Using Design Thinking to Build Great Ideas
If there’s one thing that’s harder than coming up with a great idea, it’s translating that concept into something real—something that people want. So many ideas evaporate before they have a chance to amount to anything at all. It takes a real strategy and an executable plan to make a product. The plan is what would-be inventors lack most, and it’s because many refuse to start thinking like designers.
What is design thinking
Design thinking, very simply, is a way to solve problems. It’s a step-by-step process of defining the problem you are dealing with, considering potential solutions, picking the best one, and executing. Then you do that again and again until you have solved every problem you’re dealing with and created something real. It’s a simple, but highly effective strategy to create anything.
Such a strict structure may seem to run counter to the fundamentals of creativity. But just as you need to know the rules before you can break them, you need a structure before you can break out of that box to fit the specific needs of your project. Otherwise, you have no starting point and you’re floating freely until inevitably the idea you had is abandoned.
A side effect of this process of defining problems and deciding on solutions is that you may discover new opportunities in the effort. It’s a natural consequence of prototyping and iteration that new ideas and new innovations come forth. At the very end of the design cycle, you may have come up with a very different result than you ever dreamed of at the start.
Why use it
So where’s the evidence that this design-oriented style is worth pursuing? At the very top of the pile, we can see that design-run businesses have taken over the world. Companies like Apple, Coca-Cola, Nike, and IBM have outperformed the S&P 500 by 219% according to a 2014 assessment. These companies succeed because they think like designers and act like problem solvers, and they infuse that method into everything they do.
The world we live in is changing constantly, and we always run the risk of falling behind its tectonic shifts. Design thinking allows us to always stay laser focused on change and iteration. We are always engaged in the process of searching out problems, and more importantly, the solutions to those problems.
If nothing else, committing yourself to the strategy of design thinking and problem solving also commits you to the idea. If you have a structure in place to test and prototype your concept then you’re much more likely to stay with it for as long as it takes. If you really want to create something of lasting value, a conviction to trial and error is essential. Giving up early is the death knell of every great idea and design thinking is the way to fight back.
How to get started
The best part of design thinking is that it applies broadly to any field. There’s no place where this sort of targeted problem solving can’t be useful. It’s not only suitable for designing products or apps, but can also help you change the shape of your company itself or any other aspect of your business.
All you need to do is take this process of defining solutions and see how it applies to the specific problems you are dealing with. The best way to do that is to start thinking like the people you are building your idea for. A genuine sense of empathy is the only quality you need to begin creating something that really solves a problem for people.
After that, you throw yourself into the process—look for problems, identify potential solutions, and pick the best one from the pile. Prototype constantly and be prepared to abandon any line of thinking that isn’t helping you. Before you know it, you’ll have fulfilled the promise of that first idea and designed something truly worthwhile.