Design thinking process: 6 phases to ideas and solutions

The design thinking method is intended to help teams solve problems creatively and creatively. In five or six steps, the innovation method leads teams to the optimal solution – with the customer’s needs at the center.

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The beginner’s mindset

Every design thinking process starts with the so-called beginner’s mind, a mindset that originally comes from Buddhism. The idea behind it: To approach something with an open mind, regardless of how much experience you may already have.

In design thinking, the “beginner’s mind” is intended to ensure that all team members are open to all possibilities, do not exclude anything and thus really find the best possible solution.

Does the design thinking method have 5 or 6 phases?

Depending on the interpretation, the design thinking process has 5 or 6 steps. The process model of the D-School at the Hasso Plattner Institute is one of the classic models of design thinking – and comprises six phases.

The HPI D-School at Stanford University, on the other hand, only has five phases. However, the structure remains basically the same, as only the first two phases are combined here.

Problem and solution space

The design thinking process is divided into a problem space and a solution space. The first three steps belong to the problem space, the last three to the solution space.

Problem space:

  1. understanding

  2. observe

  3. synthesis

Solution space:

  1. finding ideas

  2. prototyping

  3. testing

You should pay sufficient attention to both areas. This is because design thinking focuses on the customer and their interests – the team should focus particularly and extensively on this.

Phase 1: Understanding – defining the problem

In the first phase of the design thinking process, you need to define the initial situation.

  • The problem is clear to everyone involved

  • The given framework conditions are transparent

This phase is all about precisely defining the current situation – not about finding a solution.

This can be helpful:

  • Expert discussions

  • User analyses

  • Findings from practice and research

It is important to clearly separate the interests of your company from the interests of your customers. At the end of this phase, the team should know exactly what the problem is for the end user.

Phase 2: Observe – recognize customer needs

In the second phase, the focus is on your customer: What are their needs? What are their priorities? You are now primarily an observer and listener. Compare the suspected problems from phase one with the actual problems of your customers. Which hypotheses have been confirmed – which have not?

Particularly interesting: Which improvised solutions are your customers already using to solve the problem? On the one hand, this provides valuable information for the actual solution – but it also shows how urgent the problem is at the moment.

Phase 3: Synthesis – consolidating findings

Now you summarize the first two phases of the process and define the solution space. The aim of this phase is to define the ideal customer, a so-called persona.

You decide for which user groups your solution should be developed – and in which direction it should now proceed. By empathizing with the target group, the team also develops an intrinsic motivation to help the customer.

Phase 4: Finding ideas – outlining a solution to the problem

Now it’s time to collect various ideas. Numerous creative methods can help with this: Brainstorming, role-playing or bodystorming ensure that new ideas are constantly emerging.

A tried and tested combination: alternating between individual work and teamwork. This allows both introverted and extroverted participants to put forward their suggestions. The collected ideas are then grouped and sorted:

  • Quick Wins: Ideas that can be implemented quickly

  • Moon Shots: Visionary ideas that are difficult to implement

  • Most Promising: The most promising ideas

Important: Compare each idea with the human-centered viewpoint of your team that was defined at the beginning.

Phase 5: Prototyping – making ideas tangible

Probably one of the most exciting phases in design thinking: your team develops an initial prototype. This is usually done using readily available, inexpensive materials. This allows you to easily develop different prototypes, each covering a different approach.

You also develop various media in which you can present your innovation to the future target group. Videos, paper or toy models are suitable, for example. This will give your customers a concrete idea of the innovative solution to the problem.

Phase 6: Testing – defining strengths and weaknesses

In the final phase, the respective prototypes are tested in iterative cycles by potential users, experts, representatives and project partners. Document the entire iteration process and regularly compare the results with the previously defined position.

After each text, the team decides whether it wants to go back into the process – and how it can further improve the design. With each iterative loop, the team has gained important insights – and the end product becomes better, more precise and more individual.

triangility: Your path to the design thinking process

Design thinking and almost every other agile innovation method have become an integral part of the modern working world. They provide teams with the tools they need to visualize problems and their solutions and thus implement them optimally.

We at triangility can help you with this. With us as your design thinking coach, we develop every step of the design thinking process together. So that the Design Thinking innovation method can also take your company forward.

Book your free initial consultation now!

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