There are five stages in the Design Thinking process. While reading about these stages you may feel a bit bored as it looks like “just another process or methodology”. I usually get bored to death with the instruction manual-like steps in old-school processes and methodologies. But what makes design thinking very interesting is that you can have real fun the moment you begin to implement these steps. When you understand its application in different areas, you will see why it is so special.
Step 1: Empathize
This is the most important step. You have to set aside your conceptions of the world in order to gain deep insight into the needs of your users. Empathy is about first seeing the world from the eyes of the person whose problem you want to solve. For this, you have to observe their lives, ask them the right questions and listen to their concerns. Make sure to carefully document your discoveries so that you can return to them if you’re stuck at a later stage.
Step 2: Define
Based on the information you gathered in the Empathize stage, you now have to define the problem for which you think you have the solution. You can’t force your users to accept a solution that solves problems they don’t have. In fact, you may realize at this stage that your entire product or service offering needs to change to fit consumers’ needs.
Step 3: Ideate
At this stage, you should come up with multiple ideas to solve the problem you have identified. You may use any technique that you think will allow you to be more creative, such as brainstorming with your team, making mind-maps, or even reading or watching science fiction! It is vital to generate as many ideas as possible without judging any idea. The purpose of this stage is to stimulate your thinking.
Step 4: Prototype
In this phase you should implement each your solutions as simple, but working prototypes. The aim is to identify the most appropriate and user-friendly solution to the problems you’ve already identified by empathizing with your customer. Ask members of your team, or better yet, a small sampling of potential customers to test your prototypes. Accept, improve or reject prototypes quickly based on the feedback you receive so that you can arrive at the best possible solution.
Step 5: Test
After you have a fully working product on hand, you must test every aspect of its functioning rigorously. You need to form a group of reliable and competent testers at this stage. After getting the results of testing, you may find that you have to redefine the problem and alter your product based on customer experience. Even though this is the last step, the design thinking process is iterative and you may have to go through the process multiple times to arrive at a great solution.