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The Design Thinking Process

After considering some different methods of research, it is now worth considering some problems that might need to be solved, using the exercise below.
© Torrens University
After considering some different methods of research, it is now worth considering some problems that might need to be solved, using the exercise below.
Keep in mind it’s not expected that you will save the world during this exercise, although we won’t count it out! This is about experiencing and exploring the process for the first time.
With time and practice, hopefully this process will become second nature. And, before you know it, you may well be using a Design Thinking approach in all aspects of life.

Exercise: Define the Problem

Some problems are loosely defined below. Choose one to explore further:
(1)
Vertical shot of lettuce 61% of households throw away one soggy lettuce a week.
(2)
A green and a red apple in a clear plastic bag Re-usable plastic bags may do more harm to the environment than good.
(3)
Three illuminated tents in a forest at night Thousands of tents end up in landfill each year from music festivals.
(4)
Bearded man types on a mobile phone Psychologists warn that we often misunderstand text messages due to the absence of tone, facial expression and emotion.

Exercise: Research

Spend 15 minutes researching one problem from the above selection. Recommended methods of research include:
  • Survey: Ask people around you.
  • Participatory observation: As you are limited on time, rather than going out and taking part now, think back to a time when you have experienced the chosen problem. What led to that decision, what was the outcome?
  • Case Study: Google similar cases and record relevant information.

Tips

  • Be Curious
  • Question everything.
To create something new and innovative, we must question what already exists, why it exists, what is it made of, how it came to be and how it does or doesn’t serve humanity, the environment and the economy.

Ginger cat with head in milk jugLove the Problem

When we think of the word ‘problem’, we instantly think of something negative. We’re wired to avoid problems, right? They’re icky and complicated and we don’t like them. But the flip-side to that is, if we avoid the problem or rush through it, we fall into the trap of not solving it properly. From here on, make a conscious effort to take a ‘problem-loving’ approach. Problems are fun! Each problem holds its own solution, let’s not avoid it, let’s love it!
Unsolved Rubik's cube

Efficiency Bias

We have many cognitive biases as humans and one that pops up at this stage of the design process is Efficiency Bias. This is where our brain likes to take shortcuts based on previous knowledge and assumptions, so we can quickly complete the task at hand. Your brain wants that instant hit of dopamine for solving a problem and now is a good time to observe that urge and suspend the need to solve.
Sign with "Shortcut Hazard" text

Further Define the Problem

Sometimes, when we are given a problem and conduct our research on it, we find that the problem may be slightly different to what we first thought. For example, in regard to the re-usable plastic bag issue, the problem may be that its human behaviour causing more harm to the environment rather than the manufacturing of the bag itself; because we are forgetful and leave our bags at home, thus buying more each time we shop. We would redefine the problem to focus on human behaviour and come up with ideas on how we can intervene at the point of someone leaving their home to go grocery shopping to remind people to take their bags with them.
Hand holding chalk writes on blackboard with Problem to Solution path
If you haven’t already…
Ask yourself the following questions relating to your chosen problem:
Montage of 4 problems regarding soggy lettuce, plastic bag use, tents in landfill and texting communication
(1) 61% of households throw away one soggy lettuce a week.
– Why is it that households are throwing away so much lettuce?
– Are they buying too much too often?
– Are they using the crisper drawer, and, despite its name, does it not keep fruit and vegetables crisp?
(2) Re-usable plastic bags may be doing more harm to the environment than good.
– Why is it that re-usable plastic bags could be doing more harm than good?
– Is it that people are forgetting to take their bags to the store and keep buying more?
– Is it that the properties of this type of plastic use more energy and resources?
– How can we use what we have in our research to build some solutions?
(3) Thousands of tents end up in landfill each year from music festivals.
– Why are people leaving their tents behind after a festival? – What happens to them once they are dumped?
– Why do people buy tents for music festivals?
(4) Psychologists warn that text messages are often misunderstood due to the absence of tone, facial expression and emotion.
– Why is this so common?
– Why do we prefer to text over other forms of communication?
– When does this occur?
– Why do we write so many text messages?
– Why do we need to communicate with more than written words to communicate effectively?
Have you come up with any answers to these questions? What has your research uncovered? Now that you have started the process, what next?
 

Additional resources

Acaroglu, L. (n.d.). Paper beats plastic? How to rethink environmental folklore. Retrieved from https://www.ted.com/talks/leyla\_acaroglu\_paper\_beats\_plastic\_how\_to\_rethink\_environmental\_folklore?language=en](https://www.ted.com/talks/leyla_acaroglu_paper_beats_plastic_how_to_rethink_environmental_folklore?language=en)
Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.
Steve Jobs
© Torrens University
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