The Five Steps of the Design Thinking Process

Businesses today revolve around the satisfaction of consumers. Consumers are spoiled with choices today, and every day a new brand comes up with a similar product but at a lower price. Hence, in this tough time, what can help a business thrive in the short term as well as the long term is customer satisfaction. design thinking in a customer-centric approach to solving complicated business problems. "Design thinking" is the new buzzword or trend in businesses today.

In this article, we will be diving deep into the 5 steps of the design thinking process and their importance. 

The Concept of Design Thinking

Design thinking is a radical approach. In a world where data and automation are the fuel for every business, design thinking aims to restore the human-centric approach. Design thinking is a process in which businesses question the business problem, their assumptions, and the potential consequences of their actions.

The Five Phases of Design Thinking

Design thinking is not an entirely new concept coming to light today. It has been there in every creative process; it is just that we never named the process. For us, it was how the thinking flowed. Now we will be diving deep into the process to ensure its implementation in our work.

  • Empathize with the consumers − The first step of design thinking is to be free of all assumptions. When a company is innovating its product or service offering based on what they think the market needs, all the company is doing is talking to itself. For companies to provide improvised products, they have to interact with consumers. Understand the needs of the consumer, the barriers they have, their attitude, and what having a particular product seems like to them and others. When a company employs design thinking, it is not solving the business's queries or issues, but those of the end users. Before designing and marketing consumer packaged goods, companies have to understand or empathize with the consumers. Companies can observe their consumers by being:

    • Silent spectators and observers.

    • Conduct in-depth interviews.

    • A/B split testing

    • Periodical feedback and surveys

    • Sentiment analysis

    • Listen to the consumer complaint forum.

    • Put yourself in the shoes of your customer to gain firsthand experience and others.

  • Define the problems − The first step in the design thinking process was to collect data. Now it is time for individuals or businesses to make sense of the data that they have collected. Use all the parameters of cultural differences, needs of the consumer, customer experience in-store, competitors’ products and understanding, and the demographics of the consumers to define them all. At this stage, the company is defining the problem that is surfacing through all of the consumer data collected. It is a crucial stage because this stage decides what the company is going to work on. This data regarding the problem is shared with different functional teams and stakeholders so that people in the organization know what problem they are trying to solve and can contribute to it. Multiple problems may also crop up at this stage of design thinking, at which point the business has to prioritize the more pressing issues and decide whether to dedicate its resources to them.

  • Ideate your solutions − this is the phase where we are well aware of our problems and the needs of the consumer. It is time to get the ball rolling. In this phase, different functional departments come together to form creative solutions to the logical problem set that we have. In this stage, the various stakeholders and employees proactively design a product that will satisfy the consumers. Various ways in which companies can ensure the implementation of this phase include −

    • Brainstorming between different departments is happening to find the ideal solution.

    • Prototyping and the rough sketch are being prepared by taking a view of the solution from different functional angles.

    • Product mapping is done, among other things.

    This is generally a "war room" kind of situation because employees forget the hierarchical orders and functional or departmental differences and their only focus is to solve the problem at hand. Various solutions are born in this phase of design thinking, but we only take forward the ones that are financially and technologically more operational.

  • Prototyping, or "bringing it to life" − is the phase of design thinking where all the solutions discovered during the ideation stage are implemented. Developers in this phase are giving life to various solutions, and they encounter several failures. Something that seemed easy or doable might seem like a mountain that could not be conquered. This is the phase where the solution developers go out of their way to bring the solution to life. Many of the solutions discussed above fail in this phase, and only a few sail through. In this phase, all the team members piggyback on each other to redesign, improvise, or reject the idea. Here, the competition is not to outperform each other or the other departments involved but to act as a team to design the ideal solution.

  • Testing phase − This is the phase of design thinking in which the company has found the ideal solution and is now ready for feedback on the same. In this stage, companies distribute the product or service to various consumers for their usage. After the product is used, they are asked open-ended questions. These questions are not answered in one-word answers, and the consumers are asked to be super honest. Questions could be like this:

    • Why are the consumers preferring this product over the earlier ones they were consuming?

    • What problem is this product solving for them?

    • How was their experience, and what would they like to see changed in the product and why?

    Companies can measure the effectiveness of the product among consumers through the following measures −

  • In-depth interviews

  • Periodical surveys from interested and genuine customers

  • Eye movement during the store purchase

  • Quantitative benchmarking of the product on different parameters like taste, quality, quantity, price, and others

Design thinking is not a linear process or hierarchical staircase among the five points mentioned above. An individual may skip a few steps, revisit certain steps, and stop in between. The destination is to reach a human-centric solution for the business problem, and the five phases of design thinking merely help the individuals in putting their thoughts in place and reaching a conclusion that is beneficial for all.

his article has helped us understand what the various steps in designing thinking in depth could be and what tools companies could use to implement these phases effectively. Design thinking might seem like a costly affair both in terms of time and cost, but this customer-centric approach to solving business issues is worth the cost. Through this, companies are developing a bond with their consumers that could no longer be broken by the entrance of new brands, products, or cheaper products. The only way to survive in this cutthroat market environment is by having a loyal customer base. With design thinking, companies will be able to develop products that consumers will prefer and opt for in every situation. It is time to put on your thinking cap and start designing.

Updated on: 10-Mar-2023


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