Design thinking is an angle of approach that many successful innovators have used across various industries, including, art, science, and engineering. Understanding the process of design thinking can be very beneficial to entrepreneurs, who are constantly required to challenge assumptions and deliver inventive solutions. Let’s explore what exactly design thinking is, and how entrepreneurs can implement it to achieve greater business benefits.
What is Design Thinking?
Design thinking is a framework that allows you to generate ideas that are often bold and unique. According to global design firm IDEO, design thinking “is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” In other words, it’s a methodology that allows creators to develop a deeper understanding of the people for whom they’re designing the products and services, so they can deliver the best results.
Due to the nature of their daily activities and responsibilities, entrepreneurs can benefit from the blend of divergent and convergent thinking styles that result in design thinking. On the one hand, design thinking involves using one’s imagination and curiosity to think outside of the box and explore multiple possibilities. However, it also includes bringing ideas together at the end to form a single, concrete solution. From a business perspective, the design thinking process can help entrepreneurs to track progress, measure outcomes, and evaluate feedback from various business activities.
5 Ways Entrepreneurs Can Adopt Design Thinking
Let’s consider ways that entrepreneurs can implement the five stages of the design thinking process: empathize, design, ideate, prototype, and test.
1. Empathize with Your Audience
Empathy is a key quality for entrepreneurs. An entrepreneur is someone who brings value to the world and makes a profit while doing so. But in order to create value, you have to understand the problems that members of your audience are currently facing. You have to put yourself in their shoes and show empathy. Many times, when people start a business, they take their users for granted or make assumptions about how people view the world.
To adopt design thinking, you have to get an understanding of your user’s mental models and what the world looks like from their perspective. Thus, you will need to spend a significant amount of time conducting user research and speaking with industry experts to gain key insights for your projects.
2. Define the Problem You’re Solving
After you have gathered information from potential customers, it’s time to define the problem at hand. Defining the problem involves articulating the problem through a detailed problem statement. In the previous phase, we broke down our observations about the user into smaller components, but now it’s time to put them back together. This phase is important because it provides a clear-cut objective to work towards.
For example, if you’re starting a video editing business, you might take a course to help you learn how to edit videos in a way that utilizes storytelling and creative problem-solving. This helps you define the problem and deliver a visually appealing solution. Within the design context, a user problem is essentially an unmet need. You can use the four Ws – who, what, where, and why, to effectively frame the problem and provide direction for your project. As you move through the design thinking process, you’ll constantly refer back to the identified problem and make sure you’re moving in the right direction.
The next stage of the design thinking process involves ideation – or generating ideas. Ideation is often the most exciting step in the design thinking process because it encourages creativity and free thinking in order to generate a large number of ideas. The goal here is to expand the solution space and look beyond the usual methods of solving problems. Brainstorming is a great way to generate many ideas in a short amount of time, and entrepreneurs can practice this alone or in a group setting.
No matter the industry you’re in, ideation can help you ask the right questions and uncover unexpected areas of innovation. However, keep in mind that this is a process that requires both creativity and concentration in order to be fruitful. Thus, you should aim to ideate in an environment that facilitates transparency and openness in sharing ideas. Once you’ve generated a large number of ideas, you can then filter and narrow down to the most viable solutions.
4. Create a Prototype
A working model of your product is important to build credibility as an entrepreneur. When you create a prototype, you essentially create a simple experiential model of your proposed solution. Although prototypes can take many forms – e.g. simple sketches, storyboards, and interactive wireframes – they all serve to provide a tangible representation of your concept.
If you’re seeking financial support for your project, a prototype will help investors visualize your idea and see that you’re serious about the venture. Additionally, the process of building a prototype can unintentionally ignite other ideas in your mind that can help improve your business on a larger scale. For example, while creating a prototype, you may discover ways to improve functionality, fix an outstanding issue, or enhance your customer feedback loop.
5. Test out Your Solution
Testing is the fifth stage in design thinking and a crucial component of product development. It involves taking your prototype to real users and seeing how they interact with it. The testing phase is important because it gives you the feedback and insights you need to improve your prototype.
Testing allows you to keep the product user-centric, and it also makes good business sense because it enables you to spot flaws and usability issues before you take the product to market. Although testing is the final stage of the design thinking process, it is also an iterative process. Even during this phase, you’ll likely find yourself empathizing with users, reconsidering your problem statement, and challenging yourself in new ways in order to make alterations and create the best product possible.
At the end of the day, your success as an entrepreneur depends on your willingness to experiment and implement the various stages of design thinking. As we have seen, design thinking is a methodology that’s not just limited to designers or large corporations, but rather it’s a vital approach for any business owner who wants to create human-centered products that satisfy customer needs. By making an effort to apply design thinking in your business, you’ll likely find that you’re able to generate more impactful ideas that take you to the next stage of your entrepreneurial journey.
Roli Edema is an entrepreneur and personal development author. She is passionate about continuous learning, psychology, and practicing the 80/20 principle to see greater results in life. Through her work, Roli provides individuals with useful tools to enable them to reach their personal, career, and business goals.