When your company, organization, or community has a big, rather vague problem that threatens your operations and future, how do you go about attempting to solve it?

Enter design thinking, a useful methodology to help you find the solution to complex problems. Depending on who you talk to and what type of design thinking they use, there can be anywhere from three to seven phases of the methodology. In this article, we’ll briefly introduce you to five stages of design thinking.

At its core, however, is human need. Understanding what the need is, reframing the problem in a human-centric way, brainstorm numerous options, and getting down and dirty in prototyping and testing.

Although it was first implemented by designers, the design thinking methodology can also be used by managers, executives, and organization leaders in solving their problems.

Stage 1: Empathy

The main goal of this stage is to understand your customer, client, or end user better. Research their needs. Do whatever you can to be able to stand in their shoes and see things from their perspective. Perhaps even immerse yourself in their physical environment for a while.

Stage 2: Define

Collecting the information you have gathered during the previous phase, now it is time to define the problem. In defining what the problem is, be sure to do so from the customer/client/user’s point of view.

For example, instead of stating this: the company needs to increase NFT sales to gamers by 5% this year, you can state: gamers need a trusted provider of digital asset investments.

Stage 3: Ideation

Once you have your customer’s priority at heart and defined their problem, now you and your team are ready to brainstorm possible solutions. There are numerous individual and group brainstorming techniques you can use from brainwriting, rapid ideation, worst possible idea, etc. Make it fun for your team. Exercise your creativity and imagination!

Stage 4: Prototype

In this phase, you and your team will now create several cost efficient, small scale prototypes to experiment with the product/solution. You can test it internally within the team or have a group of beta testers. Like a chef trying out a new dish.

By the end of the phase, the goal is to have a better idea of whether the solution offered can actually solve the problem or not, and if so, what other kinks need to be worked out, and where new potential problems could arise.

Stage 5: Test

Once you have a prototype you are confident with, now it’s time to try applying it to the problem. Record rigorously whether the user experience is according to what your team had hoped for.

Design thinking is not a linear process. The phases stated above do not always have to happen in that order. Sometimes the knowledge you gather in later phases will help the earlier phases. In conclusion, the phases of design thinking are guidelines for you and your team to solve problems with the user’s needs being at the core of the process.