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Design Thinking: Creating a Solution


This is the third article from a series of three. My intention is to help newbies /non-designers to see clearly when they might want to use a tool or a method in a Design Thinking (DT) project timeline. In this article I focus on the second part of a project, with tools and methods to help you create an effective solution. The first article is an introduction to the DT mindset. The second article is about methodologies to find the real problem.

A quick recap: The Mindset

In this step-by-step article,I break down my way of work into 10 How to questions. I answer them by pointing out which tool, method or approach I use, what should be my way of thinking (convergent or divergent), and if the focus is on the problem or on the solution. Then, I connect it with the Stanford d.School framework, to show how all of this can make sense together.

my mashup framework

To make this article more straight to the point. I answer each question with the main goal of the step, a few methods that I apply more often, and some other factors you might want to keep in mind when building your own framework.

Let’s start again

5. How to transform a learning point into (many) ideas?

  • focus: SOLUTION
  • way of thinking: DIVERGENT
  • goal: This is the first step focused on the solution. It is a big brainstorm moment. This is a phase with lots of fun situations. You might want to follow some rules to make sure you bring up the best of each participant. Collaboration is a keyword here. Co-creation sections with people from diverse areas within the company are the best source of ideas. The objective is to generate as many ideas as possible. I usually do it in three steps. Firstly, I organize a solo activity. This means that each participant thinks and draws their ideas by themselves. After that, I divide them into small groups to co-create. Finally, I ask them to share their ideas with the whole group. Encouraging the group to express their ideas visually might be a challenge, but it is really important. Visual thinking is a powerful tool, try the bird exercise to warm them up.
  • methods:
    Mind Map: A good warm-up activity for non-visual participants to express their thoughts and see different connections.
    Ideation Session: You can use workshops in any stage of the process, but here they are almost mandatory. Co-creation is one of the best ways to bring ownership to all members of the team.
    Crazy 8: A simple and good exercise to help the team go beyond the obvious solutions.
    How Might We: The solution — in this phase — doesn’t need to be perfect. This question helps everyone turn on their imaginative mode.
  • other things to keep in mind: principles to opportunity, ideation game, role-play ideation, design sprint.

6. How to select the best ideas?

  • focus: SOLUTION
  • way of thinking: CONVERGENT
  • goal: If you did a good job at the previous stage, you are now buried under tons of ideas. Try not to do these two phases at the same time. A good night of sleep will restore people’s energy and a clear view of the crazy ideas they had. Before analyzing the ideas, you need to review: the challenge, the success metrics, and the experience/design principles. You might have some very good ideas in your hands. However, people get lost and sometimes their creations don’t answer the challenge properly.
  • methods:
    Heatmap voting: By using dots stickers you can democratize a voting session. The participants don’t need to vote for a whole idea — instead, they can choose part of an idea.
    MoSCoW: one of the best ways to prioritize ideas is to understand the acronym for Must, Should, Could and Would.
    Create a Pitch (or Elevator Pitch): Not everyone in the group likes a given idea for the same reason. Writing a pitch helps the team organize their thoughts by stating the purpose of the idea in one phrase.
  • other things to keep in mind: mash-ups, morphological synthesis, Kano Model, Concept-linking Map, Gut Check, Concept Catalog.

7. How to prototype?

  • focus: SOLUTION
  • way of thinking: DIVERGENT
  • goal: You may have to choose up to three ideas. Now, it is time to see if the possible user also thinks these ideas are going to work, or which idea is the best one. Telling someone an idea is a completely different experience than when they interact with the real solution. Building the real solution takes time and money. You need to find the best way for real users to interact with your solution. This has to be made in a short period and spending as little money as possible. Try to remember how you used to play when you were a kid. Let’s build something that helps our users get into our game and pretend with us.
  • methods:
    Wireframe: Almost all solutions have a digital touchpoint. Drawing a wireframe — or a rapid wireframe or paper wireframe — can make this idea tangible. It should simulate each screen of the task that your user will have to try in the next step.
    Storyboard: When you tell a story, you help people around you imagine themselves as the main character. It also helps you see the whole picture. The storyboard means whenhow, and where your product will be used.
    Role Play: If your product involves a real service, you should try a role play activity. This might look weird at first, and people might need a few seconds to remember how to play it. Everyone has played this game in their childhood.
  • other things to keep in mind: storytelling, minimum viable product (MVP) or service (MVS), business origami, solution diagram, lego serious play, concept sketch.

8. How to choose the best prototypes?

  • focus: SOLUTION
  • way of thinking: CONVERGENT
  • goal: With the prototypes in hand you start to feel more connected with the solutions. However, remember that even if you fall in love with one of the prototypes, don’t let your feelings talk too loud. Keep in mind that the user/customer is the only one who can really judge it. The problem has to be fixed from their perspective. You can also use all recommendations that I gave to you at question 3 (The Customer). By the end of this stage it is a good moment to create a document with all learning points.. The next step is to implement the solution. Probably the teamwork will be bigger and this document will help every new member to get into project on the same page.
  • methods:
    Recruiting: Planning ahead the interviews is crucial. Part of it is to understand who might be the users to represent all personas you have developed.
    Usability test: If you have a digital prototype, this test is the best option. Prepare your list of tasks and have fun.
  • other things to keep in mind: solution valuations, perspective Value Web, Concept Evaluation.

9. How to implement the project?

  • focus: SOLUTION
  • way of thinking: PRACTICAL/FOCUSED
  • goal: So far, the project is still a product of the team’s imagination. Turning it into a real thing is a hard step. As a designer, we may stay with the teamwork until the project really starts. The teamwork is bigger now, and even if they are all on the same page, they don’t have a strong ownership as the ones who participated in the 8 first questions. You need to find ways to create the same feeling for them. If they don’t embrace the solution, the project might lose a lot of the mojo.
  • methods:
    Team formation plan: This is all about finding the right ones to conduct the project.
    Pilot development: Before going to the market for real, the team can build a pilot. It’s a small version of your product so you can feel how people you respond to that in real life .
  • other things to keep in mind: roadmap, KPI Setup (UX checklist), strategy plan workshop.

10. How to know if we are on the right path?

  • focus: SOLUTION
  • way of thinking: PRACTICAL/FOCUSED + DIVERGENT
  • goal: This is a research stage, just like steps 3 and 8, and you will use all of those previously cited methods. Different than those steps, now you have a new real product with real customer interaction. We always have things to learn. The end is just a different way to say new beginning. The small bugs can be solved through teamwork, but sometimes other challenges emerge at this moment. A new project might pop up at any time. The projects are cyclic. In this phase you probably are less involved. But, if you disappear there is a huge chance that the project will loose the established path. Try to set up a sequence of meetings so you can stay connected. During these meetings you can help team members to keep in mind the original challenge and how the selected solution can resolve it.
  • methods:
    Collect feedback: You have to create an environment where people feel comfortable to give feedback in any stage of the project. Keep your ears open to listen all kinds of feedback.
    Data analysis: I am a people person, and I love to do interviews. This is just one side of the process, you need to learn how to read data to find out what is happening, and complement that with other more human-centered methodologies to understand why it is happening.
  • other things to keep in mind: lean ux, learning points, rewrite your problems into opportunities.

The previous step was finding the problem. Also, if you want to get into the DT mindset, you should read the first article.

That’s all folks 🙂

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