Design Thinking Process Steps – Great Design Thinking Examples To Learn From


Design Thinking – more than problem solving?

Design Thinking can be seen as a problem-solving framework. But really, if that’s only how we define it, we’re doing the concept a great misjustice.

Great design is certainly about delivering solutions to problems, but design thinking is especially about undertaking the process through the twin lenses of design and empathy. It’s been around a long time, not necessarily with that title, and not as the exclusive property of designers. Many great innovators in all fields including business, have practiced it.

Design Thinking is both a thing and an action.
A noun and a verb, after all.
It’s a concept, and a process to be undertaken.

The very essence of Design Thinking Process is its deep commitment to understanding the needs or wishes of the people for whom we’re designing the products or services.

Design Thinking is a process which has clearly defined steps aimed at understanding the user, as well as challenging assumptions, thinking outside the box, redefining the problems, and identifying alternative strategies or solutions that might not have been apparent in the beginning. It all hinges on truly understanding what the customer or user really wants.  In this process the designers attempt to walk in the shoes of the customer/client.

Design thinking is typically shown as a five-step process.

It looks linear in a list or a diagram, but in reality would be sort of cyclical in method, with forward and backward steps continuing in a type of “rinse and repeat” situation, until the end result is reached.

From: (Creative Commons)
Design Thinking Bootcamp Bootleg Stanford University 2018

The 5 steps are:

  • Empathize – with your users or customers
  • Define – your users’ needs, their problem, and your insights
  • Ideate – by challenging assumptions and creating ideas for innovative solutions. This is done collaboratively with design team members, and cross-disciplinary stakeholders as appropriate or useful.
  • Prototype – to start creating solutions
  • Test – solutions

Repeat any steps of the design thinking process as required.

Rising to the challenge in Australia

Design Thinking is known for being a human-centered, creative and experimentation-driven approach to developing new products, services and experiences.  It is being used by many of the world’s leading brands, such as Apple, Google, Samsung and GE.

In Australia a few years ago, the Chair of the Telstra Corporation (at the time), Catherine Livingstone, gave a keynote address at the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering, for the Clunies Ross Awards night. Her speech was a strong call to action with respect to innovation and design thinking in Australia.

The title of her talk was Design thinking drives innovation

Her opening sentence was challenging:

“Australia needs to get very practical and very real about the way it shapes its future, to be competitive – and the nation needs to look at design thinking as a core of its innovation drive”.

Catherine Livingstone was certainly throwing down the gauntlet!

And things have absolutely moved on a lot since then.  Her call to action was over a concern about the need for Australia to remain competitive and maintain a seat at the global table.

She was clear about the fact that, as we can’t derive our competitive advantage from scale or cost factors, it needs to be innovation that is the key. And you know, we already have that in spades! There is strong evidence that we as a nation have a great capacity for invention, innovation, and problem-solving.

Telstra, as a major Australian employer, continues to be a company actively implementing design thinking, and the processes of design thinking and user experience design inform all aspects of Telstra business, not just in their product development processes, but also throughout their entire business, adding value to their recruitment and onboarding program, and to all human services activities and even change management.

(Watch video – Dr Sam Bucolo, Professor Design Innovation at UTS  – explains how enterprise organisations are increasingly utilising Design Thinking processes).

Three specific examples from Australian businesses demonstrate the design thinking process steps, and the cycles of failure (not a bad word) and success, getting to what delighted the customers.

Heinz Beanz Creationz

  1. Heinz company: Most Aussie kids will know Heinz baked beans – a staple in Aussie kids’ diets – but it seems those kids grew into adults who were no longer eating baked beans. Until……. the company used Design Thinking to reinvent and rebrand. Heinz Beanz Creationz was born, despite some failures along the way.
  2. The Savio family: This case study from the Australian Design Council website tells us the story of the apple-growing Savio family, and their development of the Upple product.The Savios have been growing apples in Queensland’s Granite Belt area for over 70 years. They have transformed from apple producer to creator of a unique new product offering a drinkable whole apple in a bottle.Savio Healthy Innovations sustainably converted imperfect whole apples into a value-added, convenient product, Upple® containing 99.99% apple and0.1% vitamin C, which is a stand-alone in a new beverage category of drinkable whole fruit, offering a far higher fibre and nutritional level than fruit juice.

    Their fabulously interesting journey of innovation has been told by Co-owner Rosie Savio and Deborah Loosley from TRIO Marketing, and written up as a case study. Their process has been mapped against a generic Design (Thinking) Process model.

  3. Grounded Foods Co: and one more story from the Australian Design Council – about a Melbourne couple Veronica Fil and Shaun Quade and their great idea for cheese free cheese – and their persistence which led to the Grounded Foods Co.

Where to from now?

There have been massive changes to our retail and service sectors in 2020 and 2021. Hundreds of iconic Australian stores have closed their doors.

Although many Australian SMEs and service providers responded with agility and ingenuity, in some cases completely re-inventing themselves, still many have suffered and may not survive.

On the other hand, many new enterprises have sprung up.

As the lockdowns in Victoria and NSW end, it is clear that there remains a lot of loss, uncertainty, and anxiety in the retail, service and human service sectors.

It’s hard to be sure what the new normal holds for everyone, as we come to the close of 2021.

Nathan Baird, a Design Thinking practitioner, suggests in his online article published in NicheMedia MarketingMag that while traditional management thinking skills are great for managing in certainty, design-led thinking skills are great for managing in VUCA times of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity.

This is because design thinking is a method that is based on customer-centricity, abductive thinking (leap of imagination thinking), problem reframing, creativity and experimentation. These are all skills suited to problem solving in the unknown.  And we’ve seen all these skills and methods being used during Covid. Maybe faster than anyone would have liked, but “needs must” as the saying goes.

Thankfully, to support business and to contribute to keeping us competitive in the world economy, (as in Catherine Livingstone’s rally call), training and education institutions are providing courses on Design Thinking either as stand-alone courses or incorporated into wider qualifications. People with training and experience in the field are in great demand. Corporations and agencies are running in-house training for staff in recognition that the process of Design Thinking, and the skills, are indeed valuable in so many ways.

When the Webyroo team talks to clients in preparation for creating Web Applications and Mobile Applications, we talk with them about how we work to bring the processes of Design Thinking to the work of creating digital products for our clients.

If we can assist you with any aspect of managing your business’s digital presence, including User Experience Design and the Design Thinking process, please contact us at Webyroo.  Click here to book a call now, or check out this video which shows how we help small to medium businesses: Mia – Financial Advisor

Our team at Webyroo (based in beautiful Wollongong, south of Sydney), would like to wish all of our customers and subscribers well, as the major lockdowns end, and state and national borders start to open up.  We want to acknowledge the tough times that many have experienced, and we hope that the future is going to be brighter and more successful for all.

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