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Design Thinking, Leadership

“Define” Pt. 2 Of My Stanford Design Thinking Crash Course

Taking what you were able to unpack with your story maps in the empathy stage, it is time to define the user inspired problem. The ultimate goal of the “Define” stage is:

1. To develop a deep understanding of your users and the design space.

2. To create an actionable point of view (POV) which works as the foundation for brainstorming.

Note that more than simply defining the problem to work on, your POV is your unique design vision that you
crafted based on your discoveries during your empathy work. Here is a really easy tool that the D.School folks showed us which is called a POV Madlib.

On some type of vertical space, recreate 3 columns similar to the above picture. Take the empathy you got from the story map and start headlining:

1. Users: Try to segment your empathy into as many specific users as possible. One specific story could result in many different types of users dependent on how you view them. For example in the challenge we found empathy for at the D.Thinking Hawaii Boot camp, it focused on visitors to Hawai’i. The user wouldn’t just be “A tourist to Hawai’i” but more specifically could be: A strong family oriented grandfather, A seasoned world traveler, A reminiscing  couple traveling back to Hawai’i, etc.  Write down users in the designated column.

2. Needs: One thing to note is that you should try to stay away from highlighting nouns in this section. The reason being is that typically if a need is a noun, it suggests a preloaded solution. Needs need to be connected with some deeper emotion which can inspire a brand new solution.

Look at this photo for example. Take a minute and by observing this photo, what would you say this girl needs?

Now, a lot of peoples initial reactions would be things like a ladder, more books, or even an elastic arm so she can reach the top shelves (maybe not everyone’s initial reaction but at least mine). In those suggested “needs” is already the solution and no innovation is required. Where I would challenge you is to dig deeper to find out why she is reaching for those books in the first place. Maybe her need is “acknowledgement from her student peers that she is a hard worker”, maybe her need is “a strong voice in this world driven by knowledge and education” or maybe its even “more social time with her father through reading books together”. You can feel how much more powerful that inspires you as a designer. Pull these types of needs out of your empathy.

3. Insights (Observation + Intuition): When highlighting insights they shouldn’t  be just reasons for the needs but more so surprising statements which hold the tension of the POV. After writing some insights down, question yourself on if that specific insight actually surprised you, if not, seek something bigger or more challenging to help inspire innovative solutions.

Now that you have broken your empathy into these specific categories try to fill in the blanks to craft a POV. The sentence should flow as such: [Specific User] needs to [ Need] because [ Surprising Insight]. Play around with the sentence and feel free to change out parts of the sentence until you find a strong and sexy POV that you feel can spark some ideation.

Now you have a foundation for your design challenge the next step that you can take towards helping frame the ideation portion of this process is crafting what the D.School calls “How Might We statements”.

“‘How might we’ (HMW) questions are short questions that launch brainstorms. HMWs fall out of your point-of-view statement or design principles as seeds for your ideation. Create a seed that is broad enough that there are a wide range of solutions but narrow enough that the team has some helpful boundaries.” – D.School

Break up your point of view into smaller sections and create a list of HMWs.

Example HMWs:

– HMW empower kids to make travel plans instead of parents?

– HMW make a father feel less overworked?

– HMW get students to be speak up more in classes?

Once you have a solid list, pick one and get ready to brainstorm!

About Joey Aquino

@Joey_Aquino https://joeyaquino.wordpress.com/ http://www.linkedin.com/in/jdaquino


12 thoughts on ““Define” Pt. 2 Of My Stanford Design Thinking Crash Course

  1. it helped me so much

    Posted by brad | April 16, 2014, 2:06 pm
  2. So great if you had the time to write the following 3 steps ;o)

    Posted by René C. Larsen | October 22, 2014, 10:13 pm
  3. I’m really struggling with this. Does anyone know any more examples for this??

    Posted by Eva | March 27, 2015, 10:22 pm
  4. Reblogged this on Agile Pages.

    Posted by groepl | March 10, 2016, 11:27 pm


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