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Design Thinking

Design Thinking has become a hugely popular corporate training topic in recent years. It is promoted as a powerful methodology for effective innovation. There are many different Design Thinking training programmes of different flavours available in the market. Most of them seem to be packed with fun and creative activities, and most participants (especially the millennials) seem to relish in them. But what exactly is it good for? And what realistic outcomes that we can expect from such training programmes?

There are 6 steps in the Design Thinking methodology.

  • Empathise is about understanding what goes on in the heart and mind of the customer (or internal stakeholder) that your team is serving.

  • There could be many problems suffered by your customer/stakeholder, and you need to focus on the ones that are 1) critical and 2) within the capability of your team to come up with a solution for. That is what Define is all about.

  • Indeate is the stage in which your team tries to come up with an innovative solution. The quality of ideas come up at this stage will depend on a variety of factors: knowledge and experience of your team, resources available to them, parameters in which they are allowed to operate and the stimuli provided by the leader.

  • Prototype, Test and Assess are about refining the solution so that it can be implemented in the real world. Prototypes are also a power means to help team members build up their sense of ownership in the creation process. The consensus arrived at in the process will also increase the efficiency and effectiveness when the team has to actually deliver the solution. Prototypes are also a power means of communication to help articulate the value of the proposed solution to various stakeholders. This is a meaningful and effective way to get stakeholders’ buy-in.

On one hand, Design Thinking is all about having identified a key problem, coming up with an innovative solution to solve the problem. One the other, it is also a powerful framework to help us identify what unexploited opportunities there are with our customer/stakeholder. The eventual solution does not just solve a problem, but it offers added-value to our customer/stakeholder.

It sounds like a pretty solid and comprehensive methodology and has much to offer. But truth be told, if we are talking about a 1 or 2-day workshop on Design Thinking, realistically we will only be able to do the first 2 stages well: that is Empathise and Define. We will be able to really listen to what goes on in the hearts and minds of our customer. And there might be inspiration as to what our focus should be with our innovative efforts.

But if the expectation is to come up with something really innovative and practical within 2 days, it is likely that we will not be able to achieve that. We will be able to make a start of the innovation process and have a sense of direction of what transformation is required as a team.

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