Design Thinking for Automation: Five Steps to Organizational Benefits

By Scott Burt, VP of Corporate Strategies

The principles of design thinking are perfectly poised to solve business problems because its tenants involve more collaboration around specific issues users encounter.

In a recent webinar covering the business benefits of design thinking, Automation Expert Mike Prentice discussed the ways in which design thinking principles yield successful business results. “This solution has a proven track record,” Prentice said. “If you’re stuck in a problem and don’t know what to do, collaboration is always a good solution. The tools of design thinking better define the issue, offer greater insight into how your users are thinking, and offer solutions beyond what traditional tools can provide.”

What is design thinking?

Design thinking includes five main principles applied directly to your business users:

  1. Empathy

Use an empathy map to help better understand your user. What do they think? Feel? What do they say and what do they do? An empathy map is a collaborative visualization used to articulate what is known about a particular kind of user.

This will help better define the business problem you are solving with a clearer understanding of a user’s needs. “Empathy allows businesses to better immerse themselves into the user experience to see what is working or not working in that process,” Prentice said.

  1. Define

Though there are five main principles, remember that design thinking is non-linear–meaning you may need to rethink what the problem actually is throughout the process. This could be the most difficult piece of the puzzle, so give your team ample time and try to get to the actual issue users are facing. “For example, it is possible to begin the exercise with one business problem in mind, but find users actually have trouble with something completely different,” Prentice said. “Brainstorm as many possible scenarios as possible in this phase.”

  1. Ideate

Collaborate with your coworkers and team on ideas next. “Actual ideation sessions look messy, but they work,” Prentice said. “It’s sticky notes and stickers and just getting every idea out on the table to find the absolute best solution.”

One of design thinking’s main principles is: Great questions lead to great design. Some questions to ask:

  • What are your short- and long-term goals?  
  • How will you define success?
  • Who are the users who will use your solution?
  • What key challenges do you want to focus on most?
  1. Prototype

Once you have some good potential solutions, make a prototype, if possible. See if any of your ideas can be built into working models that could be tested on real users.

  1. Test

User testing is a major component of design thinking. Be sure to plan to have ways to test your prototype or new ideas on actual users. Testing reveals insights that can redefine the problem more accurately.

“The problem can be difficult to understand, and we want our users to be confident in our products, know exactly what the process of completing their task will look like, how long it will take and, ultimately, that it will work,” Prentice said. “In applying design principles directly to our users, we get closer to understanding exactly what the problem is, so we can move closer to solving any issues.”

Why design thinking in automation?

Design thinking is a methodology inspired to generate ideas in regard to a specific problem. Applied to automation, design thinking shifts the focus from individual business actions that accomplish specific tasks to broader strategies that accomplish entire outcomes, resulting in more comprehensive transformation and higher returns.

“Once you start working within a design thinking framework, it’s hard to stop,” Prentice said. “It’s such a useful tool that can be used in all kinds of other processes when the user is at the forefront of the intended solution.”

Ready to start applying design thinking to your business challenges? Get started today with Innovation Discovery’s series of workshops designed to inspire better business solutions.

Interested in applying Design Thinking in your organization?

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