We all have problems in our day-to-day activities. We all need to come up with new ways to cope with those problems and find a solution that saves us time and resources. This is similar to those moments when we need to go through the morning traffic to get to work. It is similar to when we are trying to plan our weekend getaways. During this time, we're all designers of our own personal lives. You don't have to be a professional designer to improve your life. However, we can all apply the design principles into every aspect of our lives. One of those principles is design thinking.
Design thinking is not just a process or a magical set of skills that designers use to build new and exciting products. It's a state of mind; a perpetual perception of how the world operates and how we should operate inside it. It is an approach to problem solving. It is a principle that enables you to bend the world and adapt it to our own personal needs.
Design thinking, according to the Nielsen-Norman Group, consists of three major steps to this approach: understand, explore and materialize. We can basically apply this approach in every problem that we are trying to solve.
Asking the right questions at the right time during your projects can put you miles in front of your expectations.
First, we have to understand the problem. What is the nature of that problem? Why do we have that problem?
Next step is to explore ideas. You have to generate ideas and then validate them. As you go through the process of validation, the best idea will sort itself out in many cases.
All you have to do once the idea is validated is to build it, to materialize it.
I apply this principle at work, every day, because it's my job to do it and the result solves problems. I will give you an example. In one of my projects users had to write huge amounts of repetitive information. What was the problem? The users lost precious time. Why did they have that problem? This happened because the software wasn't helping them. Therefore, we came up with an idea: every piece of information that would require repetitive input was to be replicated by the software automatically. We put up a prototype and we tested it. It had very positive results; the users were delighted with the solution. The only thing that was left to do was to build it.
Like I said earlier we can apply this everywhere. For example, you might think your apartment is getting too small for you and your needs. I know this one because I found myself in this situation.
The first thing was to think about the problem. What was the nature of my problem? Well, all the stuff that I got in time occupied a lot of room. Why do I have this problem? This happened because I never wanted to give up some of my stuff and I didn't organize the place so that I could keep it.
I identified the problem, so I started to explore solutions. Only through ideation and constant generation of ideas, can you actually find a solution to your problems. Write down every idea you have. No idea is stupid or crazy until proven so. I had a lot of ideas on how to deal with my problem.
The first one was to move to a bigger place (well doooh!), or to throw stuff out. However, as I was going through the ideas, I realized that I was finding arguments and critical points to almost any of them, except one: to try and design a complete new approach on my place using smart design furniture.
From that point onwards, prototyping was the next step. I started drawing sketches and plans for my new place, trying to figure out the best solution to my problem.
In this phase of the "project", you don't need to go to the users to test your solutions. You are the user. That's the best thing about applying design thinking in your life. You are the designer and the user at the same time. It's like being a designer for an application that designers use to do their work. You can jump around with solutions to your problems right away.
The first item that I needed to shrink in terms of space was the bed. Let's face it, a bed a can take up to 60% of a room. Naturally I felt that this was the place to start. Therefore, I started to work on a pretty cozy couch, with lots of storage compartments which would transform in a folding bed at night. Suddenly, I had space once again, not only to move around but to make extra room with a simple storage compartment. This was the first step in creating a whole new living space, a solution to my daily problem of space and comfort.
We all have and develop needs in our personal lives. Many of the problems we have in our daily activities come from a particular need. If we are able to identify what needs triggers or creates a problem, we can apply the design thinking principles to help us design the best solution.
We can do this with every aspect of our day-to-day life. If you think about it, it's always the small problems, the ones we don't pay attention to right away, which evolve into bigger problems. At some point, that problem will resurface becoming a bigger problem and we have to deal with it.
Now you might say "hey, I do this all the time" or "that's the way I deal with my problems." You're right. We all try to make our lives easier. I want to find new ways of using design thinking and to make it easier to understand, follow and, most importantly, to apply it whenever possible. As I said before, we're the designers of our lives. So naturally, I believe it's useful to learn how to think and act like one.