Design thinking methodology is an approach used by some of the most innovative companies in the world to create products that respond to real customer needs. As defined by Google, the core principles of design thinking are “the 3 Es”: empathy, or understanding your users’ needs, feelings, and motivations; expansive thinking, or brainstorming multiple and ambitious (or “10X”) problem solving approaches; and experimentation, or the process of building and testing prototypes of your product, and then iterating based on the results.
This approach is an important tool for quickly honing in on promising product ideas - and discarding less promising ones. Sometimes, creative concepts can get stuck in the boardroom or fall victim to slow-moving intra-organizational processes and never go anywhere. Other times, teams end up spending lots of time and effort developing a solid idea and creating a product that doesn’t meet customer needs and thus fails to find a market.
By incorporating design thinking into your business practices, you can avoid both of these pitfalls and come up with innovative products that meet the ever-changing needs and expectations of your customers.
Whether you’re an entrepreneur launching a startup, an “intrapreneur” seeking to spark innovation within an established company, or working at a non-profit or government organization trying to keep up with a fast-changing world, the ability to quickly ideate and implement creative solutions is increasingly essential to your success.
Familiarity with design thinking can thus be an invaluable tool to guide strategic thinking for managerial careers of all kinds. Product management professionals in particular need to be familiar with design thinking and user-centric design, as they are directly responsible for ensuring that the product development cycle is both time-efficient and generates successful business outcomes.
Design thinking principles are also closely related to Agile software development methodologies, which many tech companies require for software developers, software engineers, and related roles. Thus, this background can be especially important if you want to pursue a career with tech companies of all sizes, from lean startups to giants like Google or Apple.
Yes, Coursera offers courses and Specializations specifically geared towards design thinking and other skills you need to succeed in today’s innovation economy. Like online courses in other topics, you can attend virtual lectures, study course materials, and complete coursework on a flexible schedule, which is a particularly valuable benefit for entrepreneurs and other professionals hoping to acquire new skills while working at their current jobs - or on their startup.
And, because these courses are delivered by top-ranked institutions around the world, including the University of Virginia, HEC Paris, and the University of Sydney, you don’t have to sacrifice anything in the quality of your education to learn online.
The skills or experience you may already need to have before learning about design thinking are the ability to be patient, disciplined, and methodical while going through the steps of understanding and solving a challenging problem. You may need to have the ability to empathize with the customer whose problem you are working to solve. If you already have the experience of generating creative ideas and brainstorming, you may have the skills necessary to learn the advanced techniques of design thinking. Also, if you have a knack for finding patterns in complex problems, you may have one of the required skills necessary for learning design thinking.
The kind of person who is best suited to learn design thinking will want to fully understand every facet of a problem before jumping right into searching for a solution. They are open to seeing the broader scope or nuanced source of an unmet customer need. Someone who may be well suited to understand design thinking will be flexible and able to rethink the ways to approach and solve a challenging problem. They might also want to break away from the traditional problem-solving processes and master scientifically tested approaches that lead to innovative answers.
Learning the design thinking approach may be right for you if you are passionate about solving problems by generating and testing innovative and breakthrough ideas informed by high-quality customer insights. You may benefit from learning about design thinking if you are an entrepreneur or responsible for the development of novel products or services. Design thinking’s human-centered approach can be valuable for you to learn if you work in a nonprofit organization where you need to serve the public and solve community problems. If you're an executive in any field and you need an effective problem-solving strategy that goes far beyond traditional brainstorming, you might benefit from learning design thinking. If you want to learn how to problem-solve by bringing together business needs, technological opportunities, and the human element, learning design thinking may be perfect for you.
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