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Every product, service or system change, starts with an idea that evolves and matures over time. Design thinking is a human centered process that can be used as a guidance through this idea exploration phase. Think of it as a loop with elements of empathizing with the users, prototyping or experimenting that you do over and over again. By working in iterations, the learning compounds over time, and help the idea to evolve and mature.

As the quality of the final outcome is in direct proportion to our ability to identify the right problem to solve, the loop alters between understanding the problem and exploring the solution. (Understanding in pink and Exploring in white).

Before you invest too much time and resources into developing your idea, it is a good idea to explore the gap and opportunity from the potential user’s point of view. Developing your idea with a user-centered approach makes it much more likely to succeed.

Qualitative methods such as interviews and observations, however, will help you with the “why” and “how”, the in-depth understanding of your target audience. Quantitative research methods such as surveys and big data analysis are more useful to understand big trends, the “what”.

The steps in the idea exploration process are as follows:

1. Empathize. Empathizing with the users is the foundation of designing any great service, product or system. As the users hardly know they need something that doesn’t exist yet, qualitative research is to prefer at this stage. Qualitative research allows you to get an in-depth understanding of the problem early on in the development process and discuss complex issues with your potential users. It will help you with the "why" and "how" rather than just the "what". The use of trigger material is great to help potential users make abstract thoughts tangible. How to use trigger material for empathizing here.

2. Analyze. In the analyzing phase, you will unpack the stories you heard during the user interactions. In some areas, you will notice that you have saturation, in others there is a need for further understanding. Saturation tells you that something is important to 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 . 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. 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 develop your idea with a human-centered approach? Then you should enroll in one of our Booster Programs. The Booster Programs are 5-7 weeks online program. It is a very hands-on program where I work together with you to develop your idea or business. You are part of a small group and get a lot of individual coaching and peer support along the way. Read more about our programs here

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