Last week, I had the pleasure of presenting to the South Texas Section of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers (STS AIChE) for the professional development hour. I love to help people learn how to solve problems more creatively, so we discussed and practiced several different design thinking tools for innovation. My thanks to Babak Rafienia (pictured here with me) for his high-level organizational skills, despite torrential rains and flooding in Houston on the night of the event.
Design Thinking Model
Design thinking is a collaborative and creative problem-solving methodology that helps individuals and teams find the best solutions by focusing on customer empathy. The model is simple – two steps – identify the problem and solve the problem.
However, we do iterate between a Discovery Stage and Define Stage to correctly identify the problem, and we cycle between creating multiple solution alternatives and evaluating them in the solving phase. No new product development (NPD) team should ever go to the lab without clarifying a customer’s problem. It is fun to invent new things, yet unless there is a market need for the technical solution, developers are just playing.
In the discovery stage we use tools like a customer journey map and a customer empathy map. These design thinking tools help us to understand how consumers know that they have a problem, what they think and feel about the problem, and how they identify product and service solutions. The customer journey map also involves following end-users past the point of purchase to understand how they feel about the product during use and at the end of its life cycle.
The define stage of design thinking clarifies the customer’s needs into a simple statement. At the STS AIChE meeting, we practiced defining problems using noun/verb matching. This tool increases collaboration and also encourages creative solutions. It’s important to differentiate between complaints and problem statements. You may never make a whiner happy, but you can design product solutions that address clear and simple problem statements.
A fun and useful design thinking activity for an NPD team is to collect the problem statements from the define phase and categorize them using a mind map or affinity diagram. In our practice exercise at STS AIChE, we used the example of disrupting airline travel by employing a variety of design thinking tools, including customer journey maps and noun/verb matching. Our affinity diagram showed some key categories of improving the waiting areas before boarding a flight and enhancing seating on the airplane itself. The next step (Evaluate Phase) would be to generate and test simple prototypes of say, larger and lighter standing seats (one idea from our session).
Design Thinking Tools
You can use design thinking tools to address a lot of different situations and problems. The benefit of design thinking tools is that they are fast and easy to use, they build collaboration, and enhance creativity. You focus on the end-user’s needs from a qualitative perspective ensuring that you build empathy for the customer.
Our discount rate for Life Design Master Mind ends on 17 May 2019. In Life Design Master Mind, you will learn how to apply design thinking tools to your own situation – whether that is growing the skills of your NPD team or to making a decision to go back to school or change jobs. Give me a call at area code 281 phone 280-8717 if you want to review the Life Design Master Mind Q&A webinar recording from April. Sign up here for Life Design Master Mind 17 May 2019 to get the upfront discount!
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