A Bite Of Design Thinking

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Since I’ve started my own business, I provided several workshops about Design Thinking. Therefore, this blog about Design Thinking answers some of the questions I receive during these workshops written so you can adapt this process into your business. 

This blog is a step aside from the series of blogs that I’m writing that are more in-depth about tools and tricks of design processes. 

But first, story time

Julie is a 22-year-old working as a Product Designer for a start-up. She comes fresh from university and eager to use her Design Thinking knowledge into building user-friendly interfaces at the start-up. Her first task is to design a program for clients. She explains to her boss that the way to create this program is through first finding out what clients really need and want, then to create simple sketches, test these, and iterate from there.

Her boss tells her that there’s no time for this process. He also tells her that he knows what the clients want and that information will be enough to create a user-friendly program.

He furthermore explains that the dashboard needs to be finished within a month, so it needs to be built now. Julie tries to explain the importance of understanding who the user is to her boss, but her boss does not buy it. He wants and needs to see a fully working program within a month.

So Julie starts working on the design and has the developer develop a fully working program based on the knowledge of her boss and her design skills. After a month the program is completely finished. Julie finally gets the opportunity to test the program with clients. She realises that there are many changes to be made. The program does not fit the users’ needs. This means that it needs to be completely redesigned. If only she could have started with the Design Thinking process from the beginning.. It would have saved her time and her boss a lot of money...

The Key

The key to Design Thinking is finding out what your customers’ needs are, and based on those, creating a product or service. If you don’t listen or talk to customers, the changes your product will fail, are big. Because even when you might think you know what they want until you test your assumptions, you don’t know if it’s actually the truth. Design Thinking furthermore prevents you from a situation like the one above, by creating simple sketches and testing these, instead of making a complete product based on assumptions.

I’ll describe the Design Thinking process according to the one created at Stanford University by David Kelly.


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The 5 Steps of the Design Thinking process of Stanford University

The 5 steps of Design Thinking

The problem is not the solution. Why am I saying this? Through the design process, we often solve a problem. We are problem solvers. But just to make it very clear:  the problem is not the solution, because how can you have a solution before you understand what’s going on? 

How logical that might sound, I have learned over the years, that we directly want to jump into a solution before understanding what’s going on. Why is that bad? Because it decreases your creativity enormously, and therefore your chance to innovate as well. With all the steps you go through, you will keep thinking of that one solution that you had in your mind, and find all kinds of excuses why that will work. Please open your mind, and try especially when you just start out, not to get fixed on one or two ideas. Anything is possible!

Empathy: The first and foremost step into the process

Learn to understand what it is what your customer needs and wants by listening, interviewing and observing your customer. If you want to learn more about how to do interviews, and observing, please take a look at the blogs..

Challenge 1: How can I empathise with customers on a distance?

It might not always be possible to meet your customers in real life. There are ways to work around it:

      Interview over the phone. Even though you can’t meet them, you will still be able to hear their emotions over the phone.

      Use data analytics if you’re updating a service, for example, a website that can be improved. You can analyse their website behaviour via for example Google Analytics or Hotjar.

Social media research can help as well. Social media can give great insights of the behaviour of your customers. What are they doing, and where? 

      Still, try to meet! For example, travel to the place where your customer is located. Eventually, that’s the best way in understanding who your customer really is.

Challenge 2: I already know what my customer wants! I don’t need to know more.

The key here: you are not your (only) customer! Always open your mind for new insights that are offered by your customer. A big change that they are different than you expected. Remember: it’s not about you, it’s about your customers! Even when you create a product or service based on a problem you have been facing, I’m pretty sure you want to put it onto the market. That means, there will be more people involved besides you!

TIP: empathising is the backbone of all the other steps and comes back in all the other steps as well. Make sure that you’ll always keep interacting with customers and clients.

Define: Specify who your user is

Having written down the main insights of your user will help yourself and your team (who didn’t do the empathising), understanding who this user is. There are multiple tools that can help, and complement each other, for example:

–       A customer empathy map: what does your customer feel/think/do?[/et_pb_text][et_pb_image src=”https://auks.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/EmpathyMap.png” _builder_version=”4.0.3″ width=”75%”][/et_pb_image][et_pb_text _builder_version=”3.29.3″ min_height=”61px” inline_fonts=”Montserrat”]       A customer journey map: the journey that your customer goes through before, during, and after the experience that you are trying to improve[/et_pb_text][et_pb_image src=”https://auks.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/CustomerJourney.png” _builder_version=”4.0.3″ width=”75%”][/et_pb_image][et_pb_text _builder_version=”3.29.3″ inline_fonts=”Montserrat”]–  A persona: a character representing the research you’ve gathered. A persona has a name, age, and a story that fits with what you’ve found through your research.

Challenge:  What’s the point to do this?

To get to the point! This has to do with creating an overview of all the information you gathered and simplify it into one or multiple personas.

Ideate: come up with the craziest ideas

Ideating is all about coming up with new ideas. It does not matter if the ideas are not going to work, because, at this stage, it’s all about becoming more creative. Creativity leads to innovation. You want to create something different, right? Then it’s time to think different. 

You never know where your idea will lead you to. There are many ways of becoming more creative, you can use the the form below to give it a crack.  [/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section][et_pb_section fb_built=”1″ _builder_version=”3.29.3″][et_pb_row _builder_version=”3.29.3″ custom_margin=”-39px|auto||auto||”][et_pb_column type=”4_4″ _builder_version=”3.29.3″][et_pb_image src=”https://auks.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Screen-Shot-2019-12-02-at-7.15.20-pm.png” _builder_version=”4.0.3″ width=”75%”][/et_pb_image][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section][et_pb_section fb_built=”1″ _builder_version=”3.29.3″][et_pb_row _builder_version=”3.29.3″ custom_padding=”13px|||||”][et_pb_column type=”4_4″ _builder_version=”3.29.3″][et_pb_text _builder_version=”3.29.3″ inline_fonts=”Montserrat,Moul”]Challenge: How can I do this in a team?

If you work in a team, awesome! You can get inspired by your teammates about their ideas and built onto it. You can use the: YES AND.. Instead of saying ‘No, it’s never going to work.’ By withholding your criticism and focusing on positivity you’ll be able to be more creative.

You can use the image below for collaborative brainstorming.[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][et_pb_row _builder_version=”4.0.3″][et_pb_column type=”4_4″ _builder_version=”4.0.3″][et_pb_image src=”https://auks.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/Screen-Shot-2019-12-02-at-7.20.26-pm.png” _builder_version=”4.0.3″ width=”75%”][/et_pb_image][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section][et_pb_section fb_built=”1″ _builder_version=”3.29.3″][et_pb_row _builder_version=”4.0.3″ custom_margin=”|auto|-37px|auto||”][et_pb_column type=”4_4″ _builder_version=”4.0.3″][et_pb_text _builder_version=”4.0.3″]Prototype: keep it quick and dirty

During this phase, you’ll prototype your ideas. You start doing this as simple as possible. Sketch your idea with functionality, so you can test it. One sketch doesn’t have to take more than 10 minutes. You can imagine how much information you can have gathered if you create a sketch, test this, and do this 5 times. Within 2 hours you will have very useful insights, and you can build your test little by little into a product that works.

Challenge: Keeping it simple and test it with the right customers

Try not to over-do it! The simpler, the better, especially at the start. There’s no need to perfection anything yet at the beginning of the process, that will come over several iterations!

This is how a simple prototype can look like:

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Test: Test your prototype with your customers

This is part of doing it quick and dirty. When you have created your sketch as a prototype, ask people what they think of it.

Challenge: Stay unbiased

I know it’s your baby and you might have spent lots of time thinking about this idea. And if someone tells you that it’s not what they would use, that hurts. Believe me, I have felt the pain when I started. But, since you are not designing for yourself, see the feedback you get as positives. Because these insights helps you to create something even more awesome.


If you do design thinking well, it will be a continuous process. And you don’t have to start at the beginning (empathy) and at the end (testing). Empathy furthermore should be integrated into every step of the process anyways. Always focus on what the customer wants, not what you want.  

How can I know that I gathered enough information to move to the next step?

When you feel that you receive the same answers over and over again. Then it’s time to set the next step.

Other important things to mention

Please note that there are other models that should be taken into consideration to make services and products innovative and future-ready. Take for example:

      Sustainable models: Like Tony Fry (Design as Politics) argues, the world is never going to become sustainable as long as the economy comes first. Since I don’t see the economy going to disappear any time soon, but becoming more sustainable is extremely important (Take the bush fires in NSW) we NEED to make sustainable models an integral part of our designs. Furthermore: what users want is what they like, not necessarily what the world needs at this moment. We should think deeply about what’s more important: a probable unsustainable solution because the user wants it, or not creating something to be more sustainable. Unfortunately, this is where the economy fact comes in..

o   A good example is working towards a circular economy whereby products ‘stay in the loop’. The created product will, when it finds the end of its life, use all parts to create something else. In this way, there are no products going to landfill.

      Foresight: Design Thinking is completely focused on finding out what’s happening now for people and in the market. Though, as said before, everything is changing and will keep changing. Foresight methods help understand what might happen in the future and prepare your business for it. 

      Business models: to be able to bring a product to the market, you should know if it fits the market. As first step into it, you can use this Vision Card. 

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A bite of Design Thinking

This blog has hopefully given you an overview of what Design Thinking is, why it’s important, and what else is important. If you have any questions or additions, feel free to ask![/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column][/et_pb_row][/et_pb_section]

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