior citizens relied on Government-sponsored meals. Yet, out of the total count, 60% were surveyed to have had poor nutrition whereas 20% were malnourished. To overcome this issue, the Ministry of Holstebro hired Hatch & Bloom, a design agency to fix the menu.
The first thing Hatch & Bloom did was to figure out the problem. To do this, they shadowed the food delivery boys into the homes of senior citizens along with interviewing the employees in the kitchen.
This study yielded three key discoveries for senior citizens:
- They were embarrassed to accept Government assistance
- Their loss of control over food choice was painful and,
- They ate alone and missed the taste of seasonal foods
This ‘not liking their situation’ resulted in the senior citizens losing their appetite.
Similarly, for the workers, they considered making meals in a Government kitchen a low-status and a mundane job as they cooked the same meals day-after-day.
Now that Hatch & Bloom had studied the problem in great detail they arrived at a win-win solution. So, what did they do?
They changed the perspective, the mental model. What if the Food Delivery Service was a restaurant? Thus, was born ‘The Good Kitchen’ where,
Kitchen → Restaurant
Cooks → Chefs
Delivery agents → Waiters
Food description → Menu
The roles were the same, however, they were modelled and presented differently. This triggered a sense of purpose and pride in the workers, as well as, reduced dependency in the minds of senior citizens. This resulted in both the senior citizens and employees being happier. In fact, in the first week alone there was a 500% increase in the number of meal orders.
Thus, the solution was not ‘fixing the menu’ as thought earlier but ‘changing the perspective and roles’ with innovation at its core.
The method employed by Hatch & Bloom was nothing but Design Thinking. So, Designing Thinking can be defined as ‘A human-centred approach to solving problems oftentimes with innovation.’
So, how does this help designers, developers or businesses? Well, as a technologist, we are not building technology. We are building solutions for the ease of human beings. If we keep this in mind, a lot of our products will have a sense of purpose and meaning. So, let us see how can we go about implementing Design Thinking.
The 5 Step Process:
There are 5 steps or phases that are used in the Design Thinking process. These steps were first described in 1969 by a Nobel Prize laureate, Herbert Simon in the ‘The Sciences of the Artificial’. The five phases are as follows:
Let us understand them in depth.
1.Empathise: Empathy is a fundamental human emotion we all identify with. It offers warmth, compassion and most importantly understanding. As a business, you need to empathise with your users.
What this means is, that you need to understand the current experience of the user (the way they do things, as well as, why and how), their emotional and functional needs and lastly what is meaningful to them. So, how do you go about it? The best way is to first observe, then interview (the user) and experience. Once you’ve gone through these stages you can move ahead to the next step.
2. Define: Constructing a problem statement is crucial when it comes to creating the right solution. In the example we saw above, the original problem statement was ‘fix the menu’, however, was it truly the right problem? At the end of our example, we realised ‘no, it wasn’t’.
When defining a problem statement, you need to keep your user’s needs and problem as the centre. Only then can you give your insights and create a user-centred solution.
3. Ideate: To ideate is to generate ideas. As a business, it is important to challenge assumptions and develop ideas for innovative solutions that can help your users the best.
If you think about it, there is always more than one way to achieve or do something. It is not coming up with an easy or a right idea, it is about coming up with the most ideas. Once the ideas are in place, then it’s time to find a solution that is unique and helps simplify the way users experience your brand.
4. Prototype: Now, that your ideas are in place, it is time to build the solution. Building here is implementing the ideas i.e turning them into products and services that your users will eventually use.
A prototype helps you visualise your ideas, experience and interact with them, and in the process learn more empathy. It helps you gather feedback – the strength and weakness of your proposed solution and if any new ideas are needed. Remember to think, articulate and learn while building.
5. Test: Testing is an opportunity to learn about your solution and the user. Moreover, it is the final stage of the Design Thinking process where your prototype is evaluated, iterated and defined before it is released to the user.
As a business, any product that you made should undergo the testing process to refine the prototype based on the feedback received.
It is important to note that these 5 steps/stages/processes are not sequential in nature and can occur in parallel or repeat iteratively. The idea is that all these processes are important for finding the right solution to the problem.
On an endnote, Design Thinking is an innovative way of looking at problems and arriving at optimal solutions with a user-first approach. It also encourages designers, developers and businesses to think out of the box to improve the user’s experience of their product and services, as this goes a long way in building sustainable and improved relationships.
If you have any queries, feel free to comment below.
(Originally published as part of our Ctrl+F5 Mumbai, 2016 by Simran Talreja)