In the first step, we get to know the user and really dive into his world. We may observe users, create research-based personas or conduct interviews with people that will use the end-product. In the end, nonetheless, we will have created various insights that will lead us to the next phase.
After getting to know the user, we are able to define the problem, the user faces. It is important, that these insights are based on truths and not on constructed scenarios as the definition of the problem is the basis for all subsequent steps. At the end of this step, we should have defined the most urgent, unique or challenging problem.
Based on the previously defined problem, we are able to gather abstract ideas that can range from concrete concepts to simple one-word-ideas. Anything that comes to mind can find its way on the wall. Feedback is always welcome but initially, this phase is about gathering as many ideas as possible. After all ideas are collected, they may be grouped, sorted and rated. The outcome of the idea should be one or a few ideas that fit to the findings of previous steps.
In my opinion, this step is the most fun, because you get to get your hands dirty. The idea(s) are now constructed into real-life prototypes. The goal is to show something, anything that is able to gather feedback. I´ve had workshops where groups play ideas out as a theatre-performance, created a Lego-prototype of glued papers together. This is the time to get creative.
Now that you have something to show, perform or present, you are able to test it. This part can be conducted with real-life users, the workshop group, clients or the internet. Just present it to someone relevant and gather as much feedback as possible. Only then you are able to refine your prototype and enter the sixth and final step of the process.
Although this step is sometimes missed or neglected, it is the most important one, in my opinion: The goal of any Design Thinking process should always be to create an implemented product that people are able to use and work with. It is mostly a refined and polished version of the prototype and has undergone multiple feedback sessions in order to see the light of day.
As the process is iterative, you are able to refine the implemented product even further and start with the “Empathy”-phase again in order to create a more innovative or more user-centric product.
In the end, Design Thinking is the perfect solution for rigid waterfall-workflows and can generate user-centric innovation, a collaborative atmosphere and is just a hell of a lot of fun.