Design Thinking appears to be “the great differentiator” for many consulting firms at the moment (the only problem is if everyone is using it as a differentiator, then is it really a differentiator?). Having said that, the principles of Design Thinking do highlight a couple of important steps that I’ve found to be lacking in many OSS design / architecture deliveries.
First, a Design Thinking recap courtesy of Stanford’s dschool.
EMPATHIZE: Work to fully understand the experience of the user for whom you are designing. Do this through observation, interaction, and immersing yourself in their experiences.
DEFINE: Process and synthesize the findings from your empathy work in order to form a user point of view that you will address with your design.
IDEATE: Explore a wide variety of possible solutions through generating a large quantity of diverse possible solutions, allowing you to step beyond the obvious and explore a range of ideas.
PROTOTYPE: Transform your ideas into a physical form so that you can experience and interact with them and, in the process, learn and develop more empathy.
TEST: Try out high-resolution products and use observations and feedback to refine prototypes, learn more about the user, and refine your original point of view
The key differences with this approach compared with most (in my experience):
- The emphathise stage – As highly experienced ICT / OSS experts, we can have the tendency of “knowing” what the customer wants where knowing actually equals assuming. I refer to it as the immersion phase, but empathy is probably a better description of understanding the customer
- The ideate / prototype / test stage – Due to the time constraints weighing heavily on all OSS teams (or at least in every OSS environment I’ve ever worked in), the first prototype quickly evolves into the production solution in most cases. We don’t tend to be given the time to trial and refine multiple iterations / prototypes. If the first one performs the task, perhaps no matter how inefficiently, that tends to suffice and we move on to the next challenge. Perhaps later releases iron out the kinks. But that’s not the ideal at all is it?
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