Design Thinking

Structured flexibility and group intelligence

When searching for ideas, the supposedly unconventional paths are often the most successful. Design Thinking therefore takes advantage of the creative processes for finding ideas from the field of design because designers work in an explicitly user-oriented manner. In detail, this means the following: To meet challenges and find innovative solutions, it is necessary to keep various aspects in mind. A wonderful tool is the iterative process, which basically means: Take a close look and examine! It consists of six steps. Step 1 “Empathize”: What exactly is actually the problem? What are the needs? Step 2 “Observe”: What is the status quo of the general conditions? Then Step 3 “Define a Point of View”: How can this knowledge be broken down to the level of a prototypical user? What exactly does the person need and why? Step 4 is “Brainstorming” and the core of the Design Thinking Process because in this step, the various concepts developed and visualized based on a brainstorming session. In Step 5 “Prototyping”, it gets serious: Are we moving in the right direction? How does the target group react to the idea developed? Step 6 is “Refinement”: Improve, adapt, and then start again from the beginning – until an optimal, user-oriented product results.

In addition to the iterative loops, clear values also apply to the brainstorming phase that pursue, in addition to the well-known principles (“only one person speaks at a time” or “stick to subject”), other less common principles. The goal is to generate quantity and promote crazy ideas, please. This process is always performed and documented visually. The whole process works best in interdisciplinary teams to ensure a variety of perspectives and approaches are generated. And: Movement is important! Don’t sit around and talk, get up and move around instead – flexible room concepts are also a part of Design Thinking.

In the meantime, Design Thinking is becoming more and more popular as a method and a process. The process is user-oriented, systematic, yet flexible. The fields of application are diverse, and you can sketch, film, or build things with LEGO® blocks; the method motivates team members and achieves a high level of identification with the challenge in all participants.

And who invented it? The transfer of the processes and work methods from the design profession to other areas of life that emerged in the 1990s was also used by David Kelley, who founded the design and innovation consulting firm IDEO and brought his knowledge together with the SAP co-founder Hasso Plattner to Stanford University, where they founded their own Institute of Design Thinking. Nowadays, the idea for successful work has developed more and more into a method for collaboratively overcoming challenges. “Collaboration” and “group intelligence” are the keywords of the current theories – and the “Design Thinking” innovation method is a new type way to think of “work”.

At kraftwerk, our start-ups, under the leadership of Bettina Michl, founder of the agent tiefenschärfe agency, had the pleasure of using this approach to solve complex problems. Together they observed, went crazy, collected, developed, and built. In addition to having fun, they also gained new knowledge and insights on top of it for free.