My most favorite book series are the “for Dummies” series, ever since I learnt programming I loved the simplicity of these books and never went beyond them 😆

This led me to think if I could share a simple perspective on design thinking to articulate to most beneficial aspects of design thinking from my understanding of design thinking as a concept and its application based on my own vast experience of handling multiple customer projects.

While I leave the details of the entire process for you to look beyond my “dummy series” 🙂 I have picked 3 aspects of design thinking below which I think are the most beneficial.

1. From “customer centricity” to “user centricity” – My most basic definition of a customer would be the one who pays for a product or takes the buying decision. Traditional models of project execution are heavily focused on the “customer” which could lead to a different interpretation of what the end “users” of the products expect. Let me share 2 examples:

a. For those of us who have toddlers at home we can choose to design a toy for the “Customer” which in most cases is a parent or design it for the “User” which in this case would be a toddler. While the parents have a perceived opinion of how the kid would interact, use the toy it is best designed by observing the interaction the toddlers would have with the toy as at the end they would be the users.

b. Similarly in a IT environment traditional models have a large requirement gathering phase but many restrict this to speaking to the decision makers or buyers which mostly is the IT department and end up having a perceived interpretation of what the user needs and not exactly what the user needs. To extend the example further result of a requirements workshop with the IT department could be “Create sales order”. There could at least be 1000 ways of creating a ales order and to give you a real example in one project I worked on the users were truck drivers who usually crated sales order while driving and the application on the device had to support being able to create sales order just using 2 thumbs, forward – backward navigation buttons for most of the sales orders. This meant the sales order for 70% of customers had to be prefilled based on customer buying history and normal order quantities.

2. Structured brainstorming in a larger diverse group – “The best idea can come from anywhere” – Traditional models again focus on having a set small team working on design during the design phase and this could potentially lead to lack of innovation, ideas. The benefit increases when you have a diverse group brainstorming on the topic in question. One example from my experience is in one of the projects we applied design thinking to look at certification scenarios for HANA apps and the end result which was due the combination of speaking to users in this case partners and applying brainstorming in a diverse group was that we ended up building an end to end lifecycle starting from enablement to establishing a single point of contact to the partner which was significantly different from what we perceived would be the solution.

3. Prototyping – this is my favorite one, many software projects are like a “Blind date” you never know what you are getting 😆 . All of us as consumers have grown up buying things we see be it mobile or television we would love to see and feel what we buy. The last car I bought was my 5th car but it still took me a test drive to finalize my decision. We somehow think the consumer behavior is different when it comes to software. In one particular project that I worked on we created an exact power point mockup of screens with navigation for the user to exactly experience how the application would look like on their mobile device – this lead to the consumers being happy on the aspects of usability when they eventually got the application, of course performance was an issue  which we later resolved but there was no surprise to the user on “what they thought they would get” and “what they got”.

Many of the examples above I have quoted are from projects which I have been part of before the “wave of design thinking” which leads me to a question which I also have heard from several others what is new in design thinking. Simple answer from my perspective would be design thinking “increases awareness and focus” on key aspects of user centricity, ideation in a larger group and what you see is what you get type prototyping. This combination applied to projects either for products or processes increases the likelihood of the success of the project several times more than traditional methods.

One other question I often get is how is design thinking positioned with traditional quality / project management models like waterfall, Total quality management and LEAN. I believe the traditional models are heavily focused on “efficiency” and design thinking provides the edge by adding “effectiveness”. In simple terms apply the combination of these models “to do the right thing (design thinking)” and “do things right (traditional models)”.

Any more content would take this blog to “expert level” and my intention was not to cross the threshold of “dummies” 😉

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