Tag Archives: Design

Design Thinking – Testing (Phase 6)

Testing is part of an iterative process that provides practitioners with feedback. The purpose of testing is to learn what works and what doesn’t, and then iterate. This means going back to your prototype and modifying it based on feedback. Testing ensures that practitioners learn what works and what doesn’t work for their users. Iteration is key here as you will not solve the problem in one go.

“What innovation boils down to is one per cent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration.” – ThomasEdison

Why Testing? Quite simply it is to get early feedback from end-users, experts and stakeholders and to ensure that we learn along the process. This is an iterative and agile methodology so testing is an important phase.


How to test?

  • Let the prototype speak …………But know what you want to learn
  • Do not defend your idea
  • Be open-minded
  • Be thankful


  • Re-visit end users and take them through a scenario that shows how to reach the goal with the new solution
  • Listen carefully to what they say
  • Capture and later synthesize all feedback
  • Ideate how the feedback can be worked into the next iteration of your solution

Capture Feedback and Learnings:

Show don’t tell. Put your prototype in the user’s hands – or your user within an experience.And don’t explain everything (yet). Let your tester interpret the prototype. Watch how they use (and misuse!) what you have given them, and how they handle and interact with it; then listen to what they say about it, and the questions they have. Create Experiences. Create your prototypes and test them in a way that feels like an experience that your user is reacting to, rather than an explanation that your user is evaluating. Ask users to compare. Bringing multiple prototypes to the field to test gives users a basis for comparison, and comparisons often reveal latent needs.

KNOW WHAT YOU WANT TO TEST And how to test it. TEST is about failing with your prototype by receiving feedback from end users.

Because design thinking is iterative, intermediate “solutions” are potential starting points of alternative paths, including redefining of the initial problem, in a process of co-evolution of problem and solution.

If you would like some furthe inforamtion, please see the link below for a Case Study from the Harvard Business Review regarding Design thinking.

Better Service, Faster: A Design Thinking Case Study

Design Thinking – Prototyping (Phase 5)

Prototyping is a rough and rapid portion of the design process. A prototype can be a sketch, model, or a cardboard box. It is a way to convey an idea quickly. Students learn that it is better to fail early and often as they create prototypes. This bring us back to the opening statement of the Design Thinking category. “DESIGN is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” –Steve Jobs

So why prototyping?

  • Develop and iterate ideas
  • Find hidden issues
  • Create common understanding
  • Define the problem
  • Ensure early and regular feedback

Some more reasons why?

  • To ideate and problem-solve. Build to think.
  • To communicate. If a picture is worth a thousand words, a prototype is worth a thousand pictures.
  • To start a conversation. Your interactions with users are often richer when centered around a conversation piece. A prototype is an opportunity to have another, directed conversation with a user.
  • To fail quickly and cheaply. Committing as few resources as possible to each idea means less time and money invested up front.
  • To test possibilities. Staying low-res allows you to pursue many different ideas without committing to a direction too early on.
  • To manage the solution-building process. Identifying a variable also encourages you to break a large problem down into smaller, testable chunks.


Prototyping is problem solving. It’s a culture and a language. You can prototype just about anything -a new product or service, or a special promotion. What counts is moving the ball forward, achieving some part of your goal. NOT WASTING TIME.

There are a number of methods for pototyping but the goal is the experience.

Low Fidelity Mockups:

  • Demonstrate the functionality and the Look and Feel of your solution
  • Compose low fidelity mockups by using simple materials (instead of coding)
  • Don’t try to be perfect.
  • Key functionality and screen flow, rather than finalized screenshots.


  • Visualize your solution
  • Make it tangible by sketching it out
  • Storyboards help viewers to share the holistic experience a user of a product or service might go through

ROLE PLAYS.The stage is yours and you are the actors

  • Show the solution through the user eyes
  • Eg in the “day in the life” of your persona
  • Show the impact of your idea.
  • Don’t try to be too perfect
  • “feeling the idea is key, not perfect make up”

Different prototypes in different phases:


FAIL EARLY. FAIL OFTEN. And always learn + improve your solution

  • The better it looks the more narrow the feedback
  • Failure is simply part of understanding and improving.

PROTOTYPE is about converting your idea into something that people can experience.

Prototype and Test are modes that you consider in tandem more than you transition between. What you are trying to test and how you are going to test that aspect are critically important to consider before you create a prototype. Examining these two modes in conjunction brings up the layers of testing a prototype. Though prototyping and testing are sometimes entirely intertwined, it is often the case that planning and executing a successful testing scenario is a
considerable additional step after creating a prototype. Don’t assume you can simply put a prototype in front of a user to test it; often the most informative results will be a product of careful thinking about how to test in a way that will let users give you the most natural and honest feedback.

Next up: Testing


Design Thinking – Ideate (Phase 4)

Ideating is a critical component of design thinking. Practitioners are challenged to brainstorm a myriad of ideas and to suspend judgment. No idea is to far-fetched and no one’s ideas are rejected. Ideating is all about creativity and fun. In the ideation phase, quantity is encouraged. Practitioners may be asked to generate a hundred ideas in a single session. They become silly, savvy, risk takers, wishful thinkers and dreamers of the impossible…and the possible.

You ideate in order to transition from identifying problems to creating solutions for your users. Ideation is your chance to combine the understanding you have of the problem space and people you are designing for with your imagination to generate solution concepts. Particularly early in a design project, ideation is about pushing for a widest possible range of ideas from which you can select, not simply finding a single, best solution. The determination of the best solution will be discovered later, through user testing and feedback.


Key to this efforts are a number of techniques that you may have heard of. Some of these will definitely be new to you. First up is brainstormingBrainstorming is a group creativity technique by which efforts are made to find a conclusion for a specific problem by gathering a list of ideas spontaneously contributed by its members. This is a great tool but should be used with some rules to ensure fair play.

Simple but effective rules.

It really should be the position of the practitioner to enable these to ensure a creative and fulfilling session is completed. It may take a while for people to realize that this is not a normal meeting where they are defending their positions or afraid to speak up. This must be open:

  • Build on the ideas of others
  • Defer judgement
  • Stay focused on topic
  • Fair early and often
  • Be visual
  • One conversation at a time
  • Think USER centric
  • Go for quantity
  • Go for wild ideas


Brain writing is simple. Rather than ask participants to yell out ideas (a serial process), you ask them to write down their ideas about a particular question or problem on sheets of paper for a few minutes; then, you have each participant pass their ideas on to someone else, who reads the ideas and adds new ideas. After a few minutes, you ask the participants to pass their papers to others, and the process repeats. After 10 to 15 minutes, you collect the sheets and post them for immediate discussion.

Brainwriting is an alternative method to brainstorming that tries to encourage a more uniform participation within a group. Like brainstorming, it is designed to generate lots and lots of ideas in a short amount of time.

6-3-5 Method

This technique involves 6 participants who sit in a group and are supervised by a moderator. Each participant thinks up 3 ideas every 5 minutes. The ideas are written down on a worksheet and passed on to the next participant. The participant reads the ideas and uses them as inspiration for more ideas. Participants are encouraged to draw on others’ ideas for inspiration, thus stimulating the creative process. After 6 rounds in 30 minutes the group has thought up a total of 108 ideas. Not all winners, guaranteed but you may be surprised what you uncover while also creating the free and open environment.


The idea is to imagine what it would be like if the product existed, and act as though it exists, ideally in the place it would be used. Its going through an idea with improvised artifacts and physical activities to envision a solution. This User Experience Design (UXD) technique is ideal to design physical spaces (e.g. the interior design of a shop) but can also be used to design physical products or software.

Play with constraints:
Imagine if……….and then see how the challenge or solution starts to change.
Find out what is important. Examples might be:

Back to the past -how would they do it?
What if there was no gravity?
How would Superman do it?
Or a firefighter?

Find a good starting into Ideation:

  • Define a time frame and select the method (yes you can do several ones)
  • Do not try to tackle the whole challenge at once
  • Prepare a set of questions to work on one by one

You ideate by combining your conscious and unconscious mind, and rational thoughts with imagination. For example, in a brainstorm you leverage the synergy of the group to reach new
ideas by building on others’ ideas. Adding constraints, surrounding yourself with inspiring
related materials, and embracing misunderstanding all allow you to reach further than you
could by simply thinking about a problem.

There are other ideation techniques such as bodystorming, mindmapping, and sketching. But
one theme throughout all of them is deferring judgment – that is, separating the generation
of ideas from the evaluation of ideas. In doing so, you give your imagination and creativity
a voice, while placating your rational side in knowing that your will get to the examination of
merits later.

In order to avoid losing all of the innovation potential you have just generated through ideation, we recommend a process of considered selection, by which you bring multiple ideas forward into prototyping, thus maintaining your innovation potential. As a team, designate three voting criteria (we might suggest “the most likely to delight,” “the rational choice,” “the most unexpected” as potential criteria, but they’re really up to you) to use to vote on three different ideas that your team generated during brainstorming. Carry the two or three ideas that receive the most votes forward into prototyping. In this way, you preserve innovation potential by carrying multiple ideas forward—a radically different approach than settling on the single idea that at least the majority of the team can agree upon.

Next up: Prototyping

Design Thinking – Observe (Phase 2)

“There Are No Facts Inside Your Building, So Get Outside.” –Steve Blank

If we have completed the first iteration of phase 1 and we now have a better understanding and higher empathy for our customers situation, our own situation, we now need to move to Observation. Practitioners become keen people watchers in the observation phase of the design thinking process. They watch how people behave and interact and they observe physical spaces and places. They talk to people about what they are doing, ask questions and reflect on what they see. The understanding and observation phases of design thinking help Practitioners develop a sense of empathy.

Ask and Listen: In order to observe and develop and complete and rounded understanding, we need to be able to hear what the customers are saying and see what they are doing. Some high level points to think about are below:

  • Ask open ended questions
  • Ask 5 times -WHY?
  • Be aware of body language
  • Try to listen (80%-20%)
  • Be curious and show real-interest
  • Take Photos -Make Notes
  • Collect artifacts
  • Write Down your impressions
  • Pair up for interviews
  • Say Thank You in the end

Watch and Observe: Certainly you can, and should, combine observation and engagement. Ask someone to show you how they complete a task. Have them physically go through the steps, and talk you through why they are doing what they do. Ask them to vocalize what’s going through their mind as they perform a task or interact with an object. Have a conversation in the context of someone’s home or workplace – so many stories are embodied in artifacts. Use the environment to prompt deeper questions.

  • Look for details
  • Try to capture the atmosphere
  • Be curious, talk to people
  • Take photos, make notes
  • Speculate, WHAT IF…..??
  • Buy things, Do things
  • Collect artifacts
  • Write down your impressions
  • Be polite all the time, do not disturb
  • Act as a GUEST.

Try and Do: Unpack: When you move from empathy work to drawing conclusions from that work, you need to process all the things you heard and saw in order to understand the big picture and grasp the takeaways of it all. Unpacking is a chance to start that process – sharing what you found with fellow designers and capturing the important parts in a visual form. Get all the information out of your head and onto a wall where you can start to make connections—post pictures of your user, post-its with quotes, maps of journeys or experiences—anything that captures impressions and information about your user. This is the beginning of the synthesis process, which leads into a ‘Define’ mode.

  • Try to be empathic
  • Try to see through the eyes of the user
  • Define your task and work on it -realistically
  • State you impressions
  • Mention all the enablers and the constraints
  • Let somebody else take photos and notes
  • Take it serious and do not slapstick

We do not always want the view of the 90%, sometimes having the view of the 1-5% of the people will really give you an insight into the customer issues, pains, needs, and wants. But you need to LOOK ALSO FOR EXTREME USER………AND FOR WORKAROUNDS!

Goal is to build up Empathy. Do not ask features or Yes/No questions.

“If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” – Henry Ford. Now even if Ford didn’t verbalize his thoughts on customers’ ostensible inability to communicate their unmet needs for innovative products — history indicates that Henry Ford most certainly did think along those lines. OBSERVE is about…:…developing empathy for the users and
discovering needs and insights.

Next up: Define. Define your point of view.

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)

Design Thinking – Introduction

So as one of my main focus areas, I will start with Design Thinking. I will provide a definition, and overview of the 6 stages, and hopefully create the link from Design Thinking to Digital Transformation and how it can help you start or continue the journey.

What is Design Thinking?
Design Thinking is a human-centric approach for solving problems by creating new ideas. Design Thinking is a methodology used by designers to solve complex problems, and find desirable solutions for clients. A design mindset is not problem-focused, it’s solution focused and action oriented towards creating a preferred future. Always thinking about the outcome.

Where does it work?
For any business challenges like defining new solutions, strategies and roadmaps, organizational structures and processes. I believe that design thinking is perfect for the first and seconds phases of your digital transformation but you will probably leverage the process throughout. I will explore all phases of Digital Transformation as I move through the posts. But at a high level and to wet your appetite a little, the 6 phases are Discover / Prepare / Explore / Realize / Deploy / Run. Can you already imagine where a new process to solve complex problems, and find desirable solutions for clients can help here?

Create INNOVATION by combining the right PEOPLE, the needed SPACE and a supporting PROCESS. I like to summarize this as People / Process / Platform. More on this in a later post.

What is Innovation?

  • DESIRABILITY – Create something which fits to your users need.
  • FEASIBILITY – Otherwise it is just science fiction.
  • VIABILITY – Because we would like to earn money with it.

INNOVATION = Desirability + Feasibility + Viability. Most companies would be happy to improve a product by 10%, win some market share (even if it is in a red ocean), and maybe crash some competitors. This is exactly why most companies decay little by little as they tend to mostly do what they have done before with a few changes, their 10%. A study from the John M. Olin School of Business at Washington University estimates that 40% of today’s Fortune 500 companies on the S&P 500 will no longer exist in 10 years. It is no surprise as 90% of Fortune 500 companies vanished since 1955, but the latest estimate is in 10 years, a fast decade away.

True innovation happens when you try to improve something by 10 times rather than 10%. Google talks about how sometimes it’s actually easier to make something 10 times better than improve it to make it 10% better. The key is perspective. This is where Design Thinking can help you get to that point.

In the next posts I will cover the 6 phases of Design Thinking. Now there are a few different process models so find the one that woks for you, but I will be covering my 6.

  • Understand / Empathize
  • Observe
  • Define a point or view
  • Ideate
  • Prototype
  • Test

Right lets go to Understand.