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One of the things I’ve learned in life is insights can emerge from unconventional moments. On the ideation phase, we are so focused on the brainstorming exercise, but a genius idea may not happen there and then. Nevertheless, once you’ve done the groundwork, all of your potential ideas are installed in your brain and the synapse may happen later when you’re driving or in the shower. Whilst experiencing one of those moments, I had an insight that I believe is worth sharing. 

This article is the result of my insight; an analogy between the Design Thinking stages and the cycle of life.

1- DT’s Understanding & Life’s First Steps

Everything starts with a challenge, the famous “How might we…?” question. In the understanding stage, you have to take the plunge and face a challenge that may not be familiar to you. Challenges range from improving sales to bettering a person’s quality of life when suffering from a disease. 

This is the discovery stage, and it is similar to a baby taking their first steps; a phase in which a child is still a “blank canvas” without pre-set beliefs and with a pure heart. To a baby, everything is new and frightening; and curiosity is the most important thing in the world to them. All things are brand new and exciting, and everything is possible.

2- DT’s Observation & Life’s Questioning Moment

Making up stories, singing, playing with toys and imagining different scenarios is the way children make sense of the world. By observing the environment around them, through play, they find a way of questioning and finding out all the “whys” to their questions.

The observation phase is a moment to question, to do field research and to explore your challenge’s ecosystem. Design Thinking’s research is important to generate deep knowledge about the challenge. Understanding people’s real needs when speaking to them and observing the environment around us allows empathy to happen. 

3- DT’s Point Of View & Life’s Decision Making Time

Defining the Point of View is one of the most challenging moments in the entire project. After gathering data and insights, it is time to redefine the challenge in the light of the new understandings and findings brought by the group research. This is the moment to organise and navigate through the complexity of the new challenge. 

The same happens when a teenager is, for the first time ever, looking for a job – thinking about what career path to choose can be overwhelming. That said, the best way to get there is by gathering clues and thinking about their life thus far – they would probably love to be able to time travel to the future to find out whether they chose the right profession or not! In Design Thinking, we question the gathered insights and refine the project route.

4- DT’s Ideation & Life’s Endless Possibilities 

When a young adult starts attending university, their sense of self and their adult ideologies and concepts start to form. It is at this stage in life that many new desires emerge; young adults have the will to change the world. With so many ideas to choose from, people can find it hard to focus on “the best idea”; but who said that there is only one idea that is “the best”?  

In Design Thinking, the Ideation phase is a moment for quantity when it comes to ideas: the crazier, the better. It is also a time to merge different ideas forming a compilation that creates the big picture. When brainstorm happens in a diverse group, the quality of the ideas improves significantly. 

After this, it is time to converge. As we approach the end of the process, ideas need to be analysed and selected.

5- DT’s Prototyping & Life’s First Job

At a first job, a young professional is trying to build up a career,  to create a name and a reputation for themselves. This is not something that can be accomplished overnight, but that needs to start to show straight away. The young professional will need to create a “first draft” version of themselves, where they can showcase their qualities and assets. 

Design Thinking’s Prototyping phase is no different. In it, one must create something fast, regardless of if it is perfect, as the purpose is to demonstrate the intention behind that product. The prototype is a device for people to experience our idea before the final solution exists.

6- DT’s Testing & Life’s Entrepreneurial Spirit

Fail Fast To Learn Faster. Entrepreneurs need networking in order to showcase their ideas. Feedbacks will indicate if their business idea is interesting to the people within your ecosystem. Their success relies on others’ perspective and, therefore, receiving negative feedback (or failing fast) and improving the initial idea based on this will guarantee that success comes sooner.

Facing failure is a form of evolution, not of defeat. In other words,  showcasing your idea as many times as possible, you give you constant feedback. Learning to fail is a process, but mistakes should be made only once. Aim to get always a different mistake.

7- DT’s Iteration & Life’s What Now?

Design Thinking’s evolution – and also life’s – never stop. The iteration phase is the right moment to stop and think about life: Should I do start an MBA?  Should I buy a house? Should I take a sabbatical? How about kids? Is my marriage going ok? Shall I move countries? Those are the moments in which you should look for life cues and feedbacks.

In Design Thinking, the Iteration phase is an opportunity to refine our solutions and improve them, seeing new possibilities to take our idea to the next level. Be ready to, during this phase, rethink your choices, actions and decisions. 

In life, things can happen along the way that will require us to go back a few steps. Ideation, research, understanding, prototyping… doesn’t matter. What matters is that you keep iterating to perfect your way.

*This article has been translated, edited and adapted by Rani Ghazzaoui Luke.

If you’re interested in learning more about Design Thinking, check out Echos’ best-seller program, Design Thinking Experience. You can also download Echos’ Design Thinking Toolkit by clicking here.

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Paola Bellucci

Paola is a master’s student at the Graduate School of International Peace Studies at Soka University in Tokyo. She is a visual designer, design thinker and peace innovator. Paola worked for three years at Echos Brazil and is currently Echos Australia visual designer. For the past five years, Paola has lead, facilitated and collaborated in several innovation projects and in-company workshops for various industries. In her Master’s degree, she is exploring the intersection of Design Thinking and humanitarian action for peace and human dignity. Paola believes in the power of design to create and impact social change.

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