Design Thinking – An Innovative Human-Centered Problem-Solving Approach

“You’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.” – Obi-Wan Kenobi’s advice to Luke Skywalker in “Return of the Jedi”

This is true when we think about how design thinking is inclusive in helping us systematically extract, teach, learn and apply human-centered techniques to creatively solve problems in the way we live our daily lives, do business and design our products and services.

The “design” in Design Thinking refers to methodologies and approaches deployed by “designers” in innovation. But Design Thinking is not exclusive to designers, we just need to be curious enough to “walk in the shoes” of our customers to uncover their “hidden” needs. We then converge these customer data, apply analytical skills to generate customer insights, and evaluate viable solutions – this is the “thinking” of Design Thinking.

This process of developing an understanding of the customers and ideating the best problem-solving solution has, in fact, been employed and practiced by many renowned brands like Apple, Google, OCBC, and taught in many leading universities and training institutes worldwide.

In recent times, Capelle has begun partnering with organizations in their Design Thinking journey. Using the “ADEPT”© framework, we look at new approaches towards innovation in a human-centered perspective to reach the best-fitted solutions.

  1. Ask questions to empathize with our customers or stakeholders to uncover their thoughts, feelings, and needs. It is immersing ourselves in their environment to identify their gains and pains. With these insights, we create personas that are fictional but recognizable characters. Using personas to characterize customers helps bring customers to life, deepen understanding and develop empathy. For example, Mr. Tan is 70, homebound, and also has a phobia of needles. With this knowledge, we would attempt to articulate the design challenge, which is more aspirational, rather than a problem statement, such as “How might we encourage more people like Mr. Tan to be vaccinated?” These personas represent motivations, desires, expectations, needs, and other significant aspects of our target group to guide us, and inspire ideation.
  2. Define patterns to make sense of the data and information we have gathered in the ASK phase to refine the initial design challenge.
  3. Explore ways to address the design challenge. This is where we would brainstorm as a group to generate as many ideas as possible, and there are several brainstorming techniques to choose from. With this list of ideas, we would then select the ones which are both desirable to customers, and viable to the business to form a conceptual solution.
  4. Prototypes act as a bridge between an idea and its realization. They are usually low-cost artifacts that have the key features of the proposed solution. Building a prototype would allow customers or stakeholders to have a pre-experience to help them assess more accurately the value of the solution.
  5. Test is about getting feedback from customers or stakeholders on the prototype to improve the solution. It is not about convincing our target group; rather it is about our learnings. One way to present a solution is to build a story to express our insights, and underlying emotions to influence the audiences’ thoughts and feelings at the same time.

In a nutshell, Design Thinking is a systematic approach that enables us to empathize with our customers to identify their needs and wants. We then look for innovation opportunities to collaborate with others, prototype, and test solutions to determine their effectiveness. It is an innovative problem-solving approach that can help us develop superior solutions at a lower risk and cost on change, as well as to get better buy-in from our customers and stakeholders.



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