As we move through the post-Corona era whereby our workplaces are forever changed, we can also start to see the emergence of people employing vastly different ways of thinking about their own businesses and how to grow and change. As usual, these new ideas come with some that are better than others.
We can even find ourselves needing to change the practical parts of our business, and not just the holistic. Today however is about the holistic, and design thinking is gaining increasing relevance, so let’s take a look at how it could help you as a freelancer or self-employed person. Firstly, let’s define what design thinking is.
Design thinking is a process and approach to projects that help you create meaningful solutions in your workplace, school or in your community - well, kind of anywhere. Design thinking establishes and contextualises development processes. It is about identifying and finding solutions to real problems, doing research, analysis, idea work, experiments and sometimes even the creation of physical prototypes of things.
With design thinking, the classic design process is applied in new areas. The process generally moves from user-centered, investigative work, to creative idea work and the creation of coarse, simple prototypes that can be tested. There are many variants and descriptions of this design process, with more or fewer steps, and slightly different naming of them. But in general, the basics are the same for the different variants.
An example of a 5 step design thinking process
The process of design thinking is basically broken down into individual steps. Depending on the model, slightly different phases are shown. Overall, however, most models are very similar as mentioned.
For our example, we will use a five-stage design thinking model. For the sake of clarity, the design thinking process is shown as a linear process. However, this is not mandatory, it may well be that individual steps are sometimes brought forward. The feedback steps between the individual phases are important. This means that what has been worked out is constantly checked, rethought and necessarily adapted. Ideally, the design thinking process is never completed but takes place continuously.
Phase 1: Understand
The first phase serves to approach the problem that is to be solved. It's about getting as much and relevant information as possible. The methods used should already focus on customer/clients needs, which can then be used to derive innovation opportunities or strategic measures. Target group-specific personas and customer journey mappings are suitable methods for gaining relevant customer information.
Personas can be formed from empirical data and are used when it comes to characterizing individual customer segments. They give customers a face and help to understand who the customers are, what they need, what they want and what motivates them. Customer journey mappings offer the added value of a clear representation of customer contact with your own products or services.
Places, where there are problems or potential for improvement, can be shown so well. It can also make sense to benchmark your own performance with that of the competition, as you can easily identify the strengths and weaknesses of your own products and services and draw appropriate conclusions from them.
Phase 2: Ideate
Now the customer, company and technology-specific knowledge gained from phase 1 are transferred to relevant ideas. Out-of-the-box thinking is important to generate creative and unconventional ideas that are worth pursuing. But good ideas don't come out of nowhere. They are the result of systematic cooperation. Interdisciplinary teams are ideal for gaining the most diverse ideas. Classic methods that can be used here are brainstorming variants, laddering and elevator pitches - you know, all that cool business stuff.