• Design thinking frameworks typically follow a flow: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test.
  • Frameworks are structured in feedback loops that make iterating, testing, and integrating user needs an easy, ongoing process.
  • Understanding what users do, say, think, and feel is crucial to develop a product they actually will use.

In a design thinking world, there are two big concepts:
Understand and create.
Holistically, these two concepts work together to develop a human-centered solution, to a human-centered problem. Sounds easy, right?
We’ve all seen certain products fail due to lack of empathy and understanding for buyers. This is where design thinking comes in.
There are many different ways to model your process. But truth is, empathy is the core driver of them all. In this post, we’ll walk you through 5 different design thinking steps that everyone from product managers to executives can work through to build a more empathetic solution for their users.

1) Empathy-driven foundations always win

Empathize. During this crucial stage, allocate time and resources to understand your users and how they experience your brand. You can’t build solutions on assumptions.
One way to understand them is simply to listen. Engage with user feedback and open the floor for them to communicate their concerns and suggestions.
To get feedback, you can:

  • Organize interviews
  • Poll users with Typeform
  • Set up a MobileMonkey chatbot on your site
  • Hear what they say on social with listening tools

2) Define one high-level problem

Define. Using the research gathered in empathy stage, define one major problem users are experiencing.
Users will likely present their feedback in a non-cohesive form, so you’ll want to ensure all opinions are thoroughly analyzed and understood. Once you do this, identify problematic patterns and insights that pop up for different customers. What’s the common thread?
When you find it, create a point of view (POV) statement that represents your audience and their problem. The solutions you test will be centered around this one statement.

3) Open the floor for collaboration and participation

Ideate. Here’s where your team’s creativity will really shine. There are no good or bad ideas in this design thinking step, it’s simply a place to lay out every solution possible.
Three popular ideation techniques are:

  • Re-expression (rethinking concepts in different perspectives, words, and senses)
  • Revolution (challenging the traditional rules by asking “what if’s”)
  • Random links (picking random items and forcing a connection to a concept)

Ideation breaks ingrained patterns of thinking (schemas) and gives your team the freedom to think outside the box. Other techniques used by designers and moderators include simple brainstorming, brainwriting, and SCAMPER.
Remember, there are no bad ideas here. Let your imagination run free and inspire your team to do the same.

4) Unlock your arsenal of prototyping tools

After narrowing down your ideas to a select few, you want to bring them to life on a smaller scale. Prototyping gives everyone a look at what each solution will look like on the market and determine if it works or not.
These sample solutions are simple enough to save time, yet advanced enough to provide powerful insight on what the final product will look like.
There are a handful of excellent prototyping tools on the market, both free and paid. Many including features that make it easier to comment, edit, and revamp solutions, quickly and efficiently.

5) Test solutions with your cohort

Everyone’s got loyalists somewhere in their user database. If not, get a paid cohort under your belt to test your prototypes. You want to get all the feedback you can because odds are, you’ll end up back at one of the stages for changes.
You may end up finding that you didn’t define the problem well, and end up back at Define. Or that your audience wasn’t there and start over from Empathy. Or, you’ll swing back to prototyping and develop more advanced solutions than before. Regardless, testing is the only way to release surefire product to the market. So be diligent in your efforts.
Don’t feel like you’re going backward when it happens; it’s just the process working like it should.

Final Thoughts:

Not all businesses go through these design thinking steps the same way. Your experience will largely depend on the nature of your business and your customers.
However, no matter what type of business you run, you should always make sure that your solutions are human-based and respond to actual customer needs. That’s what takes a design-thinking session from a waste of time to a game-changer.

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