If there were no problems, we wouldn’t need leaders.
As a leader, one of your major jobs is to solve the problems and challenges around you. You need to become the visionary who is able to find the best possible solutions in a cost-effective manner.
The New Problem Solver
Solving problems requires creative and non-restrictive methods of thinking. The same old approaches don’t work mostly because the times are new and the challenges are new. An innovative approach to problem-solving is the need of the hour.
This is where design thinking steps in.
Design thinking is a human-centric approach to problem-solving. You can even call it an empathetic approach towards solutions because it ultimately has the consumer/end user at the heart of it. Design thinking is applied by making sure that we create solutions closely aligned to problems. This is especially effective when the problems are less defined, and are less structured, or for ongoing problems that have remained unsolved for a long time.
Here are five steps that we can use to understand and solve problems using design thinking:
Put yourself in the stakeholder’s or the customer’s shoes and walk for a while to understand the context. It is important that you know what the end user is feeling to clearly understand the depth of the problem. Thinking from the end user’s point of view also helps to envision a solution that is suited to them and is aligned with their thinking.
An important part of problem-solving is to truly understand what the problem is. If you follow a step-by-step approach to it, it cuts down the process in a simple manner.
First, state the problem. What is it? Can you define it in a sentence so that it captures all the attributes of it?
Now, look at all the different attributes of that problem. What caused it? How is it affecting its associated people and factors?
Finally, quantify the problem. Assess its intensity. How big is it? How much does it affect others? What is its reach?
This is where you create brand new ideas. It is always better to have more minds on the matter than just one. You can be an inclusive leader and have a brainstorming session as a team. This will give you a pool of ideas, sometimes from people who you least expected would contribute.
From the pool of ideas generated in the brainstorming session, shortlist the best solutions. Analyze them, pick the best one, and get into a prototype. Here, you put together a barebone solution, which is not only going to work but will also help you test it out.
In the last step, we test out the prototype once it is ready. If the prototype works, we go ahead, implement, and scale that solution. Sometimes the prototype may need some changes. Go back and make the required changes. This might be a cycle in some scenarios, especially tough problems. It is crucial to get the changes done to your prototype and test it again to finetune it the best way you could.
Now here’s a very important fact – design thinking is not a linear process. It doesn’t go from step one through five all the time. That is, these steps don’t need to happen in the exact same sequence every time. Any of these steps can lead us to more insights about other steps.
Design thinking can help you understand the problem-space better and define solutions that are more aligned to the problem while creating more sustainable solutions.