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Design Thinking

Design Thinking

Research Methodology

The Research Methodology used in in our Entrepreneurial Research is called the "Validated Business Design Method" which consists of two elements, i.e. a "Design Methodology" (look them through) and Research Methodologies. The Design Methodology that we will be using is called "Design Thinking" (read the article). In each phase of the design process, we will apply the appropriate research methods for that phase. The design method is characterized by a very confusing start leading to more and more focus in the end. 

Example of the design and research process:
Design process
phase 1

Design process
phase 2

Design process
phase 3

Define  (etc.)
Input = assumptions

Strategy, timeline and
for this phase

adjust strategy

Output ph.1 = input ph.2
Input ph.2 = output ph.1

Strategy, timeline and
for this phase

adjust strategy

Output ph.2 = input ph.3
Input ph.3 = output ph.2

Strategy, timeline and
for this phase

adjust strategy

Output ph.3 = input ph.4 etc.

The research results in one phase are going to influence the research strategy for the next phases and sometimes even for the previous phases. New insights will constantly change your view on the business design. It is not possible to reliably predict your research strategy for each design phase in advance. 

For Graduates: You are free to choose your own design methodology and research methodologies, as long as you are able to substantiate your choices.

The principles of the design thinking:

The relevance of Design Thinking as research method for Business Design is based on two very important aspects of the method. First of all, Design Thinking introduces "Empathy" into the equation. Empathy is the ability of the entrepreneur to see things through the eyes of the customer. Secondly, Design Thinking introduces "Creativity" into the equation. It is not enough that you can analyse the problem, you should also be able to come up with a solution to that problem and actually test the acceptance by your customers of that solution.

The Design Thinking method incorporates four basic principles into regular scientific research:

The First principle incorporated in regular science is the "Design Thinking Cycle", which is new to the method. The cycle starts with you, envisioning the lives, dreams and anxieties of your customers. Then you define the problem you want to solve. After that you try to figure out as many solutions to that problem as you can imagine. Then you choose the most likely solution to be successful, you make a prototype of that solution and test its acceptance with your customers. Only after you have found a successful solution, you will invest in executing your business.

The second principle is that of the well known "Short Cycled PDCA". For every action you take, use assumptions to you state the desired output of that action, the path you want to follow (process) and the required input of that action in time, money and other resources. Than you take that action, after which you reflect of the actual input, output and process. Were our assumptions right? Are the results as expected? Can the results be improved? Was the process effective? In short: Learn, adjust, plan again, do again and check again. These cycles can vary from a day to a week each. Do not plan to far ahead, because the assumptions and insights on which your planning is based will probably change several times. 

The third principle, which is also new to the method, is that of the "Innovation Space" model. Tim Brown believes that innovation can only work when the "Technology is Feasible", the "Business is Viable" and the "Value Proposition is Desirable". Especially the Desirable part is a new way of thinking and it connects to the "Empathy" aspect in the Design Thinking Cycle. I advise you to take a careful look at the "Innovation Space" model and see whether you understand all aspects of it.

The forth principle we use in the Design Thinking method is the "Lean Start-up Cycle" by Eric Ries. We incorporate the cycle of Building, Measuring and Learning into our rapid PDCA cycle. Build, measure, learn, build, measure learn, build, measure, learn ... or Prototype, ask customers and pivot ... Its almost like a mantra.

In the end the design effort and research should lead to an "Fact Based or Evidence Based Business Design". The design can have many forms, ranging from a business plan to a company website, but we advise that the design should at least contain a substantiated Value Web, a substantiated Business Model Canvas and a substantiated Value Proposition Canvas.

Watch TED Talk: Tim Brown - "From Design to Design Thinking" (16 min)

The Design Thinking method has seven distinctive steps (slightly adjusted for business design purposes):

  1. Delimit:
    • define customer segments, regionality and nature of business and indicate level of ambition 
  2. Empathize:
    • observe and investigate at random (the Crazy Ant phase) 
    • apply critical thinking to gain understanding of the problem
    • observe to understand the operational environment 
  3. Define:
    • solve the right problem by defining it 
    • define the circumstances under which the problem is worth solving
  4. Ideate:
    • imagine or conceive many solutions to solve the problem 
  5. Prototype:
    • choose the best solution and refine by prototyping 
  6. Test:
    • formulate critical path to success
    • formulate critical assumptions
    • test prototype to check assumptions 
    • repeat step 2 and 3 when necessary 
  7. Execute:
    • When you have a "winner" EXECUTE!
Read HBR article on Design Thinking by Tim Brown:
Watch HBR Expainer video:


Additional Study Materials:

Intro Design Thinking

Tim Brown on Design Thinking


90 minute Crash Course Design Thinking:

by dSchool Stanford University

45 minutes How to do a business design in 5 days (Design Sprint)

Recommended reading: 

The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses Hardcover
by Eric Ries (Author)
510 customer reviews

Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation Hardcover
by Tim Brown (Author)
93 customer reviews

ndw 2014