Mod 1 – Introduction to Design Thinking Prof. Bjorn Akselsen
Design Thinking is a process based on a specific set of principles used to develop and improve products, systems and services. The core values that design thinking is based upon include empathy, optimism, collaboration, inclusiveness and transparency. Design thinking is a proven approach to innovation and has been at the center of some of the most transformative and successful business ventures of our time.
Tim Brown, CEO and president of IDEO explains how design thinking is not just about making products more intuitive and aesthetically pleasing. Brown argues that Thomas Edison was actually a design thinker ahead of his time. He was able to see past a single invention, understanding it was just a single step towards a future that would transform life itself.
“Edison created the electric lightbulb and then wrapped an entire industry around it. The lightbulb is most often thought of as his signature invention, but Edison understood that the bulb was little more than a parlor trick without a system of electric power generation and transmission to make it truly useful. So he created that, too. He saw the need, envisioned the marketplace and engineered toward that goal. He understood that the emotional connection to the “parlor trick”, the wow factor of light on demand was just as important as the schematics for power generation.”
Capturing the public’s imagination and curiosity is what makes dreams happen. But first you must understand people.” We find the same visionary thinking and behavior in the lives of other great innovators: Davinci, Tesla, Ford, Jobs.
This week we have been introduced to Design Thinking in several different ways. It appears that Design Thinking does not have strictly defined steps and methodology, it can be tailored for your specific needs and requirements, however, all Design Thinking approaches have the following stages in common:
- Define The Problem. Sometimes the problem is not clear or well defined at the outset of achieving a business goal. In addition, problems may not be problems at all, but the discovery of a new market, identifying a need, an improvement on an existing process or other innovation. The discovery as a result of “thinking through” current conditions and gaining insight from the collection of data, observation, integration and questioning or investigation.
- User Centered Approach. Once the problem is well defined, the end user experience is considered at every stage of the project. From the initial concept, research, ideation, prototyping and development, end user feedback is sought, valued and used to evaluate the effectiveness of the solution.
- Ideation. Consider many different solutions to the problem. This is the most freely creative stage of the approach. Be open and non-judgemental. Explore alternatives without any limitation: radical ideas, impossibilities and wild imaginative dreams are welcome. Quick, low tech generation of thoughts, visuals and topic related copy are the goal.
- Select, Experiment and Prototype. Repeat. Choose a few of the promising ideas and develop them further. Build prototypes and share them with end users for feedback. Evaluate and turn your findings into actionable intelligence that can be used to either improve the prototypes or return to ideation. Iteration is critical to development.
- Test, implement and improve. Design thinking is an organic process. As a philosophy, it means that anything can be maintained in a continuous state of improvement. Once the prototypes have matured to the point of launch, testing becomes critical in ensuring the original goals have been successfully met. Planned monitoring and post launch support and learning are essential to continued growth.
See this overview on Design Thinking and how IBM Think Academy combines the approach with the Agile development process to improve a website.
Redesigning the Gift Giving Experience
Design Thinking is particularly useful for addressing poorly framed or unknown problems. In the SAP User Experience community, these are referred to as “wicked” problems. For ill-defined problems, both the problem and the solution are unknown at the outset of the problem-solving process. The opposite are “tame” or “well-defined” problems, where the problem is evident and the solution is possible with some technical knowledge. Even when the general direction of the problem may be clear, considerable time and effort is spent on clarifying the requirements. In the Design Thinking process, a large part of the problem-solving activity could be comprised of discovery, defining and shaping the problem then reporting and explaining the actual problem to stakeholders.
This was true of this week’s assignment. we were assigned a partner and participate in the 90-minute “Crash Course in Design Thinking” created by Stanford University’s Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, or d.school. The Interaction Design Foundation defines design thinking as “an iterative process in which we seek to understand the user, challenge assumptions we might have, and redefine problems in an attempt to identify alternative strategies and solutions that might not be instantly apparent with our initial level of understanding.” The course consist of a series of interviews, ideation process and a rudimentary prototype that you and your partner create. My partner for this exercise was fellow graduate student Matthew Taylor. We were asked to use the design thinking approach to redesign the gift giving experience.
Aside from a severe time limit to address a vague topic, conducted remotely, I thought there could be some value derived from the exercise. I would get a chance to learn more about a classmate and it could be fun getting insight into someone else’s life and gifting habits. Both Matt and I were relatively satisfied with our gift giving experiences and unaware of any fundamental problems we may have had giving and receiving gifts. So we framed the “problem” or our goal as finding ways in which we could “improve” the gift giving process.
So, how did this contribute to my understanding of Design Thinking? I learned that you have to be humble enough to pick up crayons again. My initial thoughts were that this seemed like a waste of time, there was an inner voice that screamed: give me a real world problem! Let me build something! Psst, sketch something, make a prototype with construction paper? This is silly! How is this going to help? Is this worth 40+K in debt?
I realized that if I scoffed at working through this simple exercise, I was no better than every ego driven manager I have ever come across that was too important to spend time in brainstorming sessions, collaboration or testing. Edison believed that genius sprung from putting in the work:
None of my inventions came by accident. I see a worthwhile need to be met and I make trial after trial until it comes. What it boils down to is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.
– Thomas Edison, statement in a press conference (1929)
I also learned that I should really sketch more, it is very therapeutic. If you can’t explain it with a few visuals it is probably too complicated to grasp. Great ideas are universal, visuals are global and self evident. I feel I would have gotten more out of it if we did it in person, “creating something for someone else to interact with” is a little challenging via Zoom, but we made it work and Matthew was a pleasure to work with. I really enjoyed the “radical” ideas part of the exercise that included teleportation, mid reading and flash mobbing but in the end it evolved into a notification system intended to make gifting more personal and memorable. I leave this with a new “child like” appreciation of ideation, ready for the rest of the class. In the tradition of one of my favorite video directors Michel Gondry, you would be surprised at what can be done with pipe cleaners and glue.
After speaking with Matthew for some time, I realized that it was very important to him to give the gift in person. To create a special moment and share the memory with the recipient and that was not always possible as he is studying abroad. I started to work on ideas 2 and 3 and at the core of each idea was somehow connecting with the person so that it was not so much a material exchange but a shared experience. In the “The Origins and History of Gift Giving” by Curious History the giver of a gift expresses their feelings and emotions by sending a gift with the hope of being able to share these with the receiver of the gift. The receiver of the gift in turn receives the feelings and emotions and with this: a connection is made. Making connections with people around us gives us a sense of purpose and feelings of satisfaction.
Although teleportation is not technically possible at this time (to my knowledge), we do have the ability to fold space and time through mobile video, text and talk. I thought about a future when you could create a 3D projection or hologram of someone and interact in real time. We currently have the ability to track packages when they are delivered. I thought it would be nice to extend that to when the package actually gets opened.
Final “Big Idea” was refined from input and observation. A new kind of notification system.There would be some kind of seal or device on the gift packaging that when opened, can send a notification or deliver a video message if the sender is not available. This can create opportunities for personalization.
In 90 minutes, two people helped each other come up with a conceptual solution to innovate a human practice thousands of years in the making. It proves you can never stop trying to “re-invent the wheel”, thank you for fresh starts.
Yes, I fully admit that this may be half cocked stupid idea dreamt up on the week leading up to Labor Day weekend, simply to meet a school assignment. But, simply banking on potential, taking the technology a little further can offer the following business benefits and objectives:
- It could open a new doorway for analytical research into gift giving, including real time analytics.
- Provides further functionality to existing app engagement programs.
- It presents opportunities for social media sharing and promotion of products at the time of the gift exchange.
- Creates an additional branding event or “touch point” at the time of the gift exchange.
- Can generate a whole new business service/ subscription tier for luxury gifts and retailers.
- Presents a opportunity for real “Hallmark” interactive moments for specialized stationary and gift cards.
You can see the full assignment and prototype development at the link below in .PDF format.
Resources & References
Introduction to Design Thinking – SAP User Experience Community. (2012, September 12). Retrieved from https://experience.sap.com/skillup/introduction-to-design-thinking
IDEO Design Thinking. (2019, August 26). Retrieved from https://designthinking.ideo.com
Design Thinking. (2008, June 01). Retrieved from https://hbr.org/2008/06/design-thinking, Harvard Business Review – Tim Brown
Staff, F. C. (2015). Design Thinking… What is That? Fast Company. Retrieved from https://www.fastcompany.com/919258/design-thinking-what
Book Review: Design Thinking – SAP User Experience Community. (2009, April 14). Retrieved from https://experience.sap.com/archived/review_design_thinking
Dashinsky, A. (2018). Product Design Exercises We Use At WeWork Interviews. Medium. Retrieved from https://blog.prototypr.io/product-design-exercises-we-use-at-wework-interviews-2ee1f5a57319
Gift Giving Tips and Behavior
Gift Giving Etiquette: 15 Simple Rules to Make Your Gift Stand Out. (2018, March 01). Retrieved from https://allgiftsconsidered.com/gift-giving-etiquette-15-simple-rules-make-gift-stand
6 Tips for Mindful Gift Giving. (2016, November 18). Retrieved from https://chopra.com/articles/6-tips-for-mindful-gift-giving
Unique Businesses That Make Gift Giving Easier. (2019, August 28). Retrieved from https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/8490-unique-gift-businesses.html
Bakkila, B. (2019). 9 Gift-Giving Apps That Make It So Easy to Find the Perfect Present. Good Housekeeping. Retrieved from https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/holidays/gift-ideas/g27194384/best-gift-giving-apps
The Origins and History of Gift Giving | | Curious History. (2019, February 05). Retrieved from https://www.curioushistory.com/the-origins-and-history-of-gift-giving
Retail Exchange References
How to Greet Customers in Retail: 20+ Examples to Try in Your Store – Vend Retail Blog. (2018, March 01). Retrieved from https://www.vendhq.com/blog/how-to-greet-customers-in-retail
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