How to use Design Thinking for digitalisation processes

How to use Design Thinking for digitalisation processes

, 28. August 2020

This might sound familiar: everyone is talking about digitalisation and digital transformation. It’s clear that companies need to go digital to be and remain competitive. So the target is clear. At least to some extent. There are still some questions to be asked, though. To what extent should we implement digital transformation? Is it sufficient to take care of the internal infrastructure in the outset? Or should you set out with ambitious goals from the start, e.g. a smart factory? How do you achieve the targets you have defined? Most companies have little or no experience in this area. It is therefore often advisable to get some external support.

Design Thinking: heterogeneous teams

Working together to find a solution is what Design Thinking is all about. What makes Design Thinking stand out? You can use this method to solve complex problems in all areas of life. Heterogeneous teams consisting of five to six people are involved in the innovation process. They are also likely to be from various different departments. The more heterogeneous the teams, the more diverse their thinking styles. This is the case, for example, when an engineer, creative and controller have a brainstorming session together. Diversity should definitely be taken into consideration when putting together the teams.

Training in the methodology

In the Design Thinking workshops, the newly-established team receives support from a design thinking coach who has received training in the methodology. The Design Thinking process consists of six phases. Each of the phases is iterative. In a simplified manner, we can summarise them as follows. You develop something and test or observe this thesis or this prototype in practice. Then you go back to the last step with the new findings.

Phase 1: Understanding

The specific problem is defined in phase 1. What problem do we need a solution for? The team members gather as much information as possible and become experts very quickly.

Phase 2: Observing

The newly-established team heads straight to the relevant location and observes the user in their everyday working life there. In this regard, it is important that the observations are made on an unbiased basis. This is one of the specific features which distinguishes Design Thinking from conventional ways of working: the thoughts are always validated in practice.

Phase 3: Defining the perspective

What insights have we gained so far? The findings are grouped.

Phase 4: Coming up with ideas

Everything goes during this brainstorming phase: thoughts light up the room and we give our ideas free rein. Regardless of how crazy, unconventional or unusual they seem to be. Every idea is welcomed as long as it helps the user to carry out their everyday work in a better, safer or more efficient manner.

Phase 5: Developing prototypes

We then construct prototypes using the best ideas.

Phase 6: Testing

In the final phase, we test the prototype which has been developed at the premises on a live basis with the user. This ultimately also leads to a decision on whether the prototype is added to the series or not. Regardless of how much the project team likes the prototype in question, the user is at the centre of the entire process. If the user doesn’t love how the design is used then the problem has not been solved. So you fail at an early stage but you can then return to one of the previous phases and have a rethink.

How can we use Design Thinking for digitalisation processes?

Dr Silke Müller, who is a Design Thinking coach, offers design thinking workshops in which she provides her customers with support on their path to digital transformation. She explains what we need to take into consideration in the field of digitalisation in particular.

“In the field of digitalisation in particular, you should make sure you don’t forget to think about people as individuals. The Design Thinking process places a strong focus on the user. What are the user’s requirements? What do they find difficult? The practicalities of the process are iterative: you observe and record where issues crop up in everyday working life. At a plant, you take a look at how the operators are working, for example… what are they actually doing?

What helps them in their everyday work? Then you develop solutions in the form of prototypes. You demonstrate these to the users and subsequently get their feedback. How is the prototype used in practice? What is easy and what is a bit more difficult? What can we improve? Creating the prototype allows us to test the solution we have developed in practice and, where applicable, fail at an early stage, i.e. before large amounts of money have been invested.”

Failure is fine during the process

Failure is totally fine during the Design Thinking process. You can try out new ways of doing things and go off the beaten track. We create new, innovative solutions by trying things out, applying them, experiencing them and working with them. In the field of digitalisation in particular, there are still lots of unknown variables and a great deal of resentment on the part of the employees. Design Thinking can be a solution for gradually lighting up the darkness and for implementing the opportunities provided by digitalisation, optimising processes and thinking about people as individuals whilst doing so.

Would you like to hold a workshop?

Have you heard enough about the theory? Would you like to hold a Design Thinking workshop at your company? Then register for a workshop on our seminar page now. Ms Müller is already looking forward to meeting you!

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