Written by Heather Edelblute, Assistant Director of Client Relations & Strategic Partnerships.
When I first discovered this Herron certificate program, Design Thinking for Collaborative Innovation, I assumed design thinking had something to do with, well, designers.
I had heard the term and knew it was “a thing,” but knew no details. I was intrigued by the program description and decided to apply.
I was accepted to the program (which is awesome, because as it turns out, I am obsessed with design thinking). And now, when someone asks me to define the term, I’m able to provide a very simple answer: design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation.
Design thinking can be used to create a product or service, solve a complex problem, or design a user’s experience with your brand. For instance, design thinking can help you determine the best way to interact with a prospective student from the time they receive their acceptance letter to the time they decide to make their first deposit. Once you understand who you are solving the problem for and have framed the problem based on your initial user research, you get to some really fun stuff, like ideating.
“But I’m not creative.”
Design thinking is about creativity, but you don’t need an art degree to carry it out. One big secret I discovered early on is that designers’ brains are no different than anyone else’s. We all have the capacity to be creative and to creatively problem solve.
But maybe depending on your official job title, you don’t always feel that way. I didn’t. Now I’m gaining creative confidence, shifting my mindset, and building a toolkit of techniques that I can use at work and at home.
(Side note: if you’re interested in how our education system might be influencing our creative confidence and capabilities, check out one of the most popular (ever) TED talks, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” with Sir Ken Robinson.
Getting to know your audience
At its core, human-centered design starts with a problem. What does your audience want or need?
Next, you must empathize with your audience. How do you empathize? Choose to engage in any immersive activity that gives you better insight into what they need (and helps you to frame the right problem that needs solving). Think of this as an opportunity to walk in your audience’s shoes. You can try interviewing, job shadowing, or any other nonjudgmental form of observational research.
Based on what your research tells you, you can then build personas based on your audience, and create a journey map that identifies pain points and opportunities for problem-solving.
- Breakthrough ideas aren’t typically born in one person’s head.
- Collaborate together. Consider all ideas worthy – there are no wrong ones. Come up with as many ideas as you can. Together.
- Once you’ve narrowed this list down to a handful of possible solutions, evaluate. Is this solution feasible? Is it viable? Answers these questions and you can begin to prototype.
- A prototype can be a sketch, something made out of cardboard, pipe cleaners or Legos! When you’re ready, start testing it with the person or people you’re problem-solving for.
- I heard this about prototyping at a recent conference I attended: “Prototypes are not models of the right answer. They are ways of asking questions about the world.”
I’ll leave you with this: don’t expect to get it right the first time. Or maybe even the fourth time.
Get feedback, and try again. And then try again. When you reach the point where you are ready to introduce your solution to the world, it should exist in that sweet spot that lies in the center of desirability, feasibility, and viability.
According to IDEO, that’s innovation.