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This content is taken from the Living in Minca & Biji-biji Initiative's online course, Social Innovation: Global Solutions for a Sustainable Future. Join the course to learn more.

Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds Design Thinking is a methodology that provides a solution-based approach to solving problems. It’s extremely useful in tackling complex problems that are ill-defined or unknown, by understanding the human needs involved. Understanding the five stages of Design Thinking will empower you to solve complex problems that occur around us - in our companies, in our countries, and even on the scale of our planet.

Skip to 0 minutes and 38 seconds Let’s explain the five stages: The first stage of this process is to gain an empathic understanding of the problem you are trying to solve. This involves consulting experts to find out more about the area of concern through observing, engaging and empathizing with people to understand their experiences and motivations, as well as immersing yourself in the physical environment so you can gain a deeper, personal understanding of the issues involved. The second stage is where you will analyse your observations and identify the core problems that you and your team have discovered. This is where the definition of the objectives come to place. You will seek to define the problem as a statement in a human-centered manner. The third stage is Ideation.

Skip to 1 minute and 38 seconds During this phase, designers are ready to start generating ideas. You and your team members can start to “think outside the box” to identify new solutions to the problem statement you’ve created, and you can start to look for alternative ways of viewing the problem. There are hundreds of ideation techniques that you can use. Some of them are brainstorming Worst Possible Idea, and SCAMPER. They are used to stimulate free thinking and to expand the problem space. It is important to get as many ideas or problem solutions as possible at the beginning of this Ideation phase. The forth stage is the Prototype one.

Skip to 2 minutes and 24 seconds It is where the design team will produce a number of inexpensive, scaled down versions of the product, and they can investigate the problem solutions generated in the previous stage. Prototypes may be shared and tested within the team itself, in other departments, or with a small group of people outside the design team. This is an experimental phase, and the aim is to identify the best possible solution for each of the problems identified during the first three stages. By the end of this stage, the team will have a better idea of the constraints to the product and the problems that are present, and have a clearer view of how real users will behave, think, and feel when interacting with the end-product.

Skip to 3 minutes and 19 seconds Finally, designers or evaluators rigorously test the complete product using the best solutions identified during this prototyping phase. This is the final stage of the model, but in an iterative process, the results generated are often used to redefine one or more problems and inform the understanding of the users, the conditions of use, how people think, behave, and feel. Even during this phase, alterations and refinements are made in order to rule out problem solutions and derive as deep an understanding of the product and its users as possible.

Design Thinking for Social Innovation

Design thinking is a non-linear, iterative process which seeks to understand users, challenge assumptions, redefine problems and create innovative solutions to prototype and test.

The method consists of 5 phases—Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test and is most useful when you want to tackle problems that are ill-defined or unknown.

Try this technique and share your experience with your fellow learners.

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This video is from the free online course:

Social Innovation: Global Solutions for a Sustainable Future

Living in Minca