The famous philosopher Des Carte once said “I think therefore I am.” It was his statement about how one’s proof of existence starts with one’s mind and how an individual understands their reality. It is from this wellspring that we use the mind to understand our problems as well as develop thoughtful solutions to them. This contemplative method shares a lot with a powerful new marketing trend known as Design Thinking.

What Is Design Thinking?

Design Thinking is a hands-on process designed to use various iterations to challenge assumptions, while also redefining problems in an attempt to find alternative strategies with innovative solutions. At its core, you find a way of thinking and creating that has the potential to elevate many industries and possibly entire cultures in a truly functional way.

While it certainly has a powerful presence amongst designers in every imaginable sector, design thinking is not limited just to designs. In truth innovators of every stripe including writers, artists, musicians, engineers, and business professionals can all benefit from design thinking’s inherent concepts.

Who Uses Design Thinking?

You might be surprised to hear that some of the most successful international brands like Apple, Google, Samsung, and GE, have rapidly adopted Design Thinking into their ever-evolving business models. It has proven to be such a successful concept that it is even being taught in prestigious universities like Stanford, Harvard, and MIT.

How Does Design Thinking Work?

The core concepts of Design Thinking focus on developing a deep interest in understanding the people and other businesses in a company’s target market. This calls for a strategic type of empathy for the target user of products and services.

Design Thinking’s strength lends itself toward tackling ill-defined problems and lesser-known questions. It does this by systematically examining the question, the existing factors, and assumptions as well as factoring in the intentionality of the user. It employs a hands-on approach in prototyping and testing that plays out like a multi-phase brainstorming session.

The Benefits Of Design Thinking

Design Thinking comes with several key benefits that can help individual designers, small businesses, and even entire corporate entities to do things like:

Boost Creativity

Design thinking encourages an integrated collective approach to problem-solving. It can be used by an individual as well as a team or entire department to better understand a problem as well as recognize ways that the problem can be better solved collaboratively. Along the way, it intensifies an understanding of the problem and the surrounding factors, which tends to open fresh doors for new ways of thinking.

Promote Empathy With Users

Since it employs a lot of outside-in thinking many Design Thinking advocates develop a much deeper or “Empathetic” understanding of their users. This includes the finer points that influence their target market’s thinking and choices. As time goes on, it also helps your company to develop strategies that not only boost conversion rates but also increase the likelihood of converting potential new customers into long-term loyal customers.

Developing Ambidextrous Thinking

A growing body of research has started doing away with the old model of Left Brain versus Right Brain strategies when it comes to solving problems and communicating with customers. Design Thinking by its nature promotes a more Gestalt approach that engages both analytical and creative thinking styles and truly views both as equals.

The Five Phases Of Design Thinking

Design Thinking allows for a lot of creative modulation to maximize its effectiveness. So, while some practitioners have their own take on how to implement it, many Design Thinking advocates break the process down into five related phases.

  1. Empathize with the users
  2. Define the user’s needs and problems clearly
  3. Ideate by challenging assumptions and proposing creative new solutions
  4. Prototype by designing potential solutions
  5. Test the proposed solutions rigorously

Phase One: Empathize

This phase is all about researching the users’ needs. This is a human-centered process where the design thinking model allows you to set aside your own assumptions. For it to be truly effective the research process needs to remain focused on the user and their

Phase Two: Define

This is where you clearly state the intended users’ problems and needs. This is where you collate the dearth of information collected during the Empathize stage and put it under intense, hands-on analysis. The underlying goal of phase two is to define the core problems you and your team have identified. These definitions are known as “Problem Statements.” Many design thinking advocates create personas to help keep your efforts human-centered before proceeding to ideation.

Phase Three: Ideate—Challenge Assumptions and Create Ideas

In the third phase, your mental energy is put toward challenging assumptions and creating ideas that are based on the solid background of knowledge from the first two phases. This is where you truly start to “Think Outside The Box.” The goal being to find alternative ways to view the problem and identify innovative solutions to the problem statements you previously created.

Phase Four: Prototype

This is where you take all of the potentials out-of-the-box solutions proposed in phase three and develop scaled-down, low-cost versions of products. Each focuses on key features and solutions to problems you uncovered in the earlier research phases.

Phase Five: Test

This is where you take all of those prototypes and you put them through rigorous testing. This is often a repetitive process with several iterations. Each with the overarching goal being to refine the product or service you are offering.
In phase five, a lot of teams often use the results to redefine one or more further problems. There is plenty of room here for the process of elimination. You also shouldn’t be afraid of outside testing via things like focus groups, surveys, and other samples from sources within your target group of users.

Conclusion

Design Thinking continues to innovate the world of marketing as it helps companies and institutions of all sizes to better connect with their target audience, to meet their needs at the highest level. While there are certainly some repetitive steps along the way, putting in your due diligence at every step of the Design Thinking process will increase the likelihood of capturing new customers and converting them into loyal repeat customers.

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