Design Thinking is business analysis done the right way.  In this episode, we’ll explore the tools of Design Thinking and how this approach helps ensure you build valuable solutions.


After listening to this episode, you'll understand:

  • What you can do about shelfware and wicked problems
  • How to use common techniques to understand the real problem
  • Why a human centered approach helps you find the right solution
  • The mindset shift needed to adopt a Design Thinking approach

Show Notes

Design Thinking is good business analysis done the right way.  It helps ensure that we build the right things; solutions that will be valuable to our customers.

You can use Design Thinking to solve wicked problems.  Wicked problems are complex problems for which the right solution isn’t immediately clear.

The real problem is shelfware; creating a solution that’s what the customer asked for but isn’t what they really need and therefore goes unused.  We’re often given a solution to implement and fail to explore whether or not it’s the right solution.

Without innovation and a human centered focus, we’ll find it more and more difficult to surprise and delight our customers or provide significant business value.

The Three Lenses

To find the sight solutions for our customers, we need to look at solutions through three lenses.  Those lenses are Business Value, Customer Experience, and Technical Feasibility.

Is it valuable to the business and customers?  Focusing on business value (the ‘Why’) helps to develop solutions that maximize value.  That value can be in the form of income, cost reduction, risk reduction, or anything else important to your customer.

Is it a great customer experience? Without a positive customer experience, we’ll create shelfware or lose customers, which results in less business value.

Is it feasible?  If the proposed solution isn’t technically feasible, you can’t build it (or at least it would take too long or be too expensive).  Consider whether or not your organization has the technical skills, architecture, personnel, and skills needed to build and maintain the solution.

You need all three lenses to create a valuable solution that customers will love.

Design Thinking Process

Design Thinking is more of a mindset than a process.  While there are many tools, techniques, and approaches to Design Thinking and we’ll explore the approach used by the Stanford Design School.

The Stanford approach applies five modes in an iterative process to break things down into the Problem Space and the Solution Space.

The five modes are:

  1. Empathize
  2. Define
  3. Ideate
  4. Prototype
  5. Test


The Problem Space

Use the Empathize Mode to gain a deeper understanding of the customer.  This helps us to better understand pain points and what customers would find valuable.   Here, we can use tools such as Five Whys, Personas, Empathy Maps, interviews, Observation, and Customer Journeys.

In the Define Mode, we define the problem to clarify scope.  Using the outputs from the Empathize Mode, you can define a problem statement or hypothesis.  This allows the team to focus on solving the right problem.


The Solution Space

In the Ideate Mode, you come up with many potential ideas focusing first on quantity and then focusing on quality.  We use divergent thinking to find many possible solutions and then convergent thinking to eliminate, combine, and otherwise reduce the number of potential solutions (essentially brainstorming).

When you move into the Prototype Mode, you build something that customers can react to and provide feedback.  Start with the simplest thing possible such as paper prototypes and then move to move robust prototypes.

In the Test Mode, you provide the prototypes to customers and get their feedback.  That feedback can then be used to adapt, come up with new ideas, or even modify your hypothesis.

These modes occur in an iterative cycle, not linear steps.


Listen to the full episode to learn about the mindset shift necessary to be successful and the techniques you can use in Design Thinking.



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