8 Simple Steps to Applying Design Thinking

G U E S T  A R T I C L E

[sm_smlts_dropcap type=”rounded-with-ring” color=”pink”]D[/sm_smlts_dropcap]esign Thinking embodies a user-centric, solutions based approach to solving complex problems. Whether it is service design, developing new products or re-designing processes, design thinking helps create better solutions through understanding of end users.

Design Thinking has five phases; Empathizing, Defining, Ideating, Prototyping, and Testing. You can use these simple steps to employ design thinking in any project.

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Identify Ultimate End Users – the Persons

In project management, stakeholders are identified whereas, in design thinking personas are created to identify how the end user sees, feels and hears using the project /service /product / process. Personas profile an end user group and help provide insight into the group. A persona is created by gathering and including information in its description such as demographics, challenges and goals, values and fears.  It also includes a title, messaging, and a sentence to describe the group it represents.

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Get to Know Persona’s Challenges, Goals, Attributes

While personas identify goals and attributes, Empathy Maps and Journey Maps help to get a better understanding of how end users are feeling as well as gaps and opportunities in their current journey. Empathy Maps uncover what each persona is feeling, thinking, hearing, saying, and doing. Journey Maps are similar to process mapping but help identify gaps, challenges and strengths in order to determine what problem should be solved.

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Identify What Problem Really Needs To Be Solved

Most of the time, the problem attempted to be solved isn’t the problem that should be solved. Empathy and Journey Mapping will help you understand the varied challenges and opportunities for each persona. When you identify all challenges it is easier to see that there are other linked challenges, which may be more appropriate to tackle.

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Ideate & Co-Create

Develop ideas on how to solve the challenge(s) that have been selected. This step is even more successful when clients are available to design with you so co-creation can happen.

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Select Ideas Agreed Upon

Selecting ideas to prototype is a challenging part of the design thinking phases. To simplify, an organization can initially have selection criteria and select the ones that best match. Alternately, you can select by weighted voting with different weights assigned to organizational priorities or to individual voters.

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Prototype Concepts

The purpose of prototyping for design thinking is to identify what solutions end users will like, as well as those less popular.  At least two prototypes are recommended so testers can comment on what they like and dislike on each prototype, and why. Ensure that the prototypes do not look complete as people are more likely to provide input if prototypes don’t look like they’re already implemented.

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Test Prototypes

Determine why people like the parts they do and ask how it could be made even better. It helps to have your initial end users from the Empathizing phase a part of the Testing phase so they can see the value of their input.

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One of the last and most important steps is implementation. Once you have tested all variations of the prototypes – develop the product, service or process by combining the input you received in previous steps (especially the testing step), to take the product to market or put the solution into production.

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Iterate (Bonus Step)

Designing is never complete. Iteration is required to improve products, services and processes on an ongoing basis, especially as markets, user expectations and technologies progress at impressive rates.



About the author:

Nilufer Erdebil, P.Eng., MBA, PMP (CEO, Spring2Innovation)

Award winning, Spring2Innovation founder, Nilufer Erdebil is a leading innovation and design thinking consultant with a range of experience in telecommunications, application development, project management, and information technology management. Her firm focuses on strategy and vision development, design thinking, creating and managing innovation programs, building innovation capabilities in organizations, and change management.

She has been using design thinking methodologies since 2003 in both the private and public sector. Most recently, she has used design thinking techniques and tools for clients at Innovation Science and Economic Development (ISED), Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), along with the Community of Federal Regulators (CFR) in the redesign of its web interface providing regulatory guidance to Canadians and Canadian businesses.

Nilufer holds a B. Eng in Electrical Engineering and an MBA from Queen’s University. In 2016, she received the Canadian Women in Communications and Technology Leadership Award and in 2014, she was awarded the Ottawa Business Journal Forty Under 40 Award.


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Copyright information: The article has been published with permission from the author. Title picture is copyright of ASQ Ottawa Valley Section and not associated with the original writing.


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