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9 min read

Why design thinking is important for product engineering

“If you have always done it that way, it is probably wrong”, says Charles F. Kettering, the holder of no less than 186 patents in the world. Today if you are a designer, an entrepreneur, or an employee you are in a constant pressure to innovate and think differently. It is the secret sauce after all, which leads towards success. That is what differentiates companies like Apple, Airbnb and Uber.

What process do innovative companies follow to make sure that they continue to think differently? What is their approach to problem solving that helps them differentiate? The answer is design thinking!

What is Design Thinking

Design thinking is a process of looking at the problem solving process creatively. It encourages organizations to focus on the people they are creating the design for, which leads to better products, services, and internal processes.

Design thinking is a proven and repeatable problem solving protocol that any business or profession can employ to achieve significant results. It combines creative and critical thinking that allows information and ideas to be organized, decisions to be made, situations to be improved, and knowledge to be gained.

It is a non-linear and iterative process that helps to understand users, challenge assumptions, redefine problems and create innovative solutions to prototype and test.

Why is design thinking so important

Recently it has become crucial to develop and refine skills that allow us to understand and act on rapid changes in our environment and behaviour. In this world, where everything is increasingly interconnected and complex, design thinking offers a means to grapple with rapid changes in a more human-centric manner. Most projects will have to pass through the steps listed below to get an initial client briefing so as to arrive at a successful design.

Thoroughly study the client’s brief

Research on the brief provided

Brainstorm new ideas with team

Sketch an initial idea

Develop the concept

Revise and improve

Complete the design for final approval

Designers use design thinking to tackle unknown problems as the above process that refines and reframes the problems in a human-centric way. It allows designers to focus on what is more important for users. Design thinking offers a means to think outside the box and dig a bit deeper into problem solving. It helps designers carry out the right kind of research, create prototypes and test products and services to uncover ways to meet users’ needs.

The design thinking process has become increasingly popular over the last few years and out of the box thinking is taught at leading universities across the world.

It gives designers the ability to generate ideas/solutions in a more disruptive and innovative way. It can be said that it is more than just a process, as it opens up an entirely new way to think, and offers a collection of hands-on methods to help you apply the new mind-set.

Five Essential Stages of Design Thinking

Emphathize — Study User Behaviour For Who You Are Designing The first stage of the design thinking process allows you to gain an empathetic understanding of the problem you are trying to solve, typically through user research. Empathy lets you put yourself in the user’s shoes and take a human-centred approach. It allows you to set aside your assumptions and gain real insight into user behaviour and their needs.

Define — State Your User Needs And Problems In the next stage, you accumulate the information you gathered during the Empathization stage. Analyse the observations and synthesize them to define the core problems your team has identified so far. You should always seek to define the problem statement in a human-centred manner. Designers often start creating personas in this phase to better understand user needs and problems. Using personas is one method among others that help designers move on to the next phase. You may use tools such as Smaply, Userforge, MakeMyPersona etc to help you create user persona and behaviours.

Ideate — Brainstorm And Come Up With Ideas In this stage, designers are ready to generate ideas of design thinking. The solid background of knowledge gained through the initial two-phase helps you to start thinking “outside the box”. Look for alternate ways to view the problem and identify innovative solutions for the problem. The personas will be used as a guide for ideation sessions and tools you can use for this are SessionLab, Stormboard, IdeaFlip etc.

Prototype — Start To Create Solutions Prototyping is the trial phase as it aims to identify the best possible solution for each of the problems identified. Design teams produce and create a number of inexpensive, scaled-down versions of the solution during the prototype phase. You may use tools such as Boords, Mockingbird, POP.

Test — Test Solution Rigorously This is the final stage of the design thinking process but as it is an iterative process, the results generated are often used to redefine one or more further problems. Designers can then choose to return to previous stages in the process to make further iterations, alterations and refinements to bring out the best possible design/solution. You may use tools such as UserTesting, HotJar, PingPong etc.

Designers can use tools like Sprintbase, InVision, Mural, Miro to implement a complete design thinking process.

Benefits of Design Thinking Provides an opportunity to view a problem from a different perspective.

Allows you to dig into a problem to determine its root cause.

Inspires the team to think innovatively and solve problems creatively.

Guarantees that the product meets objectives and client requirements.

Enables you to continually expand your knowledge.

To know more and engage in design thinking, the course “Design Thinking: The Beginners Guide” can help you to get started with your design thinking projects.

At Accion Labs, our teams use design thinking as their fundamental approach for the product engineering journey. To know how we do this, connect with our design experts and project managers today.