Take this Challenge for Design Thinking

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This article is based on a talk given by Karthi Subbaraman at Hyderabad Design Evenings.

If not for Thomas Edison would we be able to see anything in the dark. Edison was never working to invent a bulb, he was working on “Power generation and transmission.” He made a tradeoff between efficiency and longevity to achieve commercialisation of bulb. He did that by changing the way he worked; he moved from being a lone inventor to working in teams, which had business oriented people too in it.

You will find a multitude of designers and then you will find a few design thinkers. These are the ones who not only create great arts, crafts and designs but can combine them with a deep understanding of needs at the moment.

Designer’s Output

You give him a preconceived idea which needs to be churned down to a beautiful product or give him a broad problem which needs a solution.

In the first case your idea is what’s in the designers mind and he would think of the process and making it easier and elegant. In the second case the broader the problem the more difficult it would be for him to solve. He would work on different hypothesis and over a period of time go talk to a lot of people who are facing that particular problem. The output of which would be a completely innovative solution of which you might have never thought of.

An Hour long design challenge

Karthi then gave a design challenge for the next hour which involved a ten step process to solve a very simple problem of recruiting people.

The deal was to solve the problem upon which we would

  1. Empathize
  2. Define
  3. Ideate
  4. Prototype and
  5. Test

First two steps involved asking a target user different kinds of questions and make him speak to you. The key here is asking the right questions, asking something that would make him tell you all kinds of stories that would give you a lot of insight. Over the period of these two steps you will develop empathy over the problem the user is facing.

In the third step you are to sit back and categorise your findings as needs and insights. Then your fourth step is to define your problem statement and try to keep it as broad as possible.

Fifth steps involves you to create rough sketches that will bring about your idea onto a paper. Show that to the user in the sixth step and get feedback on what he thinks about it. This step is crucial because you will now know whether the problem you defined is the one your target group is facing or not.

You are bound to get a terrible feedback because the whole exercise is designed that way. You can never solve this in an hour. Now you’ll understand how important was it to validate the problem. Reflect on what all you’ve got from the target group and then iterate and finally make it work for the target group. Iterative thinking and getting back to the target user provides

Slides & Resources

Karthi willingly shared her slides with us so go ahead have a look at them and if possible sit in pairs and do the exercise. Take 3 mins per step and stick to time.

You can as well read up on authors like John Maeda Nigel Cross, Peter Rowe, Tim Brown, Thomas Lockwood and a good place to start is http://designthinking.ideo.com/

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