Problem Framing in Design Thinking

In a world connected by smartphones, GPS, and social media, we have come to expect businesses, hospitals, and governments to deliver personalized experiences to us on any device in real time. While we still go to the store to buy groceries or get on a plane to travel from point A to point B, the way we consume goods and services is fundamentally changing. This means the ways companies design and build these experiences must evolve to keep pace.

Two approaches: Design Thinking and Agile Development  

The principles of design thinking and agile development can be a great asset to anyone trying to solve a problem or find better ways of getting work done.

Design thinking is a method for practical and creative problem-solving that has evolved from fields as varied as engineering, architecture, and business. At its core, design thinking focuses on understanding people’s needs and creatively discovering the best solution to meet those needs. Its core concepts are to UNDERSTAND, EXPLORE, PROTOTYPE, and EVALUATE.

Agile is a group of software development methods that emerge too quickly, iteratively, and collaboratively build better business solutions. Its core concepts are iterative development, risk management, and transparency.

Big companies like IBM aim particularly at meeting the complex needs of large-scale enterprises without sacrificing the personal focus of design thinking. To get a better idea of these new ways of working, IBM design thinking and agile come to life. Let’s take a look at how a company benefits from using these approaches in expanding its business:

Greenberry Organics is a successful skin and body care store based out of New Delhi in India. They have had such explosive growth over the past two years that they have been able to open three additional stores. They launched their web experience about a year ago but while their in-store sales continued to grow, their website sales haven’t met expectation. Arjoon, the founder, and owner, uses design thinking and knows that he needs to start with the end user.

What exactly are the reasons their needs are not being met?

First, he needs to find out who his real users are; what they think; how they feel; what they see; hear; say and do.

Not satisfied with merely coming up with potential issues internally, the business, design, and engineering team collaborate and decide to find people who have shared an interest in cosmetics and are familiar with the products. After their initial search, the team narrows their focus to a candidate that meets a wide variety of helpful criteria.

Priya agrees to an ongoing relationship to provide priceless insights as the business grows. As the team begins to work with Priya, they gain insights they otherwise would have missed. This research is crucial in making improvements for their users. For example, they find that Priya, despite being interested in new cosmetics, doesn’t know where to begin. She likes the way how many products look appealing online, but (so many herbal creams ranging from whitening creams, acne creams, sunscreen lotions to moisturizing lotion, 4-in-1 lotions) she doesn’t know which one to pick at the store. A customer can always ask an expert but visitors on the website like Priya have no simple way to get help.  

Armed with this new information, the team regroups with a larger team and plans for refining the challenge. They agree that the site fails to deliver personalized how-to-guidance at any point in the online experience. To articulate a clear outcome statement,  the team generates as many ideas as they can. Help chat, an ointment guide tool, the ability to submit photos and questions.

Gradually they weed out unrealistic and expected ideas that lack a WOW factor. Only then can they start to determine a solution with new features like responsive recommendations to expert videos based on what content a user is viewing.

They begin with sketches and move to more formal designs to better hone in on the real value the users need. The team leader engages a larger cross-functional team that can deliver a working model of the idea. The working model is reviewed with a larger team and tested with their end-users. As a team they should be developing a  prototype to refine the idea further in order to offer Priya the ability to archive favorite video materials.

They take the working prototype to the end user to test its effectiveness and get feedback. The team iteratively refine the product at each step of the way to make it suitable for the user.

Finally, the team deploys the new interactive choose -your-cosmetic guidance tool which is closely monitored to ensure it undergoes continuous upgrades based on insights from usage metrics and new customer needs.

By using design thinking and agile, Greenberry Organics is able to define and solve their client challenge by putting the end user first. By applying agile development methods, they are able to deliver new functionality using an iterative approach that was transparent.

If you are trying to improve a process, beginning with the end user will help you focus on improvements that provide the most value. If you are trying to make progress quickly on a project, establish the most critical features to focus on first. Iterate quickly and share progress regularly across the team and with end users.

As the marketplace changes, we need to evolve faster than ever. It’s how we keep reinventing ourselves every day that matters.

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