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How I Rewired My Brain to Think Like a Designer and Unlock My Creativity
Design is not a subject confined to the creative industry. In fact, it is something that we all might want to learn.
According to a 2014 assessment conducted by the Design Management Institute, design-led companies have maintained significant stock market advantage over the last 10 years, outperforming the S&P by an extraordinary 228%. 1 These companies include Apple, Coca Cola, Nike, Procter & Gamble, Starbucks, Walt Disney, etc.
Amazed by the remarkable success of these companies, many entrepreneurs want to learn how to think like a designer and apply the design principles to their work so that they can have a big success.
But design thinking is not only useful for entrepreneurs. It is also useful for ordinary people like you and me. Design thinking contributes to both business success and individual success, as it helps unlock your creativity and break away from the chain of traditions.
What Is Design Thinking? It’s About Creative Problem Solving
Design thinking is a concept defined and popularized by Rolf Faste in the 1980s. It is a problem-solving practice which attempts to actualize your concepts and ideas and to create a practical yet creative resolution of issues. Unlike the conventional problem-focused one, a design mindset is solution-focused and action-oriented. It explores different possibilities to bring out the most desirable outcomes.
As a human-centered innovation, design thinking shows understanding to the people affected or served by your ideas. The aim is to cater users’ unmet or unarticulated needs by a deep knowledge of customers and their problems. This increases the chance of success when implementing your ideas.
5 Things You Should Know to Think Like a Designer
A design thinking process can be divided into five stages: empathize, define, ideate, prototype and test.
The first stage of a design thinking process is to understand the problem in an empathic perspective. Design thinking is a human-centered design process so empathy plays an important role in it. Instead of making assumptions, immersing yourself in the environment to have a deeper personal understanding of the problems involved is rather crucial. In other words, design thinkers should always put themselves into others’ shoes.
The information you gathered during the Empathize stage should be used in the Define stage to define the core problem as a problem statement in a human-centered manner.
To put it simply, you should define the problem from the perspective of your customers or whoever you serve, instead of from the perspective of a provider.
For example, instead of saying ‘we need to increase our page view by 10%’, it is better to define the problem statement as ‘readers need some high-quality content’. This is how design thinking values the unmet needs of customers.
When everything is ready, designers can start generating ideas to solve the problem. The most important part of it is to think outside the box. You should try to identify new solutions and view the problem in alternative ways.
Possible ideation techniques include brainstorm and worst possible idea. They are ideal to stimulate free thinking and to expand the problem space. You should try to get as many ideas or solutions as possible at the beginning and then consider their feasibilities to come up with the best way to solve the problem.
The Prototype stage is an experimental phase. The idea is to produce a number of scaled down versions of the product to be shared and tested within the team or outside the team.
Through such kind of experiment, the team will be able to identify the best possible solutions. The solutions are investigated one-by-one and they are either accepted, improved and re-examined, or rejected according to the feedback from the users.
At the end of the stage, the designers will have a clearer picture of how real users behave and think when they interact with the product.
The final stage of design thinking is to rigorously test the complete product using the best solutions identified during the previous stage.
Design thinking is never a linear process. In practice, tests often inspire new ideas for the project. The information collected from the testing phase is often used to redefine problems and inform the understanding of the users. So the final stage does not really mean the finale.
Design Thinking Makes You a Better Achiever
The above description is perhaps illustrated from a business perspective. But how can ordinary people like you and me include design thinking in our daily life?
Case 1: Design thinking helps you perform better at work
Let’s say you want to boost your productivity at work.
First, you should ask yourself why this bothers you. Perhaps your low productivity makes you feel exhausted at work.
When you try to define your problem, explore if there’re other possibilities for causing the your problem. It not, define your core problem. Maybe you find yourself hard to stay focused.
Then, it’s time to explore solutions. Brainstorm and research for all the possible solutions. Maybe you should take some breaks during work, or maybe you should turn off any devices that would cause distraction. Try them out one by one and choose the best to be tested. At last, you will find the best way to solve the problem.
Case 2: Design thinking helps you achieve a personal goal
What if it’s a personal goal? Yes, design thinking works for a personal goal too. And it has helped me to overcome workout laziness.
I am one of those who are lazy to go to gym. At the first stage, I ask myself, ‘What would going to gym really do for you?’ As a sport enthusiast, I want to perform better by strengthening my muscles.
The answer is not surprising. But what is the problem? I finally find that the excuse I give to myself every time is quite similar: it’s too rush to do it before work, or it’s too tiring to do it after work. So I come up with the problem statement, ‘I need to find a suitable time-slot for gym’.
Then I try to think of different available options: before work, during lunch break, after work, in the weekend, and so on. In the following stage, I try all the possible solutions one by one. At last, I choose to the best options and see if it works. It turns out that this really works for me!
So obviously design thinking is not only an approach for us to create success in business but it also helps us to solve problems in our daily life! Remember the five stages of design thinking and follow it next time!
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