|The Elements of Design Thinking1
Problem definition, with constraints
• Define as precisely as possible the problem to be solved; acknowledge that the “answer” or solution may be unknown.
• Research the problem and its context; be open to all information and multiple perspectives.
• Focus on human needs and aspirations embedded in the problem; approach the problem with empathy.
• Enumerate and articulate known and knowable constraints — economic, physical, social, limitations to available data and skill sets; view constraints as a contextual boundaries but not as limits.
• Enumerate and articulate known and knowable resources.
• Without judgment, brainstorm possible approaches and solutions; engage multiple voices and perspectives, including stakeholders and end users — think like an anthropologist.
• Roughly categorize suggested approaches and solutions, seeking common themes and approaches; resist being bound by apparent constraints.
• Through in-group and expert feedback, refine suggested approaches and solutions.
• Select best possible approaches and solutions; refine into action statements.
Visualization and graphical reasoning
• Based on required research, develop ways to describe the solution in the context of the problem, relating it also to constraints and resource needs.
• Use visual descriptions to articulate process steps and clarify relationships among elements, resources, constraints, and aims.
• Use in-group and expert feedback to revise and refine all aspects of solution and process.
Modeling; approximation and scaling
• Continue research, and solution and process revision.
• Design and build prototypes and scale models of the solution; these may be process narratives of pilot programs.
• Use in-group and expert feedback to revise or refine prototypes in real time; use multiple loops of prototyping and feedback to optimize solution.
• Attend carefully to details.
• If feasible, prototype or pilot multiple solutions, using in-group and expert feedback to revise, refine, and select optimal solutions.
Decision making; dealing with uncertainty
• Implement and monitor all aspects of solution(s) in the field, refining and revising where necessary.
• Compare projected and actual effects of solution, revising and refining.
• Apply and respond to expert and user feedback to optimize.
• Understand and respond to limitations of solution as applied in context.
1. Adapted from “More Innovation in Schools,” by Harry West, CEO, Continuum LLC.