Design Thinking  | 3 MIN. READ

A Quick Guide to Design Thinking Terminology

ExperiencePoint, February 4, 2019

A Quick Guide to Design Thinking TerminologyOnce you’ve mastered the five terms that every design thinking expert should know in this post, you are ready to move on to the “master class.”

If you can incorporate the following design thinking terms into casual conversation, (also compiled by ExperiencePoint’s brilliant facilitators) you should be able to convince all of your peers that you are completely up-to-speed on this popular business trend.

Empathy-Based research For those new to design thinking, this is a novel concept. Traditionally, organizations conduct their research with an inward focus, but empathy-based research centers purely around understanding your users. That means that before you can solve a problem or design a better product, you need to develop empathy for the user experience, including where it falls short, what would make it better, and how the decisions you make will improve their lives.

Companies can look at their customers as sources of valuable information that will drive all kinds of new decisions. You don't want to learn about your business from your users, you want to learn about your users from your users — that information is invaluable to the creative process.

The Frequency Trap When you are at the end of a brainstorming session where everyone is voting on their favorite ideas, be on the lookout for the frequency trap. This is the unavoidable tendency to interpret an idea that got the most votes as the best one to move forward with. The idea with the most votes is not always the most original or creative. In fact, it is often the idea that feels the most familiar and comfortable — and thus may be less innovative.

The next time you see your team settling on the familiar instead of pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, casually warn them that they are heading into a frequency trap. It will save them from mediocrity and make you look like a design thinking whiz.

Human-Centered Design Human-centered design is the foundation for all great design thinking, but it requires business leaders to fundamentally reframe the way they think about value and how it is derived. We are so used to putting our own or our company’s needs first that we don’t even question it. Business leaders are encouraged to put humans at the center of the design process — then watch the value to business follow. You can do this by asking two simple questions: “Who is the user we are trying to help with this idea?” and “What is the key benefit for that user?” These simple prompts can be enough to create a paradigm-shifting culture for your organization.

Prototyping Prototyping is often understood by technically-minded people as building a nearly functional version of something. However, in a design thinking context, early prototypes are only meant to be extremely low-fidelity representations of an idea. For example, a paper drawing of a website or a representation of a physical product made of markers taped together. These quick and inexpensive, early prototypes help us iterate towards more functional versions quickly by incorporating our learning.

Defer judgement! One of the most difficult rules of brainstorming is to stop judging every idea — including the ones in your own head. Too often we judge our own ideas and ruthlessly edit them, deeming them unworthy of sharing. Yet, if you can’t overcome your own self-judgement, then all the other ground rules become less effective. Rather than picking apart every idea looking for problems, celebrate the creativity that inspired the ideas and build on them to make them better. At the next brainstorming session — lead the way. Declare a wild idea and just go for it.


Learn how to enable innovation skill-building at scale here or download our free ebook Kickstart Innovation: A Guide for Organizations.

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