Stages of the Design Thinking Process | Comidor

The Design Thinking Process: Defining the Stages that Lead to a Solution

The Design Thinking Process: Defining the Stages that Lead to a Solution 789 526 Comidor Low-code Automation Platform

As the needs of society change, the solutions that make life better warrant development as well. The design thinking process is a problem-solving methodology that has been gaining in popularity. In recent years, it has shown its capability to provide innovative solutions. It is one of the most important emerging trends, essentially encouraging organisations to ‘think like designers’, and a growing number of companies are investing in design thinking training, to benefit from more innovative strategies or approaches.

Within this discipline, a five-stage model is widely deployed, helping businesses approach this new way of thinking in a more structured way.

  1. Empathize with users and find out what their needs are,
  2. Define the core pain points of your customers and stakeholders,
  3. Challenge assumptions and generate ideas,
  4. Innovate solutions,
  5. And test the solutions for further iterations.

While this may seem like a lot of work, businesses are quickly realizing the impactful benefits of design thinking. In fact, with design thinking influencing a business’ workflow processes, an organization can potentially reduce nearly half of all errors and yield a 300% Return on Investment (ROI). 

Design thinking has been shown to improve collaboration, communication, and customer satisfaction, while also reducing costs and increasing efficiency. What’s more, the process can be used to solve problems in a wide variety of industries, such as web design, product development, UI/UX, software engineering, and branding, to cite a few. After all, good web design, cost-effective products, and intuitive, easy-to-use apps can impact the everyday lives of people around the world. 

If you’re looking for a way to generate unique solutions for your business, this article aims to explain the steps of the design thinking process and its benefits. After reading this article, you should have a better understanding of what design thinking is and how it can be used to improve your business. 

Design Thinking: What Does It Even Mean? 

The most straightforward answer is that design thinking is a problem-solving methodology that puts the needs of users first. 

It’s based on the idea that businesses should focus on solving problems that matter to their users, instead of trying to sell them products or services that they may not even want. 

The design thinking process in the digital age is often used in the fields of web design, product development, and software engineering, but it can be applied to any industry. With workflow automation as a feature, a business process management (BPM) platform, for instance, can be built on the principles of design thinking.

How Did Design Thinking Come About? 

The term was first coined by David Kelley, the founder of IDEO, in the early 1990s. It primarily served to distinguish IDEO’s approach to design from the traditional “engineering-led” approach that was common at the time. 

However, the roots of design thinking can be traced back to the 60s and 70s. The attempts of academics such as Nigel Cross, Emeritus Professor at the Open University, UK explored scientific approaches to design. Cross wanted to solve human and environmental problems through a “design revolution” grounded on the rational world of science and technology. 

Today, design thinking is widely used by businesses of all sizes, in a variety of industries, to solve all sorts of problems. 

Why Is Design Thinking Important? 

Here are a few reasons: 

  • The world is becoming increasingly complex. This means that businesses are facing more challenges than ever before, and they need to find new ways to solve them. 
  • Customers are becoming more demanding. They expect businesses to provide them with products and services that meet their needs and solve their problems. 
  • Technology is changing rapidly. This means that businesses need to adapt quickly to new trends and changes in the market.
  • The workforce is becoming more diverse. This means that businesses need to find ways to better collaborate and communicate with their employees. 
  • And finally, the global economy is becoming more competitive. This means that businesses need to find ways to differentiate themselves from their competitors. 

These factors place the onus on businesses to find fresher and innovative solutions to modern problems, such as customer experience, project management, and low-code security concerns. And this is where design thinking comes in. 

The Five Stages of Design Thinking

There are five stages in the design thinking process: empathize with users, define the problem, generate ideas, innovate solutions, and test the solutions. 

Design Thinking Stages | Comidor

First Stage: Empathize with Users 

Design thinking begins with the empathy stage, which is where an organization attempts to gain an understanding of the business problem, why it is so important to resolve it, and who will benefit. It involves delving into the issue, removing pre-existing assumptions, and taking steps to see things from alternative points of view.

While the precise steps taken during the empathy stage will depend on the nature of the business problem or the specifics of the project, it will typically involve consulting with others to gain valuable insights. This could mean engaging with experts in the field, speaking to customers, or talking to business partners.

To do this, businesses need to conduct user research. This can be done through: 

  • Interviews, 
  • Surveys, 
  • Focus groups, 
  • And other methods such as online polls. 

Second Stage: Define the Problem

The next stage of the design thinking process is focused on defining your business problem, or framing the issue in a clear way so that it can be easily understood and summarised. Typically, it will involve organizing the insights gathered during the empathy stage and prioritizing them, creating a more focused view.

This stage involves understanding the root cause of the problem and identifying the key stakeholders. Once the problem has been defined, businesses can begin to generate ideas. Here are some factors to consider when defining the problem: 

  • What is the core pain point? 
  • Who are the stakeholders involved? 
  • What are the desired outcomes? 
  • What resources do you have at your disposal to solve this problem?  

Third Stage: Generate Ideas

At this point, the problem and the need for a solution are understood, and the issue has been framed and contextualized, so it is time to start thinking of ideas. During this ideation phase, the focus should be on the generation of as many thoughts as possible, based on what has been learned so far. To do this, businesses need to bring together employees from different departments and disciplines. When in the ideation phase, the organization can focus on the following objectives: 

  • What are the potential solutions? 
  • How can these solutions address the core pain points? 
  • What will be the user experience with each solution? 

It is important not to impose too many rules during this phase because design thinking training should always emphasize the importance of openness to ideas that are ‘outside the box’, obtuse, or unusual. With that being said, easy and obvious solutions should not be overlooked during brainstorming sessions either.

Fourth Stage: Innovate Solutions

The fourth stage is to innovate solutions. This involves taking the ideas generated in the previous stage and turning them into tangible solutions. With some interesting ideas and potential solutions outlined, design thinking requires organizations to start to create prototypes, which could mean creating scaled-down versions of solutions, in order to test their viability. Crucially, the creation of prototypes allows companies to see limitations or constraints, without requiring a huge outlay.

As a result of the prototyping stage, businesses can understand how people will respond to the end product.

Fifth Stage: Test the Solutions 

The final stage of the design thinking process is the testing phase. This involves testing the solutions with users to see if they meet their needs and solve their problems. If not, businesses need to go back to the drawing board and generate new ideas. 

This is where a company or project team tries out the finished product in real-world settings, and subjects it to rigorous inspection, in order to evaluate its performance and make a judgment about whether or not it achieves the initial aims or objectives.

In this stage of the design thinking process, businesses must obtain feedback from users to refine their solutions. Here are some ways to do this: 

  • Conduct user research and surveys 
  • Gather feedback from focus groups 
  • Analyze data to identify customer needs and behaviors 
  • Test prototypes with users to get their feedback on the design, usability, and process 

The essential thing is that the testing phase produces clear feedback, which can be acted upon. In terms of how this benefits the business, it means problems are identified early, and can be fixed before the final rollout.

The Key Benefits of Design Thinking to a Business 

There can be a variety of benefits that businesses can reap by using design thinking. Here are some of the most apparent and appealing to enterprises: 

  • It enables businesses to gain a deeper comprehension of their customers and their needs. By putting the needs of users first, and conducting user research, businesses can gain insights into the needs, wants, and behaviors of their customers. This enables businesses to develop products and services that meet the needs and solve the problems of their customers. 
  • Design thinking pushes businesses to create and innovate. By generating new ideas and solutions, businesses can stay ahead of their competitors and offer products and services that are unique and differentiated. 
  • Design thinking influences businesses to collaborate and communicate. By bringing together employees from different departments and disciplines, businesses can develop a more holistic view of problems and find more innovative solutions.  
  • And ultimately, design thinking helps businesses reduce costs, thus saving resources like time, effort, and money. By using a systematic and structured approach to problem-solving, businesses can avoid costly mistakes and high-volume wastage. 

Design Thinking Benefits | ComidorIs User-Centric Design the Key to the Future? 

Conclusively, design thinking is a powerful tool that businesses can use to solve problems, innovate, and better understand their customers. By using a systematic and structured approach to problem-solving, businesses can save invaluable resources and develop more creative and effective solutions. 

Exhausting the means to execute the five stages in the design thinking process accordingly can help you reach your business goals. Make the right changes to your processes and pivot towards developing the best solutions for your customers.

Author Bios:
Nadine is a technical marketing director at Strategy Execution, a contract management training provider with over 20 years’ experience in the global B2B sector, hands-on, creative marketer, Nadine demonstrates a passion for cutting-edge technology and a proven ability to effectively translate client priorities. Nadine is passionate about Project Management, managing and contributing to the company PM blog servicing 40,000 monthly users.

Bernard San Juan III is the Managing Partner of Truelogic who comes from a successful career in online companies, where he played a critical role in building & managing workforce groups. He has redesigned the organization’s IT infrastructure to improve order processing and logistics. His skills include managing performance, managing costs, and training. He also manages overall sales, customer satisfaction, graphic design, copywriting, and training with first-line supervisors. 

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