Design Thinking – Empathize (Phase 1)


Steve Jobs on Design:
” Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, its really how it works. the design of Mac wasn’t what it looked like, although that was part of it. Primarily, it was how it worked. To design something really well, you have to get it. You have to grok (live up) with it. Its a kind of passionate commitment.”

We first have to find the right questions, before we start creating solution. This is why the first phase is to understand or have empathy for our consumer or user. Understanding the problem space, context and constraints is the perfect place to begin the discovery. We like to try to find a starting point by (re-)framing the challenge maybe shifting the project focus if necessary. Like we said in the Design Thinking introduction, the key is perspective.

A developer needs to be curious and also develop empathy for end users. However, it’s not just the developer who is defining and creating the solution, it is everyone at all stages of the life-cycle. No matter if you are in sales, pre-sales, solutioning, Implementation, support, or  services setting a strong foundation is key to you entire Digital Transformation.

Understanding and Empathizing with the customers is strongly placed in the Problem Space.

We first have to find the right question, before we start to create solutions. Step back and look for the total picture otherwise you can be too close and you will end up only focusing on 1 dimension. Understanding the problem space, context and contains will give us the holistic picture we need to understand and er-define the project scope. For example, if we asked how can we Innovate the Toothbrush? We asked this in a Design Thinking session recently and we got a lot of very interesting ideas on how to Innovate the brush – people were thinking about the 10% improvement. Not many had the initial foresight to step back and think that this is a bigger question. Innovate Dental Care. This is the holistic view. As you use this process with the right people in the right space you will develop the skills to feel secure in our ability to go towards the holistic view.

During the Understand / Empathy phase, a very useful tool to help you to to find the right question we can use “Charetting”.

The process of Charetting is simple. It involves the following steps :

1 .On a whiteboard, write your current design challenge or problem statement
2. Brainstorm a set of relevant users or contexts
3. Pick the most important user or context
4. Brainstorm potential issues or insights that are relevant to that user
5. Pick the most important/interesting insight
6. Brainstorm potential solutions for the chosen issue or insight
7. Repeat 4-6 for another 1-3 users
8. Ask yourself : what have we discovered ? Which aspects are most interesting
9. Rephrase the design challenge or problem statement, based on these discoveries.

Once the team have explored the problem statements and worked through the process of charetting, you will then be able to create your game plan. I encourage you to try Charetting. It is typically applied at the beginning of the project, but in my experience, it can add clarity at any stage. I am usually pleasantly surprised at how effective a technique it really is.

UNDERSTAND is about…:
…exploring the problem space and re-framing the question / challenge to ensure we have empathy for the users.

5 Steps to keep in mind when thinking about Empathy and Understanding:

(Maybe even in life not just in business)

  • Adopt a customer first culture
  • Simplify the interaction structure
  • Use your user community more
  • Avoid confusion
  • Walk in the shoes of your customer.

Next up: Observe (Phase 2)

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