Design thinking is a human centered process and mindset for problem solving that starts with people and ends with innovative solutions that meet their needs. The process allows you to understand the people you are trying to reach, design from their perspective and come up with final solutions that they will embrace. It is also a great approach for innovation in the impact sector, for finding brand new solutions to our world's complex challenges.

The process can be visualized in different ways, but there will always be some elements of empathizing with the users, prototyping or experimenting, and working in iterations where learning compounds over time.

The picture shows how we are describing this process in Social Innovation booster. The right side of the loop is about understanding the problem from the users point of view, and the left side is about exploring the solution. When you are designing your solution, you will go through several iterations of this loop.

1. Empathize. Empathizing with the users is the foundation of designing a great service. As your users won’t know they want something that doesn’t exist yet, qualitative research like semi-structured interviews will be useful here. Qualitative methods are useful when you need to understand and discuss complex issues as it allows you to get an in-depth understanding of the problem you are solving early on in the development process. As a complement to your semi-structured interviews, you can use trigger material; illustrations, or other artifacts, that triggers a response from the user. By adding visuals to the discussion, it becomes easier to put words on abstract thoughts for the user. The aim with using trigger material is not to get yes or no answers to your ideas, but to understand what is relevant and how THEY would develop it, by asking open ended questions related to the visuals . Read more about how to use trigger material for empathizing here.

2. Analyze. In the analyzing phase, you will unpack the stories you have heard during the interviews. In some areas, you will notice that you have gained saturation, and these will form your key findings. Saturation means that something is important for many respondents. A pattern of the same needs, expectations and behavior. No new themes are coming up when you’re interviewing more people.

3. Ideate. Ideation is the transition where you go from identifying problems into exploring solutions. In the design process, you will be altering between converging and diverging, widening and narrowing down. During the interviews you were widening your minds to understand the user perspective and the context of your service. In the analys, you were narrowing down. Ideation is about widening up again.It is important that you define the right problem to address. That is why you should use the insights as a base for your ideation. We want our ideas to be grounded in real needs. Before you start with the ideation we need to embrace a mindset of curiosity, by following the mindset rules.

4. Prototype. The aim with prototyping is to clarify the ideas and narrow them down. The prototypes don’t need to be advanced or take a long time to create. What is more important is to quickly create something that you can get feedback on, so you can go back, adjust your idea and prototype it again. The simpler and more sketchy the prototype is, the more you open up for the users to co-create, and imagine their own version of it. Also, the more simple the prototype is, the more open will YOU be for changing your ideas. There are many different ways of prototyping your service, at different stages; live prototypes, co-creation sessions etc. If you want to learn more about different ways of prototype, you might be interested in reading our post How to prototype your service with your users as co-creators

5. Iterate. Design thinking is a process with a natural flow from research to rollout. By repeating these steps during your different phases in the development of your solution you will ensure that the solution meets the objectives and needs of the users, as well as aligns with the organizations purpose and "why". Keep iterating toward the right solution.

The idea development journey - from idea to sustainable business

Are you interested in learning more about how to design a kickass social innovation with a design thinking approach? Then you should enroll in one of our Booster Programs. The Booster program is a 7 week online learning program where you develop your own idea or business with a design thinking approach with a lot of individual coaching and peer support along the way. . Read more about our programs here

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