First let me say, I would love to understand how others handle this initial stage. Let me share with you what we have learned:
In one of our initial engagements that we applied a design thinking framework, I kept pushing the team to define the business goals of the project.
“We cannot define the challenge until we have learned about the user challenges!”
“But we have to understand the user challenge in context of the business need!”
Round and round and round we went.
When it came time to synthesize the information we researched, the team had so much information -- and it was so disparate -- that it was very difficult to synthesize around one or two distinct challenges. This meant our solutions were spread far and wide and the power of innovation became diluted.
This experience helped us learn to not define a challenge too tightly up front.
Another project our association client came to us with included a well-defined problem/solution statement: “Our members are not engaged, so we need an innovative company to find more digital products to engage them.”
If we had walked into the research phase framing the problem as “find innovative digital solutions to create engagement” we would have missed the mark. Instead, we walked into the research phase with the question “What is happening with non-engaged members?”
We found that the non-engaged member was actually asking for products that the association already had – but those products were not marketed in a way that made them visible to the member.
This realization focused our efforts. It also prevented wasting money on creating “new and innovative “ products that were not necessary.
We learned to understand the broad business challenges:
We learned to use the research to bring clarity and focus to the design space. After the research phase we craft a more meaningful and actionable problem statement from which we can ideate upon.
As Hasso Plattner said in An Introduction to Design Thinking, Process Guide: “It is your chance, and responsibility as a design thinker, to define the challenge you are taking on, based on what you have learned about your user and about the context.”
Our lesson: Understand the business challenges in a broad context. Use what you have learned from your research to create a more explicit expression of the problem you are trying to address.
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