The concept of design thinking can be applied across diverse disciplines. From education, law, and medicine to ICT, business management, human resource management and design itself, design thinking principles enable and empower a professional to approach the problem statement in a step-by-step manner and take into account all the necessary factors for arriving at the best solution.
Design thinking has its foundation in the concept of analysis and synthesis. Analysis teaches a thinker how to break down the big problem statement into smaller parts and problem statements. Each elementary problem statement is then studied and attempted for solution. Synthesis is done to put all the suggested solutions together to form a coherent big final solution.
During analysis, divergent thinking is applied and multiple solutions are thought for each of the elementary problem statements. The suggested solutions need not be feasible or viable. The main aim of divergent thinking is to bring up as many ideas as possible to the table.
Divergent thinking is followed by convergent thinking, where the suggested ideas are tested on the grounds of feasibility, viability, and innovation. Synthesis takes the help of convergent thinking to come up with the final best possible solution.
The entire flow of design thinking is generally broken down into five components. These components are −
In Empathize stage, the design thinker puts himself or herself into the shoes of the end user and tries to understand the needs of the customer. A lot of interview, field visits, etc. are required for gathering the information on the requirements. This phase has the customer directly involved in the design thinking process.
Once the requirements are clear, the Define stage helps to frame the problem definition. Problem shaping occurs in this phase itself.
In the Ideate phase, a design thinker brainstorms on the ideas suggested by others and also brings forward his/her own ideas. The ideas are not tested on the grounds of feasibility or viability.
The influx of ideas is represented as a mind map or as a storyboard or a document. In the Prototype phase, a design thinker focuses on testing the ideas on the grounds of feasibility and viability. The unfeasible ideas are discarded and the feasible ones are converted to prototypes. The process of prototyping helps the design thinker to understand the issues related to an idea, which were never thought before. This helps the team of design thinkers to come up with the best prototype and decide the best solution at hand. Moreover, the customer is directly involved in this phase and its feedback is critical for the design thinkers.
In the Test phase, the prototype or the model is presented to the customer and the customer experiences it completely on a full scale. The feedback from the end user decides whether the solution suggested by the design thinkers has been fruitful or not. If the end user does not approve of the solution, then the entire process has to be iterated. The concept of iteration is hence central to the process of design thinking.
Design thinking not only helps to come up with innovative solutions, but also helps to address the exact problems faced by the customer and target the customer’s requirements in the best possible manner.