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Thinking Like a Designer October 31, 2009

Posted by Aaron Schwartz in Design Thinking.
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I’ve read this article before, but looking at it through the prism of our current course has made it more relevant. Before, I thought about Design as something for others – I’m a MBA, consultant, history major, and terrible artist. Having had a few weeks of “you can be a designer too” indoctrination (and I say that in a very appreciative way), I read the article with more personal interest this time. How can I embed design thinking?

 

Design thinking needs to be Human Centered

This is the most impactful takeaway for me. I’ve heard it before and saw it first hand in a trip to IDEO. It’s obvious when you think about it: of course a product becomes more impactful when it’s actually designed for the user. But I’m not sure that I understand the approach of paying more attention to the “Extreme users”. What about the 80-20 rule? Or is the idea that it’s the extreme users that will proselytize about your product/service, so you want to cater to them? Are extreme users always a business’s core?

 

Design isn’t just Beautification

The idea is that it’s no longer enough to just bring designers in at the end, to repackage an existing product or service. Every time I think of this, I visualize a city planner. Think about Governors’ Island in New York. That they’re spending years on different design options, instead of building functional buildings and then adding the lipstick later, means that the space will be that much more useful when it’s opened. And as we learned on the first day of New Product Development, the early stage decisions can account for 60-70% of the ultimate cost of a project; it’s clearly better to integrate design thinking at the start and make sure users get what they’re looking for.

 

Tell more stories

I keep hearing this (this article, blog postings, Made to Stick). And I’m trying. Every time we revise the pitch for Refill Revolution (our startup) we’re trying to come up with more stories. I’m finding analogies to be the most impactful, though am trying to create the story of the everyday user.

 

Prototype

Ditto the last point, in that it’s incredibly relevant to our startup. Brown says that you need to get an idea or product to a point where the feedback is useful – then open it up for play. Prototyping too late means the business may be too invested in one path and/or the user will be more hesitant to give feedback, as the product will have an air of completeness. Another way of thinking of this idea is releasing the Minimum Viable Product (http://startuplessonslearned.blogspot.com/2009/08/minimum-viable-product-guide.html). One definition of the MVP: “The minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.”

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