May 20, 2020 | 3 min read

Why Every Project Should Start with a Design Thinking Phase

By: Caitlin Whitworth

Why Every Project Should Start with a Design Thinking Phase

Taking on new projects, such as building an enterprise portal, doing a website redesign, or upgrading software or systems, can be risky business. They require a significant investment of time, money, and resources, and the returns can be elusive. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. Implementing a design thinking phase at the start of your project is a great way to ensure a successful outcome.

What is Design Thinking?

“Design thinking is an iterative process in which we seek to understand the user, challenge assumptions, and redefine problems in an attempt to identify alternative strategies and solutions that might not be instantly apparent with our initial level of understanding. At the same time, design thinking provides a solution-based approach to solving problems – it’s a way of thinking and working as well as a collection of hands-on methods.” Rikke Friis Dam and Teo Y Siang, Interaction Design Foundation (Follow them on LinkedIn.)

Incorporating design thinking processes helps leaders visualize potential challenges and obstacles they may encounter when problem-solving or developing strategic plans. Using this methodology, they can quickly gain clarity on longstanding problems, innovate big ideas, and develop actionable strategies.

How Does This Apply to You?

The design thinking phase helps clearly define project requirements that can be so elusive. When starting a new project, it helps:

  • Clarify what your team is really looking for.
  • Get to the root of an issue.
  • Better understand processes and objectives.

Participating in this exercise lays the groundwork for a path to success, and highlights roadmap items that you can address in the future.

When stakeholders from all different departments participate in the design thinking process, their feedback brings attention to immediate business needs and impacts. This collaboration is incredibly important to ensure teams build something that fits the need, rather than finding out later that the real problem was never solved.

How Does It Work?

Design thinking can take many forms, but it usually includes a workshop to bring all the stakeholders together. Sessions are set up to best address the need and can be broken down into smaller break-outs or organized to create design sprints. If you’re not sure where to start, check out these articles on how to conduct an effective design thinking workshop or a design sprint.

Remote Design Thinking

Design thinking sessions can be conducted remotely using video conferencing software, such as Microsoft Teams or Zoom, and a remote collaboration tool, such as Mural. Mural is great for remote whiteboarding and helps remote teams elicit participation and feedback from all members.

Adding design thinking to your project will help flesh out big ideas, figure out where to go next with your product to best fit client needs, or help get the next project to land. Reach out if you need help facilitating design thinking exercises for your organization.

About Caitlin Whitworth

Caitlin graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Marketing from the University of Missouri. She also has her MBA in Business Administration from Missouri State University and is a Certified Scrum Product Owner, CSPO.