LIBERTY ACOUSTICS | Startup Management & Corporate Innovation 

Design Thinking

17.11.2018 - Today, we have industry leaders from various Industries speaking and writing a lot about Design Thinking and being Customer Centric. It has become the centre stage in many organisations which are trying to rapidly adopt the people-centred approach and a culture in order to be more innovative. So, Design Thinking is enabling organisations to create products and services that are not just what people want but they are also differentiators in the market. 

What is Design Thinking?

Design Thinking is a design methodology that provides a solution based approach to solve problems. The Design Thinking process is iterative, flexible and focused on collaboration between designers and customers, with an emphasis on bringing ideas to life based on how real users think, feel and behave. Design Thinking wants to release them as much creative potential of an innovation project in order to systematically solve complex problems or tasks. The result of a design thinking process is usually an innovation. The process itself is specifically aimed at the customer, presenting him as early as possible in the course of the process, the ideas and solutions resulting from the innovation process. At the same time, Design Thinking uses a variety of methods to make the customer's vision, wishes, needs and goals visible to the innovation team and thus the company. Design Thinking is also a process in the sense of a step-by-step approach that leads to a result in a clearly structured manner. This result is often completely open at the beginning of the process, even if certain design thinking processes define a framework already at the start of the project. For example, in many innovation processes, resources are identified right from the start of the project and a question is defined that is to be answered by the design thinking process. The design thinking approach is human-centred. First of all, it is important to observe, identify and understand the needs of the target group. Insights gained from this are the starting point for the actual generation of ideas. By early creation and testing of prototypes, ideas are quickly implemented and evaluated. The focus is less on the detailed elaboration of ideas, but rather on extensive experimentation and collecting new insights. Repeating and alternating the different steps creates an increasingly better understanding of the problem and possible solutions. 


Different Phases in Design Thinking

Design Thinking is always connected to innovation and improvement. It’s a creative process rooted in building ideas and it applies in all areas. It involves five steps, as illustrated below:

Empathize: The first stage of the Design Thinking process is to get an empathetic understanding of the problem you are trying to solve. This phase focuses on the project context and the environment of the target person. First of all, a first understanding of the problem area is developed by determining the needs of the respective target persons and showing their experiences in relation to the topic to be worked on. This immersion into the context brings a wealth of information to life. This includes potential opportunities and challenges that would otherwise have been difficult to identify. 
Define: The Define stage is meant to help the designers put together a list of different views to establish ideas, techniques, and any other elements that will allow them to create learning material which helps employees and organizations reach their desired outcomes. It’s ideal to formulate the conclusions in a very clear and empathetic way. However, to truly exploit all the data and identify common patterns, the second phase is followed by a thorough analysis and synthesis with the goal of understanding the whole. The goal of this phase is to identify the particular obstacle in order to solve it in a targeted and sustainable way.
Ideate: Ideation is based on various techniques such as brainstorming. Quantity is about quality - the more ideas you get, the better. Criticism is not welcome at this point, because design thinking questions an idea only when trying to implement it. In the subsequent phase of idea generation, the team uses a creative framework to develop innovative solutions that are based on the context of the overall theme. A few of these ideas are then selected to be put through their paces in the fourth phase, the so-called experimental phase, and further developed.
Prototype: This should be made as simple as possible - and of course be inexpensive. The prototype should give the customer a look and feel, so an impression of the possible product. If the customer can experience the future product in this way, he can give you feedback on the basis of which you can develop further. Ultimately, it is important to let the targeted visitor of the Space have some experience with the idea in order to find out what he needs and wants as a customer.
Test: The final phase is to test the prototyped idea with the target group, to collect the feedback from the users and to optimize the product on this basis step by step. It is important that effective experiments are developed that bring new insights. These can then be implemented and, if possible, implemented in the context of the company. 
Design Thinking and Lean Start up: Similarities and Differences
Design Thinking and Lean Start-up work strictly user-oriented. However, the starting point for innovations is always people with their needs. To succeed, users are involved in the process. They give continuous feedback so that as few resources as possible are wasted on developing innovations that nobody needs. Both approaches motivate us to act quickly, instead of filing for perfect solutions in the quiet little room. Fast prototypes serve to reflect the solution itself, making it more tangible to potential users. Innovations are always associated with uncertainty. Therefore, both approaches aim to reduce uncertainty as quickly as possible. The sooner you realize that a solution is not working, the faster you can devote to variants and gradually approach a viable solution. The main difference is that brainstorming is part of the design thinking process, while a lean start-up starts from an existing idea. Design Thinking starts with a question and deals first with the challenge before any solutions are developed. The better understanding of the problem leads to fresh, less obvious solutions. In addition, Lean Start-up clearly focuses on the business model, while Design Thinking is generally applicable to problem solving and optimization. In terms of methods, Design Thinking focuses on qualitative feedback. Few in-depth conversations with users are more important than a representative crowd. In a Lean Start-up, on the other hand, quantitative feedback based on key figures is important to validate business model assumptions.Design thinking is especially useful at the beginning of the process to understand the problem and develop ideas. The resulting solutions are validated according to the Lean start-up approach. In each process step both qualitative and quantitative tests are carried out. You can apply Design Thinking to a variety of issues. Whenever a business idea is involved, the combination with Lean start-up makes sense in order to develop a business model and to validate it on the market. Design Thinking is good for brainstorming if you do not have a business idea yet, and you're about to enter the lean start-up process with better, less obvious ideas. Design Thinking can help you gain deep insights into the audience and get better and more creative concepts in advance. This does not mean that Design Thinking stops implementing the MVP, it is more of a holistic mind-set. But if the start is messed up, a late change will incur all the more costs, which is why design thinking has a great importance right at the beginning.