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Design thinking is not a fad

July 2014
Soul & Mind Group Brand Design The problem in designing new products or new solutions is usually that engineers (R&D personnel) are credited with the innate ability to read the needs of final users. Or otherwise: since they are trained in this, they probably can manage designing. Usually overlooked in the whole process is the ultimate user. And after all, that is them who spend the money...

The essence of the philosophy of design thinking is the focus on users – their needs, expectations, and preferences. Therefore, a unique role falls to the ethnographic research. No, not questionnaires, not personal interviews, but just observing users during the use of the product, while they carry out their tasks. The main aim is to understand the users, their needs and the context of use of the product (“context” in the case of design is one of the keywords). Observation reduces the risk of misinterpretation of declarations revealed in interviews. Observation allows to immerse in the problem, which a consumer may have while using the product. Observation allows you to better understand what kind of solution is needed if the user should feel pleased or maybe even delighted. It also means that the “design thinking” thrives on deep knowledge of psychology, but also the functioning of social groups, or more broadly, society.

The advantage of the ‘design thinking’ approach is the fact that the same multi-disciplinary team of people is involved from the definition phase, by generating ideas, search for insights, until the implementation (prototype) and testing solutions. Maintaining a permanent team is a guarantee that consumer’s insight is present in the implementation phase. It’s a completely different approach from the typical one for most organizations, in which the functional departments’ interest ("silos") result in losing sight of a "big picture".

And finally, there is no design without open, fresh thinking, without challenging existing solutions, without asking questions “why this way and not the other way around”. Not taking anything for granted, not taking anything as evident is the essence of a good design. A truly ground-breaking solutions are usually the result  of asking seemingly stupid questions, questioning the typical “it must be that way/it  has always been that way/ why should we be changing this”.

Without a doubt, people with engineering education still have a place at the table in the design process. But only adopting the perspective of the user and the attitude of the “devil's advocate” guarantees the real success.


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