Design Thinking in Entrepreneurship

Design Thinking in Entrepreneurship

Is design thinking just for designers? Not really!

In the past decade, the design thinking methodology which is sometimes referred to as human-centred design has gained a lot of popularity. In simple terms, applying design thinking puts the customer at the centre of the design process and ensures that new products satisfy the users’ needs.

Originating from Stanford University’s design school or and the renowned design firm Ideo, design thinking is nowadays used by many companies and startups. The importance of utilizing this methodology for new entrepreneurs lies in its unique ability to understand the needs of the customers thus ensuring the creation of meaningful services/products. 

What is design thinking?

Design thinking is a cognitive, non-linear, and iterative process. It is used by big companies and entrepreneurs to tackle problems and deliver solutions that aim to fulfil human-centred needs. The design thinking process requires the designer/entrepreneur/innovator to empathize with the user i.e. the human who will use the product or service.

The design thinking process is composed of 5 stages: Empathize, Define the problem, Ideate, Prototype, and Test. These stages are very iterative instead of sequential. The design thinking methodology works really nicely with the lean startup method and is recommended to be used at the beginning of every entrepreneurial project.

Creativity is intelligence having fun

Step 1: Empathize

The first step in the design thinking process is to understand the users’ pain points and to empathize with them. Immersing yourself in the environment of the users and interviewing them is a must for entrepreneurs seeking to empathize. Using tools like the empathy map will allow a clear understanding of the user’s needs and what influences their thoughts and behaviour. “I do not ask the wounded person how he feels, I myself become the wounded person.” ― Walt Whitman.

an Entrepreneur Empathizing with another person(Design Thinking first step)
The highest form of knowledge is empathy.

Step 2: Define the problem

You can only define the problem that you want to solve through your startup after you have a very good understanding of the users’ pains and gains. The collected data from interviews and other empathy techniques can help pinpoint and define the specific problem at hand. You may identify several problems at this stage, but you have to select just one that is human-centred. Defining a specific problem helps the team come up with a meaningful solution at the next step.

Image Representing Defining the Problem
If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about the solution

Step 3: Ideate

Ideation is the third phase of the design thinking process where the entrepreneur(s) exhaust all ideas in a brainstorming exercise. Creativity and innovation are essential for this phase. Generating an immense quantity of ideas through brainstorming plays a vital role in arriving at the best solution. You can use tools like StormBoard or Google Jamboard to write down the ideas generated during the process. Remember that quantity leads to quality and that there’s no such thing as crazy ideas! Even the worst ideas possible might spur some really good ideas. 

Image Representing Ideation(Design Thinking 3rd Step)
One idea lights a thousand candles.

Step 4: Prototype

This is the stage where the product/solution will take on its first tangible form. Regardless of the type of the solution, a prototype at this phase will be a low-resolution one without any functionality. Prototyping will help bring the solution one step closer to reality and will help the audience better understand the solution in a visual tangible way.

Thus, prototypes should be easy to implement but simultaneously give a good idea of the actual product. The prototyping phase is also an iterative one, starting from a low-fidelity prototype (composed of sketches and pictures) and evolving to a high-fidelity prototype (realistic mock-up).

If a picture is worth 1000 words, a prototype is worth 1000 meetings.

Step 5: Test

The final stage of the process is testing the developed prototype. Testing will help uncover the hidden potential of the product, its effectiveness, and its limitations. Complications that you reveal in the testing phase can be resolved by revisiting earlier phases of the design thinking process. Similar to the design thinking process itself, this step is very iterative where you have to repeat it every time new features are rolled out. This stage serves as an opportunity to reconsider alternative solutions and gain a better understanding of the product and the users.

Entrepreneur Testing his Product
If you don’t like testing your product, most likely your customers won’t like to test it either.

One of the popular examples in design thinking is the case of “Embrace Infant Warmer”.  The case starts with a group of Stanford students enrolled in the “Design for Extreme Affordability” graduate course. Their challenge was to design an extremely affordable infant incubator using the design thinking methodology. In order to empathize, they flew all the way to rural India where the problem of infant mortality was severe. To their surprise, they found that infant incubators at hospitals were empty. Empathizing with nurses, doctors, and most importantly mothers of pre-mature infants, they discovered that the real problem was cultural. Since an affordable incubator wouldn’t solve it, they had to think out of the box and take a leap of faith. Therefore, they changed their design and decided to work on a portable baby warmer that mothers can use at home in rural areas to save their babies from death. 

Design Thinking at Shabab Lab

Through Shabab Lab, youth will use the design thinking process to develop human-centred solutions for the betterment of the world.

Our programs and courses stem from decades of experience in university teaching, community work, and innovation. Above all, we strive to teach the youth to submerge in their communities and develop a sense of belonging.

Shabab Lab is also a network for similar-minded entrepreneurs who are raising their voices against the complications facing our world. Through our platform, the participating youth will form teams to stand up and struggle for the transformation needed.

Through the platform, we aim to equip the youth with problem-solving skills, and an out-of-the-box thinking style. Moreover, Shabab Lab engulfs the youth with state-of-the-art technology by introducing them to various required digital skills. The skills that we cover: Web Development, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, and Virtual Reality.

By signing up to Shabab Lab, you are immersing yourself in a community of like-minded entrepreneurs, change-makers, and team players. In short, you are joining a community of people who are venturing daily to bring about positive change for the world.

To learn more about this case and how to apply design thinking in entrepreneurship, make sure to enrol in the “Design Thinking” course on Shabab Lab.

Design Thinking


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