The 5 stages of Design Thinking, or how to come up with the ideal solution

4 minutes

Design thinking is the methodology that will help you find brilliant and innovative solutions to any problem. Sounds good, right?

In order to apply this approach effectively in tools like Genially, first you need to know the 5 stages of design thinking. We’ll also leave you with some practical advice to get you started. Let’s go! 

What are the 5 stages of the design thinking approach?

The 5 stages of design thinking are: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test.

There are different ways of applying this approach. In general, it is an iterative process which feeds back into itself, with the aim of perfecting the solution achieved. It means working on the opportunities for improvement detected in the final stage, that of testing, and beginning the process once again.

But beware! It’s not an exact science, and the steps aren’t always in order. Some teams may omit or modify a step according to the particular project’s needs, or even carry out the steps in parallel.

You can do the same, and adapt the methodology to make it work best for you. You can consider each stage as a step towards the final solution; a contribution to your project.

Understanding the 5 stages of design thinking will help you find the most suitable way to apply it to your project. Here they are:

1. Empathize

The first stage is all about researching and understanding the problem that you’re looking to solve. The keys are listening and empathizing. When you focus your attention on your audience and you concern yourself with meeting their needs, you’ll be able to find innovative solutions that really impact their lives.

It is a good idea for the people that the solution is aimed at to participate in the creative project, especially in this first stage and in the final testing stage.

That way not only do you foster empathy, but you also reduce resistance to innovation. People will feel they are part of the process and will be more likely to support the proposed solutions.

To strengthen empathy, observe, get involved, and consider their motivations and expectations. Empathy maps are very useful in this stage.


Empathy map

2. Define

Now it’s time to focus on the problem. By analyzing the information and observations gathered in the first stage, you can define the problem and start to come up with ways to solve it, by also defining an objective.

If the people who are going to benefit from the solution are not involved in the project, it’s advisable to create archetypes or profiles to represent them, describe their behavior, and humanize the process.

This stage is vital for inspiring you to look for solutions and address the problem in an actionable way. You can use moodboards, positioning maps, or mind maps to help you.


Brain mindmap

3. Ideate

This stage consists of generating multiple ideas; as many as you can think of. That way you’ll have a selection to choose from. Draw upon all your creativity and innovative abilities. You’ll be needing them. Here, the key is to look for new alternatives and new solutions to the same old problems.

The most useful techniques for this are brainstorming or sticky notes for jotting down ideas. You can do this on paper or digitally.

For example, if your objective is to design a product, you need to create outlines before prototypes, highlighting the solutions that each one proposes, and demonstrating the value of each idea.



4. Prototype

Creating prototypes is bringing ideas to life. Prototypes are an intermediary step, prior to the definitive solution. Experiment with ideas, invent, construct, communicate, and identify options.

The important thing here is not to focus on validating, but rather on experimenting in the least costly way possible.

For a quick and experimental prototype stage, simple and intuitive tools like Genially can be a big help. Mockups, infographics, presentations, and video presentations will help you to communicate your ideas.


Tech product card

5. Test

The time has come to see how your solutions work. Staging is key in this stage. Generate immersive experiences in the context in which your solutions are going to be used, or at least in an environment that’s as similar as possible, in order to help people understand the solution you’re proposing.

You can request feedback on your prototypes from your own team as well as from those you designed it for. This can give you very valuable information to help you polish them, or even a new focus which could prompt you to begin the iterative process of design thinking once more.

In this stage, interviews or tests are carried out in order to evaluate the proposed solution. Team dynamics are also used, such as with focus groups.Remember that the best solutions appear when you focus on experimenting and exploring options, rather than striving for quick results. Ah, and it doesn’t matter how long things have been the way they are, it’s never too late to innovate. And enjoy the process!

Natalia De la Peña Frade
Natalia De la Peña Frade
Content creator: I try to write things you like to read

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