Testing the EFFECTIVENESS
of 
Design Thinking

Despite its practical application and growing popularity, Design Thinking is an underresearched phenomenon that still needs further empirical evidence to fully explain the underlying dynamics. Even though the body of literature on product design generally has tremendously grown in the past two decades, systematic assessments of the usefulness of Design Thinking remain scarce.

Given these arguments, one of the most pressing questions is what the impact is of an approach, such as Design Thinking, that puts explicit emphasis on (1) exploring the fuzzy nature of user needs information via empathy and (2) on reducing the unreliable nature of user need information via iterative prototyping.

Exploring the value of NEEDFINDING

The identification of customers’ latent and unarticulated needs is critical for later product development. Recognizing such latent needs can start by identifying and formulating a relevant user problem. Some researchers perceive the initial problem definition as crucial for the whole solution finding process, and some even point to the difficulties of problem formulation due to, e.g., the unavailability of all relevant information. Researchers showed that “better” problem-solvers spend more time on problem definition, forming early, tentative hypotheses to guide their search and reduce their problem to a manageable size, whereas less effective problem-solvers spend most of their time listing solutions and describing the problem as a set of specific causes requiring specific solutions. These findings suggest that resisting the appeal of solving the problem too quickly and instead exploring the "problem space" more deeply can help to find “better” problems and thus better-suited solutions.

We believe that Design Thinking helps us becoming more creative!

However, Design Thinking has become a buzz word and management fad. Therefore, our mission is to contribute to an in-depth understanding of Design Thinking. Built on that profound expertise, we are able to deliver excellent teaching and consulting.

Understanding the MECHANISMS of

Design Thinking

Design Thinking stands in stark contrast to methods that most companies apply at the front-end of the innovation process so far such as, e.g., QFD or conjoint analysis. These rather traditional methods mainly work through asking potential customers for already existing user preferences and therefore presume that customers are able to articulate their needs. In contrast, Design Thinking includes empathic inquiries and qualitative observations to gather the latent needs of customers in search for better problems, and consequently to generate solutions that might be (even) more appropriate. Therefore, we take a closer look at the role of the user experience in design thinking, which we believe strongly contributes to the performance of innovation teams. We hypothesize that a user-experience-driven user inquiry leads to “better” problems and solutions than the traditional, user-preference-driven one.

Understanding 

Design Thinking across CULTURES

The advantage of using Design Thinking depends very much on the cultural background of the people using it or trying to adopt the mindset. This is mainly due to the fact that creativity and creative problem solving generally vary from culture to culture. For example, people who come from a very authoritarian culture with a high power distance find it harder to express their ideas openly. Similarly, it is more difficult for people from a culture with a high degree of uncertainty avoidance to navigate in a free problem and solution space. Against this background, it seems extremely exciting to investigate the effects of Design Thinking in different cultures.

© 2019 Chair of Industrial Management

School of Business, Economics and Society
Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

 

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