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What Is Design Thinking?

Problems can arise in any area at any time. However, finding a solution and making an improvement is not always easy. How do you arrive at an optimal solution when products or services are not well received or sales simply do not increase?

By focusing on the people in question, the target group, and developing ideas for improvement together as a team.

That’s what design thinking is all about: Within 6 phases, innovative ideas are developed, tested and implemented, and user-oriented solutions to problems are achieved.

What is innovation?

Design thinking aims to solve problems by developing creative, innovative ideas. But what does innovative actually mean and why does it matter?

Innovation is understood to mean the process in which a field, product or service is renewed and brought up to date through new processes, techniques or successful ideas. It is therefore a change that takes place in a targeted and planned manner.

As an example, consider a bookstore that has a very small selection of books on site, rarely provides independent recommendations, and where the buying process is laborious. How can this problem be solved and improved? The solution to this would be a digital bookstore such as Amazon, which is always available, includes reviews and offers a simple ordering process.

Innovation plays an essential role in design thinking, as it is about solving problems and, if necessary, renewing products or services with the help of good, innovative ideas.

Also Read: Mistakes Not To Make When Thinking About A Cloud Strategy

What is Design Thinking?

Design thinking is a creative problem-solving method developed and established by David Kelley, Terry Winograd, and Larry Leifer at Stanford University. It is a systematic approach to complex problems from all areas of life. The focus is on the wishes and needs of the target group, which must be examined and understood as a basis for the development of ideas. The aim is to move away from traditional thinking and working models and to achieve a creative, user-oriented solution to complex problems within the digital transformation.

Teamwork plays a central role in design thinking. Innovative ideas are developed through different experiences, opinions and views and are continuously optimized in an iterative manner within the framework of 6 phases within interdisciplinary teams up to the end product. By repeating the different phases, it is possible to build on the results of the previous phases and thus develop an ever better understanding of the problem and the potential solutions.

Why is Design Thinking a worthwhile method for improving or renewing products or services? You put yourself in the position of the users and look at a situation from their eyes. In this way, users are the focus and products or services can be tailored to them.

The principles of design thinking are: the focus on users, cooperation within interdisciplinary teams, avoidance of outsourcing, the creation of creative ideas from sufficient resources, creative freedom and the courage to fail, the rapid development of initial prototypes and openness to different results.

The 6 phases of design thinking – a quick run through

1. Understand

This phase is about getting to know and understanding the problem as well as the people, relationships, organizational structures and contexts involved and getting an overview of the situation. With users at the center, the right questions have to be asked, a common understanding and feeling for the topic should develop and the problem has to be viewed in its entirety in order to be able to fully grasp it. This understanding can be achieved with the help of mind maps, imagining extreme situations, stakeholder analysis or semantic analysis and more.

2. Observe

Building on the information obtained in the first phase, this step involves extensively dealing with the target group through observations, surveys and interactions. These can be interviews or field observations, for example. Empathy for users should develop here by putting yourself in their emotional world and finding out thoughts, behavior and needs. The aim of this phase is to gain a better understanding of the feelings and characteristics of the people involved.

3. Define your point of view

In the next step, a common point of view is to be developed within the team. This common point of view results from the information from phases 1 and 2 as well as the exchange of experiences among each other, whereby the exact user needs, the situation and the environment in which it is moved can be precisely determined by the different opinions. Defining a precise point of view provides a helpful basis for developing ideas in the next phase. A common point of view can be defined within the team by answering the following questions:

“How can we…”

… To solve the Problem?

… overcome the challenge?

… achieve the goals?

… allow new possibilities?

4. Develop ideas

Only now does it come to the actual part of design thinking: the development of different ideas based on the information obtained about the problem and the people affected. Through the cooperation and the diversity of the team, many different ideas come about, which can then be combined or selected. The interaction of several creative minds is of great advantage here. To successfully generate innovative ideas, there are several creative techniques, such as different types of brainstorming. In the end, as many ideas as possible should be created, which can then be evaluated and structured.

5. Prototyping

An idea can be flipped back and forth, but turning ideas into prototypes for further development and better understanding is an important part of design thinking. Instead of endlessly discussing ideas, the visualization through prototypes makes them more tangible and imaginable for both the team and test users.

There is a wide range of forms that the prototypes can take. From paper or Lego models to role-playing games to the visual processing of ideas in the form of collages or drawings, there are no limits to creativity.

6. Testing

After the development of the prototypes, it is of course necessary to find out whether and how the ideas developed are received by the users. Therefore, the last step is to test one or more prototypes with the target group. This includes selecting a prototype, capturing the tests through logs, and scheduling the tests. Here, the necessary participant information should be found out, and the testers and the appropriate test method should be selected.

Several methods can be used, such as presenting the product in front of an audience, observing the interaction of a user, A/B tests (dividing the testers into 2 groups, each with a different prototype) or the “Think Aloud” method. , in which users think aloud while using the prototype. The aim of this phase is to collect sufficient feedback, to evaluate it and to obtain further starting points for improvements or alternatives.


After the first run through the six phases, a new design thinking process is started as a result of the test results. Here, a decision is first made as to which phase should be restarted in order to further optimize the idea. The different phases are then run through again and again until an innovative, optimal and user-oriented product has been created in the end.

With the help of design thinking, ideas become models and possibly eventually finished products or services that meet user needs.

Also Read: What Is Agility And Why Does A Company Need It?

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