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What is Design Thinking?

Design Thinking is a methodology used by designers to solve complex (wicked) problems, and find desirable solutions for clients. A wicked problem is a social or cultural problem that is difficult or impossible to solve for as many as four reasons: incomplete or contradictory knowledge, the number of people and opinions involved, the large economic burden, and the interconnected nature of these problems with other problems. Wicked problems are not about how difficult it is, but rather about the nature of the problem. Solving these problems require continuous defining of the problem, in depth research and numerous attempts at iteration.

Design Thinking draws upon logic, imagination, intuition, and systemic reasoning, to explore possibilities of what could be and to create desired outcomes that benefit the end user (the customer). An important component of design thinking is empathy. Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other person’s frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another’s position. Aligned with this is the practice of Human-centered Design. A creative approach to problem solving – a process that starts with the people (end user) you’re designing for and ends with new solutions that are tailor made to suit their needs. Human-centered design (HCD) involves the human perspective in all steps of the problem-solving process.

Design thinking utilizes elements from the designer’s toolkit like empathy and experimentation to arrive at innovative solutions. By using design thinking, you make decisions based on what future customers really want instead of relying only on historical data or making risky bets based on instinct instead of evidence.

According to Tim Brown (and I quote) “Design thinking is a deeply human process that taps into abilities we all have but get overlooked by more conventional problem-solving practices. It relies on our ability to be intuitive, to recognize patterns, to construct ideas that are emotionally meaningful as well as functional, and to express ourselves through means beyond words or symbols. Nobody wants to run an organization on feeling, intuition, and inspiration, but an over-reliance on the rational and the analytical can be just as risky. Design thinking provides an integrated third way”. Design Thinking and the resulting innovation requires an overlap of desirability, feasibility and viability. What does the end user want / need, how viable is it from a business perspective and then is it feasible from a technical standpoint.

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