Entrepreneurs often start their business with a "good" idea they have that has not been properly vetted by potential customers. As a result, entrepreneurs often invest a great deal of time, effort, and money in building out their idea, only to find that it falls short when facing the “acid test” of the market.
Design Thinking (often referred to as “Human-Centered Design”) is a design/development process that helps you understand your potential customers' real wants and needs – at a deep, often emotional level. It includes an empathy-based learning process followed by radical ideation, rapid prototyping and effective storytelling. The process basics can be taught quickly utilizing the Stanford Design School's (the "D School's") "gift giving" exercise. All materials and instructions for teaching can be found at their website:
In facilitating this exercise dozens of times over the years, I have learned the following things:
I have conducted the exercise as part of a graduate MBA IT course (in one class session), as it helps to introduce the concepts of systems development -- including information requirements gathering, working with customers/end-users, brainstorming and prototyping. I have also conducted it as part of an undergraduate entrepreneurial/innovation course to teach design thinking, and to encourage creativity and innovative thought. Here, I use the exercise to kick off the course and introduce Design Thinking and then use the rest of the semester to more deeply cover the concepts and work on a semester-long design project. I have conducted it in several corporate and community settings to better prepare participants to understand the challenges they face in the community or organization, and to better help them develop their ideas to address the challenges. In all cases, the exercise is fine by itself, or it serves as a primer for follow-on detailed discussions on innovation, ideation, prototyping, business model/canvas development or project kick-off. It is well-received wherever it is conducted.