Design Thinking; How it will help you innovate?

Design Thinking: How it will help you innovate

As businesses focus on innovating both internally and externally, we spoke to Lukasz Liebersbach, Innovation Advisor at Oxford Innovation on how design thinking can prove the ideal solution.

What is design thinking?

Design Thinking is a framework for innovation. It is not about designing per se but is a methodology that draws from designers’ skillsets, their specific tools and way of approaching problems. The designers’ toolbox and knowledge are then made accessible to non-designers through design thinking.

Why designers?

Designers have a certain way of exploring problems, throughout their careers they learn to brainstorm ideas, discover the human aspect behind products and services and analyse the associated technical requirements needed to create the end proposition.

It is a unique profession that combines both the human and technical aspects of product development and this kind of approach fosters innovation.

Helping non-designers

Design thinking is a methodology that enables non-designers to understand and apply these principles in their work.

A lot of what we do in business or engineering is designing, although we don’t call it design. This is particularly true as a lot of us are entrepreneurs, engineers, developers and thus, are working on products and services that are eventually put in the hands of the users.

Therefore, it would help if we used design principles to build these solutions. Design thinking helps us approach problems from a designer’s point of view. This human-centred aspect makes design thinking so crucial for business innovation.

Five stages of Design Thinking

It is important to note that Design Thinking is an iterative process. Although the process typically divides into five clear stages, it does not have to follow this strict path. Instead, it can go in circles and once it has hit a dead end, it can return to the previous stage.

  1. Empathy

This is the first crucial aspect of design thinking. It covers a whole broad range of topics relating to how to best research users, gather insights, synthesise this knowledge and then relay this back to the workshop to make use of findings and apply them to innovation.

This aspect is usually overlooked by companies, especially those in technical or engineering industries. As a result, these organisations often design solutions based on incorrect assumptions or design for themselves instead of the end user.

Empathy helps to build understanding of the motivations and pain points of prospective users; what are their fears, emotions and lifestyles. Once explored and synthesised, these findings can then be incorporated into the solution.

  1. Defining the problem

People don’t buy technology in itself, but rather they buy what the technology does for them. As a result, we need to understand what the users are trying to achieve.

This helps to clearly define the design challenge which usually follows a structure: Our user (description) needs a way to (needs and goals) because (insights).

Defining the problem in this manner assures that we never take our eyes off our users and lends itself to a broad range of solutions, which will be explored in the next stage.

  1. Ideation

The third stage of design thinking centres around creativity and applying various techniques to generate original ideas that solve the problems identified in the previous stage.

The challenge is to resist running with the first good concept that comes to mind but rather examining different possibilities through a set of collaborative brainstorming exercises.

  1. Prototyping

This stage is not about building working prototypes. The aim is to build a rapid version (mock-up, model, storyboard) of what we are designing in order to validate it with users. The goal of prototyping is to evoke reactions and feedback from potential customers and make changes on the go.

  1. Testing

Once we have incorporated the changes and formulated the final value proposition, it can then be trialled with users in a real context. This provides another opportunity to see what worked and what needs improving. Design thinking is all about trial and error and creating controlled experiments to refine the ideal offering before committing valuable resources.

Design Thinking workshops

Contributor; Lukasz Liebersbach | Oxford Innovation

Lukasz Liebersbach is an Innovation Advisor at Oxford Innovation. He helps companies understand the benefits of design and implement the design thinking approach. He runs workshops, conducts user research studies and facilitates creative brainstorming sessions that guide teams to develop “out of the box” solutions. His work is heavily influenced by experience gained at the Institute of Design at Stanford University, California (commonly known as The