How to turn design thinking into design doing

Design is about continuously learning and understanding how different things can work together to solve a problem or create something of value. It’s a 1+1=3 process, and when you do it right, the magic happens.

My introduction to this process – which has since laid the foundation for my career – began in the kitchen, of all places. As a teenager, I would try new dishes for my family, mixing and matching ingredients to see what worked and what didn’t. I learned to think on the fly and got used to failing small and fast. My interest in putting ingredients together to bring a culinary vision to life has blossomed into a passion for creating great experiences that offer simple solutions to complex problems through design.

Creating new products, services and technology solutions requires a similar approach to cooking. You think about the needs of the customer, think about how you’re going to sell the product, and wonder if it’s technically feasible and how it will be received. Much like the ingredients in a kitchen, the list of considerations is vast, so how do you know where to start?

About 90% of the design process is centered around understanding the problem you are solving (i.e. why the design should exist), then sorting through all the options and considerations in order to conceptualize the design. Only then is the process of putting those decisions together to create something that has a meaningful impact on the customer.


You might not expect someone raised in rural India with a chemical engineering degree to become a design champion, but an experience early in my career fundamentally changed my thinking. . A collaboration with design company IDEO in 2005, long before iPhones, iPads and the app ecosystem that pioneered the power of design as it relates to user experience, provided me with a more structured understanding of how to approach problem solving using design thinking. .

We regularly think, speak and write about the principles of design-thinking, generally knowing that the best designs put people at the centre. But now it’s time to change those conversations. Rather than just focusing on design thinkingwe need to translate thought into design Do.

To move from reflection to action, my personal and professional experiences have taught me that there are three pillars of design.

1. Separate buyers from users.

Designers need to make sure they empathize with the user. Remember: the person signing the check (the buyer) is often a different person than the person actually using the product.

When it comes to enterprise software, for example, the person who pays for the software has different challenges and motivations than the people who use it every day. The business value of the solution must resonate with the buyer, but the actual experience of the product must empathize with the user.

Putting empathy at the heart of design is not easy. It requires an appreciation of the process, a lot of discipline, and solid market research to ensure that you can advocate for the user and not be limited by buyers’ inputs regarding their perception of user needs.

2. Test early and test often.

Product teams often try to come up with a polished concept before asking for internal feedback. But incorporating changes at a later stage of go-to-market is a much larger undertaking that can add time, cause internal misalignment within the team, and limit the impact a solution can have on the business. ‘user. Instead, the process should include short cycles with rapid and efficient iteration. Designing is using design as a facilitating activity, that is, an activity that focuses on involving a wide range of inner minds to create the best possible outcome.

Although many teams want to do this, the design requires focusing on creating the right kind of culture to make it happen. It needs an environment of psychological safety for the design team and for those providing inputs. I always tell my team that I want to see “ugly prototypes” so they aren’t afraid to show off the design in progress or get input from various parts of the business.

Testing early and testing often also means you’ll avoid macro failure. A hundred micro-failures along the way are always better than a macro-failure at the end.

3. Leverage data to create a rapid feedback loop.

Design is a learning activity, and it’s important for everyone to understand that anything published can be improved with future understanding. That’s why you need to have a constant push on how the design works from a quantitative and qualitative perspective, both of which help inform the next iteration.

Think of regular software updates on our phones. These slight tweaks to features and functionality that we know are based on data-driven feedback loops – modern software products are more like building an ever-changing theme park than a singular release event like a hit movie.

Opening yourself up to feedback from those who use your product on your design will only make you smarter, stronger, and more confident as you move forward.


So how do you know when your final design is ready to ship? It’s important to be “urgently patient” throughout the design process, as it can take time to get there even with fast iterations. However, there will be intermediate milestones and small wins to celebrate if the team regularly engages with customers and users, and learns their likes and dislikes. Still, you should never be done with the design, because that would mean the feedback loop has stopped.

Beyond that, it’s pretty simple. You’ll know your design is successful when people like it and want more, and when you’re proud of it yourself.

Ajeet is the co-founder and executive chairman of ThoughtSpot. Before starting ThoughtSpot, he was co-founder and CPO at Nutanix.

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