What is Design Thinking?

Design for non-designers?

When we ask the participants at the start of our training if they find themselves creative, most people answer this question in the negative. When we ask questions, it appears that we design and associate creativity with the artistic process of shaping. We apparently think you should be a talent in drawing. We think differently about that.

Design Thinking is not exclusively reserved for designers. We call it Design Thinking, because we use the methods of designers and design teams to systematically learn, experiment and test. This is a people-oriented approach to finding solutions to problems in a creative and innovative way.

This approach follows an iterative and non-linear process in a number of phases: empathize, sets, ideate, prototype en test tanks. There are many variants of this process, all of which are very similar in essence. Watson & Associates has adapted the 5-step model of the Stanford d.school. The Stanfort d school is affiliated with IDEO and is seen as the most important founder of Design Thinking.

Five phases of Design Thinking

Leading organizations worldwide, such as Apple, Google and IBM, use Design Thinking. Design Thinking is also taught by renowned universities in the academic world. In addition to the Stanford d.school, Design Thinking is taught at Harvard and MIT. In the Netherlands, Design Thinking is also taught at the most renowned business universities.

Agile, Lean and Design Thinking

Design Thinking focuses on complex challenges. Challenges where both the problem and the solution are not defined in advance, so-called wicked problems. Design Thinking is therefore a very good addition to Lean. Because what Lean focuses on Kaizen, the continuous improvement of the current state, Design Thinking focuses on complex problems where we actually do not have a starting point: innovation. However, the most important principles behind Lean and Agile also apply to Design Thinking: focusing on added value, strong collaboration, increasing agility and learning from mistakes.

Design thinking tap into capacities we all have but are overlooked by more conventional problem-solving practices. It is not only human-centered; it is deeply human in and of itself. Design thinking relies on our ability to be intuitive, to recognize patterns, to construct ideas that have emotional meaning as well as functionality, to express ourselves in media other than words or symbols. Nobody wants to run a business based on feeling, intuition, and inspiration, but an overreliance on rational and analytical can be just as dangerous. The integrated approach at the core of the design process suggests a 'third way.'

- Tim Brown, Change by Design, Introduction

We strive to understand the user through an iterative process. We test assumptions, tighten our problem definitions and try to develop alternative strategies and solutions that were not available in advance with our initial understanding. It is both a way of thinking and a practical set of hands-on work forms.

We continuously go through a variety of divergent thinking, lateral thinking and converging thinking. In Design Thinking this is often reflected in the double diamond fashion model. Keep in mind that these phases do not necessarily have to be completed in sequence. It is a non-linear process.

Define, experiment and learn

Design Thinking is about a deep interest in people. We want to really understand the people for whom we develop solutions (products or services). To develop empathy for the users, Design Thinking helps us ask the right questions. From this deep user understanding, we can redefine problems, generate ideas with brainstorming, and prototype and test solutions. Because that's what it's all about: experimenting, sketching a solution, making a prototype, trying out concepts and ideas. If it does not work? No problem, then we will go back to the process. Fail fast, fail cheap!

Watson & Associates sees Design Thinking as an interesting way to improve services and products for users and customers, to solve complex problems or to implement strategic innovations and transformations. In terms of working method and mindset, it is a very good addition to a Lean and Agile way of working.

De Design Thinking Awareness training of one day part offers a thorough introduction and lets participants experience what Design Thinking is exactly. The Design Thinking Practitioner training is intended for participants who intend to apply Design Thinking in practice. We can also organize this training for you in-company. Ask about the possibilities or request a free quote.