Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that anyone can learn and master with practice. As a repeatable framework, the design thinking process demystifies innovation by making it less about random inspiration and more about focused inquiry.
As a result, design thinking can leverage ingenuity as a reliable business model and practiced skill. If you have ever attended a design thinking workshop in the hope of strengthening your innovation capabilities, realized the deep-rooted merits of the approach but struggled to incorporate the structure into your work, these five do's & don'ts are for you.
The Do’s & Don’ts of Design Thinking
Don't Assume Your Customer’s Needs, Do Understand Them.
If you work in a crowded industry, it might seem natural to peer over your shoulder at what the competition is strategizing. However, don't assume that they've done the necessary market research and have an accurate sense of what your customer needs. Innovation begins by uncovering the right problem to solve.
The ability to discover the pertinent problem comes from empathizing with customers and noticing emerging trends over time. Focus and listen actively to how users describe their needs. A good rule of thumb is to notice what people care about, their workarounds and adaptations, and anything that surprises you. Using a behavioral-based prompt like ‘Some People Will…’, ensures that your observations focus on user motive, which helps identify underlying user problems.
Don't Self-Criticise, Do Think Broadly.
Brainstorming is an integral part of design thinking because it facilitates searching for an actionable and innovative solution. Encourage ideas from anywhere or anyone, including yourself. Turn off your internal critic and create a judgment-free atmosphere in which everyone can share their ideas comfortably. The wildest idea might very well ignite the spark for the best one.
The most successful brainstorms have participants with diverse perspectives and a broad range of experiences. ‘What if?’ exercises are a great way to get the ball rolling or reignite a flagging brainstorm. Challenge teams to solve a problem within specific constraints, such as ‘what if you only had one dollar to solve the problem?’ or ‘what if you had an unlimited budget to solve the problem?’ Applying such extreme conditions to a problem will force people to think about it in a new way.
On-Demand Webinar: To learn more about brainstorming exercises, watch our webinar, 'Brainstorming Like a Pro.'
Don’t Idle, Do Get Your Hands Dirty.
Design thinking is all about making ideas tangible. For instance, frame your idea as a narrative to show how users interact with your solution through storyboarding. Bring your product idea to fruition by building a prototype of the solution you imagined.
The goal of prototyping is to ‘build to think.’ Mock-ups aren’t fully-formed solutions; they are tools to iterate ideas and garner a wide range of feedback. Low-fidelity prototypes offer a view of a solution’s promise while requiring minimal time, effort and expense. Visualizations allow teams to make instant changes and test new iterations. Moreover, low-fidelity prototypes can be created by anyone, which in turn fosters collaborative energy.
Don’t Isolate From the Group, Do Ask for Feedback.
Presenting ideas and receiving feedback can be daunting; shift the emphasis away from personal critique to idea improvement to strengthen your day-to-day innovation capabilities. Having a feedback framework provides boundaries for both the receiver and giver of feedback.
Design thinking uses a gentle and diplomatic framework for giving feedback, known colloquially as 'I Like, I Wish, I Wonder.' These three positive prompts allow feedback to be shared quickly while fostering a safe space. Although it may seem natural to defend your ideas, remember that it's essential to have a learning mindset to see new possibilities.
Don’t Freeze Under Pressure, Do Sprint Towards a Solution.
As organizations face rapidly changing environments, the ability to react quickly under pressure is an asset. Design thinking uses a rapid framework called a design sprint to teach cross-functional teams how to solve a problem in an aggressive timeframe.
Practice thinking under pressure by conducting your own micro design sprint. When faced with a challenge in your daily work, set an appropriate amount of time to follow the design thinking steps on a micro-level. For instance, participants can allot 15-20 minutes per step with a two-hour time frame and give themselves enough time to ideate, prototype and test a micro solution. Getting comfortable working in a condensed time frame will encourage you to apply the sprint methodology to a broader array of problems more frequently and with more ease.
The Daily Application of Design Thinking: Practise Makes Perfect
Human-centered design is an approach that allows anyone to embrace challenges as opportunities to innovate and improve. Break down design thinking principles into daily practices and, with time, you’ll be able to build the skills and conditions necessary to learn and apply innovation. Once the philosophy is ingrained into the way you think, you’ll be able to call on your innovation capabilities more frequently and with less difficulty–not unlike conjuring a superpower.