Authored by: Nicole Myers, Director – Curriculum and Business Development, Stem Minds Corp.
Design Thinking is the core of all making. A grand statement, we know. Today we’re going to break down what Design Thinking is to show you just how crucial it is to successful making and to help you bring it into your practice.
What is Design Thinking?
Basically, Design Thinking is the process used to solve complex problems by creating solutions that work. We love to use this helpful graphic to illustrate the Design Thinking Process. It’s important to notice that this is not a linear process; you can and should jump back and forth between the stages because this is how you make sure that you are creating something truly meaningful and effective. Essentially, the Design Thinking process ensures that you are successful by design rather than by accident; you are ensuring that you waste less time and resources and intentionally create something that solves the problem rather than just guessing. So, let’s break down the Design Thinking Process!
Entry Point: Empathy
While the process of Design Thinking may not be linear, there is a clear entry point: empathy. Empathy, in short, is the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes in order to understand their perspective and their needs. In order to understand what you need to do to solve a problem, you first need to understand the problem itself from the perspective of someone actually experiencing it. Sometimes we are the person experiencing the problem, but sometimes we are working to solve problems we have never personally experienced; this is where it’s even more important that we take the time to think about the problem empathetically so that we come up with solutions that actually work. Don’t take the time to empathize and you run the risk of spending precious time and resources developing a solution that was never viable in the first place.
This stage usually happens simultaneously with empathy; it’s when you are identifying the problem (or problems) you are working to solve. But be careful: in this stage you want to identify problems, NOT solutions. We are trained to immediately name solutions when we are presented with a problem. If you see someone in the middle of winter with just a t-shirt on, you’re probably going to say something like, “He needs a coat”. However, that’s actually a solution. The problem is that the person is not warm enough. One solution could be to give them a coat. Another could be to move them inside somewhere warmer. Another solution could be to develop a spray that you can use that creates a barrier between them and the cold air. When you are first identifying a need, take care to actually identify the need rather than just skipping ahead to possible solutions to make sure you don’t limit your thinking.
So, you’ve come to an understanding of the problem. Now is the time to come up with all the possible solutions you can think of (and we do mean ALL of them)! Even the solutions that seem silly, even the ones that would “never work.” Now is not the time for judgement. Inside of even the silliest idea is a grain of truth that could be useful now or in the future. They may not be the ideas you end up moving forward with, but every idea contains a grain of truth inside that can be useful for developing a great solution.
Once you’ve chosen your solution, you need to create a plan for how you are going to actually bring that idea to life. People love to skip this step and just move on to the Create stage. We understand the temptation; creating is so much fun! However, taking the time to really think out your plan ensures that you are more likely to be successful with bringing your idea to life and less likely to experience frustration and waste time. Think about what materials you need, what steps you need to take, whose help you will require, how long will it take? All of these things are questions you should ask yourself so there are no unpleasant surprises. So, take your time and create a plan!
Okay, now the fun part! In this stage, you are actually creating your idea to bring it to life and test out! The key here is that you actually have to test out whatever you are creating and ask others to do it, too! The prototyping process of creating a kind of “draft version”, getting feedback on it, and moving forward with improvements is critical to success! We know it can be nerve-racking to share what you are creating, but it is better to find out what is working and what isn’t now rather than later! If you find along your path that your plan changes, that’s okay; never be afraid to change and improve! Take in feedback, keep your focus on your vision and goals, and keep learning and moving forward!
You’ve created your prototype, now you need to figure out how to improve it! Ask yourself, ask your friends, ask experts, ask your mom, ask everyone! Everyone has a valuable perspective to share that can be helpful for improving your creation, so seek it out and incorporate it into what you’re doing. Then, take what you’ve learned and move forward. Can you think of a way to take your current creation to the next level? Have you been inspired to take your new skills and apply them elsewhere? Try it all out; the Design Thinking process is never ending!
There you have it! Your crash course introduction to Design Thinking! We hope you have come to a better understanding about what Design Thinking is and how you can use it in your life. Have any questions about the process? Let us know in the comments!