You can easily spend far more to design the product than it is worth. However, with a good understanding of risk management, situationally appropriate new product design methods, and clear-eyed forecasting, you can make smart investments that will make a positive return across a portfolio of ideas.
By Andrew DiMeo | 6 Minute Read
I had so much fun writing “Design Thinking and Human Centered Design - What’s the Difference?” that I decided it would be fun to take it a little deeper.
I’m compelled to start with a great lesson illustrated in the book, “The Goal” by Eliyahu M. Goldratt. That lesson: If you take the manufacturing process developed by Toyota (better known as the Toyota Production System or TPS), and implement that process in your manufacturing facility - it won’t work. Specificity in process is great for the individual organization but not so great for translating process to another company unless you happen to do the exact same thing, and even then workplace culture among many other unseen factors can hinder successful implementation of copy/pasting.
The Goal masterfully takes you through a wonderful story of a manufacturing manager balancing life and work to save his plant and ultimately save a town. The story serves as a metaphor which teaches a lesson that the Scientific and Socratic methods of thinking are the building blocks for creating a lean and mean manufacturing process, specific to your facility.
In much the same way, a design process can be created by one organization, work great, only to be copied and fail in another organization. The process of design is not a cut and paste activity.
Here’s a fun exercise: in your Google browser (or search engine of choice), type the search term in quotes “Design Process” and then click on the “Images” tab. All of the resulting images are Design Processes and they may all work great… for whoever crafted them. But as mentioned above they aren’t going to fit in just right anywhere but the company they are intended for. Now try these in the image search bar:
“Medical Device Design Process”
“Consumer Product Design Process”
“Engineering Design Process”
Go on and try any industry or area of interest to see what the results look like. Some of the things that I note: within each category, there are themes and there are clear differences within each category and even bigger differences between different categories.
This is all an illustration to say this: There is no one single right design process. Just like there is no one single right production process (of which, TPS is just one, one that works great for Toyota.) And I can’t say it enough: Copying the process doesn’t work.
Processes are indeed critically important. I used to teach Biomedical Engineering Design at NC State. By the time I’d started teaching there I had already started and worked for multiple Medical Device companies, each using a unique design process tailored for their business operations. I didn’t copy any of those processes, but rather, implemented one intended to meet the needs of: 1) teaching new concepts, 2) meeting accreditation criteria, and 3) preparing students for industry, all while following the best practices of Design Thinking. The students got to see examples of dozens of processes, just to make the class aware of them. After that we strictly followed one process, with a caveat: The process we followed was open for improvement.
What we had in the end was a stable process that kept order and efficiency, a process that was relevant to the needs of the class, and a process that was not carved into stone, but was allowed to improve over time by the key stakeholders, the students.
At Trig - We have a process. It’s Explore - Prototype - Build. We use that process to be creative, to be on the same page, to be efficient, and to be true to our core values. It works well because it is relevant for the work we do for the clients we serve. It’s a stable process, but also a process that is undergoing continuous improvement by the team. It’s a process that was built using best practices of Design Thinking and other best practices from Innovation and Human Centered Design.
So, Design Thinking and The Design Process - What’s the difference?
Design Thinking is to The Design Process what Scientific and Socratic methods are to the Toyota Production System as elaborated on in The Goal.
Design Thinking is the underlying philosophy of design. The confusion is this: If you put the term “Design Thinking” into the images search tab on Google you get results that look like processes. A philosophy may be difficult to show in a picture.
Design Thinking is the “mindset” of a Designer.
What is the Mindset of an engineer? I think it’s that of a Problem Solver
What is the Mindset of a scientist? I think it’s that of an Explorer
What is the Mindset of a nurse? To be caring. A firefighter? A public servant. Police/Military? Protecter.
Designers are pragmatic creators, inventors. We come up with something new, non-obvious, and useful (that takes creativity and pragmatism) and that’s the goal for invention.
In summary, my take on this exploration is this:
Design Thinking is a mindset. A mind that is set on creating new and useful things.
The Design Process is a set of steps one follows. It is a collection of steps that are specific to an individual or organization and its unique needs, that have been built to increase the production of invention.
What is the difference between design thinking and human centered design? It’s hard to ignore all the talk around human centered design (HCD) and design thinking these days. A quick google search of those terms, in quotes, reveals a combined 23 million results. Digging into those results, and the opinions on the topic might make a head spin.
We are seeing it already, and we will continue to see it in 2019: a shift from reactive care to prevention. And I’m not so sure “prevention” is strong enough. In 2019 and beyond, it may even be about improving health. When you hear (and I’ve heard it) a 60-something year old say, “I’m in the best shape of my life.” - that’s what I’m talking about. So what are the Health Innovation trends of today, 2019, and beyond?
At Trig, human-centered design is a philosophy put into daily practice. We approach each new product design challenge with the mindset of a student, listening and watching carefully to understand the customer needs and experiences throughout the process. We wonder: How can we make the product or service not only functional and solve an existing problem, but also a joyful experience?
A testable product concept is a clearly illustrated and articulated idea that follows a specific format. The concept illustration provides minimal details to express the product idea such that a customer can understand, believe in, and evaluate the concept. The concept description is persuasion-neutral, but describes the solution, benefit, and reasons why the concept is believable.
Cool hunting is the practice of researching the youth culture in the street or underground scenes in order to predict future or upcoming trends, in the context of design. The term cool hunting has an inherent sociocultural element to it, since it is the current society’s ideals that dictate what is cool and uncool, the zeitgeist, or the “spirit of the times”.
Design Thinking has generated a lot of momentum through mentions in the Harvard Business Review and Forbes. A majority of corporations operate analytically and can be disrupted by trends that sometimes renders businesses obsolete, you must create a culture that fosters creativity, methods that promote innovation, and the tools that designers utilize can be perfect in the effort to avoid these pitfalls.