Design thinking is a dynamic discipline that has taught me to believe in myself, to aim at making a difference in my daily activities, and to make intentional attempts at generating innovative and relevant solutions to the problems that I face. It has equipped me with a strong belief in my ability to be creative when faced with a challenge and an attitude to view such a problem as an opportunity to apply my design thinking skills(Wang, 2013). Design thinking has been different from any other learning in my academic journey because it combined a wide array of styles that made it highly interesting and transformative. It is an all-around unit that incorporates managerial, decision-making, presentation, creativity and innovation, interpersonal, and other exciting skills that are applicable in forging a career path and personal development. Although the concept of design thinking has existed for decades, it began gaining much more attention well into the 21st century as the world is increasingly facing new challenges that cannot be effectively solved using ordinary styles of thinking. For example, the onset of rapid methods of communication aided by technological advances make access to information almost symmetrical, thus, the products and services of many industries are also almost homogenous. To differentiate, firms have to apply design thinking practices that result in innovative solutions.
Design Thinking Values
During my learning, I deduced four main characteristics of design thinking. First, design thinking is a human-centered discipline. This is the foundational characteristic of design thinking which entails seeking a deep understanding of the behaviors, motivations, and needs of people or the end users of a solution(Orthel, 2015). Human-centered design is grounded in all the stages of the design thinking process and it is the determinant of the effectiveness of the solution.
Second, design thinking is collaborative. It acknowledges the fact that many minds produce better results than one when addressing a problem. A solution crafted by a team of members with diverse perspectives is enriched by the creativity of each of the members. As a member of a team, I will get the opportunity to challenge my views, expand my knowledge, and bolster the end product of the design thinking process(Matthew & Becker, 2013). For example, the activity for the tenth week involved making presentations in groups. I noticed the power of teamwork in building individual member confidence through mutual support. Brainstorming is encouraged in design thinking as a means of pooling a broad variety of ideas together for experimentation through trial and error as the team seeks to identify the best solution to a problem. In the activity for the fifth week, we did an activity that involved drawing pictures of identifiable objects in 30 circles within 2 minutes. Looking at the outcomes of different groups, I admired the power of diversity in producing unique results.
Third, design thinking encourages optimism. In the third week, we performed an activity that involved learning about mindsets (week 3 blog entry). Optimism is the quality of believing that a decision or process will bear a successful outcome. Through design thinking lessons, I have learned that I have to be inspired to make a positive change to any situation no matter the scope of the challenge, the availability of resources, or the timeframe(Liedtka, 2014). By applying creativity and innovativeness, I can beat these constraints to deliver the best solution to a problem in my professional setting or personal endeavors. The activity for the seventh week involved discussing ethics which is a huge determinant for business sustainability. Design thinkers should only choose solutions that promote ethics. Optimism involves a growth mindset by which I can approach challenges with an open perspective and the belief that I can conquer any challenge through a continuous learning process.
Fourth, design thinking entails intensive experimentation. Design thinking gives me a positive mindset for approaching challenges, allowing for failures and errors, learning from those failures, and using feedback to generate new ideas through a process of iteration. Although there is always an external pressure to be perfect, we are constantly exposed to change which creates new problems that need to be solved(Inns, 2013). These pressures place expectations on everyone that make it difficult to explore and take risks limiting the ability to create positive impacts in the face of challenges. Design thinking helped me to understand that success comes through learning by trial and error.
Understanding a Problem
During the unit, I learned that the way that I define a problem is foundational to achieving the best solution. The purpose of the design thinking process is to address a particular challenge. I should define a problem using a clear, actionable, and understandable statement that exposes the opportunity for designing a solution(Fukuda, 2013). I developed a set of good practices when defining a problem. First, I should generate a list of the challenges and gaps that I can spot in a situation. In the fourth week, we did an activity that involved identifying the obvious problems in a set of pictures and imagining the education system in the year 2050. Second, from the list of challenges, I can frame the major problem to be addressed including “what, how, when, where, and who” questions that I can answer using empathetic research on the intended users of the solution. Third, the problem statement should include the objectives to be achieved which should be specific, measurable, attainable, realistic/relevant and time-bound. Performance metrics create a sense of commitment as every member of the team aims at reaching or surpassing the original goals of a design thinking project(Cross, 2015).
The problem statement should also include the constraints that the team should expect during the design thinking project. Understanding constraints from the onset reduce the possibility of encountering surprises that may cause distractions or derail the process. Design thinking can appropriately be applied to solve almost any problem in an organizational setting or personal life. In the business context, I can use design thinking to address challenges in the design and delivery of products, processes, working conditions, strategic programs, and organizational processes(Blizzard et al., 2015). Design thinking is also relevant in my personal life in addressing issues such as financial management, time management, entrepreneurial ambitions, and personality development.
The design thinking process is composed of five stages for a structured approach through which I have learned to put innovativeness into action. By learning the process, I developed skills in thinking intuitively in order to interpret my observations and generate ideas that connect to the end users(Ambrose, 2015). The stages include discovery, problem definition, ideation, prototyping, and testing. The discovery and problem definition phases form the foundation of the design thinking process. The discovery stage involves understanding the problem in question by conducting research and developing an inspiration. Empathy is a key quality that I gathered in the discovery stage which entails putting oneself in the shoes of the user. In the problem definition stage, I should use the data gathered in the discovery phase to tell a story about the challenge, identify the meanings of the problem, and detect the opportunities for design(Collins, 2013).
My learning about ideation was an opportunity to sharpen my teamwork skills. Teamwork involves brainstorming to generate as many ideas as possible. In the activity for the ninth week, we drafted blogs in pairs and evaluated each other’s outputs using critical questions. It was an opportunity to develop our brainstorming skills. The goal is to reach the best solution possible by creating a suitable environment where everyone can provide their opinions on how to solve the problem in question(Ha, 2015). It is important to avoid judging others’ points of view in order to broaden the potential of the members to be creative and innovative. Sometimes, the ideal solution for a problem may be assumed in the ideation phase because it may sound impractical(Denning, 2013).
In learning design thinking, I appreciate the power of experimentation in formulating suitable solutions. Design thinking involves a process of iteration that helped me to learn the virtues of patience, trial, and failure. We live in a world that is increasingly individualistic and risk-averse. Design thinking teaches me to be explorative through prototyping solutions and testing them among real end users or customers. Experimentation also involves applying high levels of empathy by obtaining feedback from users and evaluating it to determine whether to go forward with commercializing a solution or not(Kainzbauer, 2015). Experimentation emphasized the importance of being open to continuous learning through iteration. In my research, I learned of PayPal’sgood example of a company that succeeded through trial and error. The company’s initial idea was based on cryptography but it soon evolved into a money transfer platform for sending money through personal digital assistants (PDAs). After several initiatives for growth, PayPal transformed into the blue-chip enterprise that we know today through a process of attempts and failures(Liedtka, 2014). The fear of failing a project is a large contributor to stagnation in personal development or organizational growth. Ideally, a firm should be ready to try different ideas formulated through a rigorous process of design thinking via prototyping which has the advantage of fewer expenses, risks, and short development times.
The unit on design thinking helped me to grow three exciting personal traits. First, I recognized myself as a designer. As a designer, I aspire to be intentional about initiating design thinking projects in my career life and personal development. It is an opportunity for me to have confidence in my ability to be creative, strategize on the prioritization of problems, and understand the needs of various stakeholders in order to have an inspiration to develop solutions that are ideal for them in improving their lives while boosting the growth of the organization (McCullagh, 2013). A designer has the traits of optimism and a mentality of abundance which enable him/her to view challenges as opportunities for intervention. Instead of questioning the wrongs, I prefer having a positive mindset that explores how a problem can be handled differently.
Second, I realized that optimal growth can only come if I resist entering my comfort zone. Design thinking is not only a process but also a mindset that involves thinking differently and breaking the monotony of routine by exploring the outside world and collaborating with others. Brainstorming is a good way of generating as many ideas as possible while also sharpening individual perspectives(Rodgers, 2013). I should not undermine my creativity and innovativeness capabilities, rather, I should embrace my originality and seek to enhance my skills through learning and experience. A self-evaluation is a convenient technique for assessing my personal traits, building self-esteem, and identifying possible areas for improvement. I can approach learning best by first examining myself and then identifying the various aspects that deserve change. Self-esteem comes from knowing oneself and it helps an individual’s capacity for interpersonal skills which are the cornerstone of fruitful teamwork, empathy, and brainstorming.
Third, design thinking helped me to develop a humble or beginner’s mindset when approaching problems. The discovery stage features empathy as a decisive factor in understanding the needs of customers which requires the ability to observe their needs from their point of view(Wang, 2013). For example, in the sixth week, we did an activity that involved drawing a line over 9 dots without lifting the pen, developing a capability in me to embrace a beginner’s mind to digest a complex problem. Also, when meeting a challenge, I realized that the best approach would involve viewing the problem as completely new even in a situation where it is familiar so that I allow myself to learn. This corresponds to the prototyping and testing stages of the design thinking lifecycle. For example, in the activity for the eighth week, we developed prototypes of normal products such as watches and umbrellas. During design thinking, experimentation and iteration are core factors for success.