From the Launchpad - Anjan Shrestha

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From the Launchpad - Anjan Shrestha

Anjan Shrestha is one of the cofounders of Young Innovation Pvt Ltd, a Nepal-based software development firm that focuses on open data and technology solutions for solving global problems. At Young Innovation, Shrestha is currently the vice president of Production Innovation. In his role as a mentor at NEXT Launchpad, Shrestha plans to help startups understand the function of design thinking and its applications for product creation.

This lightly paraphrased version of Shrestha’s interview with VMAG’s Mohit Pradhan encapsulates Shrestha’s insights on how design thinking makes the process of creating a project more efficient and easy. Shrestha talks about his experiences in using user-interface designing and teaching startups how they can use design thinking to create efficient and valuable products.

The meaning of design thinking

Design thinking is a concept brought together from combinations of different ideas used in various work environments, ideas that have been mostly picked up from behaviours of designers and users. This thought-processing method was introduced to the business world by David M Kelley, who founded the company IDEO to help spread the concept among businesses. But what exactly is design thinking as its employed in business settings? We could
say it is a creative strategy used by designers (with the aid of technology) to create viable business products that have been created taking into account opportunities in the market and which provide value to customers. Originally
thought to be a way of thinking that existed outside the business world, design thinking today is used for finding solutions to problems, whether personal or business-related. It is the way of thinking that leads designers
to create the most desirable, cost-efficient product.

The approach to design thinking

There are a series of steps that startups must follow in order to follow design thinking process and stick with the process. Design thinking comprises five major steps: the empathise, define, ideate, prototype and test phases. Before beginning any project, startups must find the problems they want
to tackle. This stage, known as empathise, consists of speaking with customers, clients, observing their actions, and putting yourself in their shoes. By sharing their perspective, designers are able to understand
their customers’ problems. After designers understand how their customers feel, they must find the core problem from all the data they have collected. This core problem must be understood to the best of their abilities
and be defined. With the main problem explained, the designer team must focus on finding solutions and ideas to solve the problem. The whole process of finding answers to the question happens in the ideate stage, and
after this stage comes the prototype stage. The prototype and test stage simply consist of building and testing their solutions. Once all five stages are completed, designers must tackle the flaws of their prototype and continue
working to refine their product.

The practicality afforded by the five stages

The five stages of design thinking are not sequential and steady, and the flexibility allowed among the stages is what makes it work. There is no specific order to these steps, and the path the design process follows can be non-linear, or even parallel. Let us suppose the designers first make a prototype but then get a new idea after analysing the prototype. Design thinking allows them to make their next step the ideate stage so that
they can build a new prototype. So, if new ideas can be derived from the test stage, the ideate stage can again be visited, or if the prototype defines the problem in a new way, then the defining stage can again be visited. The five stages can be shuffled, repeated and revisited several times to create a bigger pool of solutions from which the best solution can be picked. However, the solution stage should happen at a predetermined point because in reality a startups’ resources and time are limited. Furthermore, startups must make
use of the agile management model in order to ensure a more efficient workflow. With agile management, resources can be saved, while the five stages can include more number of trials.

Versatility of design thinking

Any type of business can adopt design thinking, although it is more suitable for certain types of businesses. Businesses that tend to provide products are more suited for making use of design thinking rather than service providers. Let us take a cafe into consideration: cafes provide both services and products. The cafe can put its food or drink item through the empathise, define, ideate, prototype and test stages. Using design thinking, the proprietor or manager can create variations of the food type they serve and create a new food menu or new types of drinks. When it comes to service, the cafe can, at most, bring about changes to the way the staff members behave with customers; as for the long-term changes that can be made to their services, they could create new facilities and features in the restaurant. But customers may disapprove of the changes in the facilities—and to deal with that problem would be difficult for management because it isn’t easy to re-create the restaurant’s old look; but if customers have problems with the food menu, it’s easier to address the issue—since the old food items are likely to have remained on the menu or can be brought back. Hence the trouble for service management in design thinking is that there would be a lot of variables, and the expenses could be really high.

The benefits of design thinking

Design thinking primarily brings the benefit of producing the best product with the least expense; fortunately, the advantages of design thinking don’t end there for startups. Design thinking allows the designing team to start with whatever they have. Whether the team has a prototype or just understands the perspective of clients, the designing team has a place to start their projects from. Not only does design thinking help you start your project quickly, but it also helps you generate results very fast. Google’s design sprint is an excellent example. Within five days, Google collects data about critical business questions, defines the problems, provides solutions, makes a prototype and tests it. In these five days, the team gets realistic data as well as learn about how the product will perform in the market. Besides allowing the developers to focus on improving their products, the major benefit of design thinking is that it allows designers to interact with customers too. Interactions between the customer and designer are vital for delivering the product customers are demanding. For instance, Young Innovation once asked their client to check the software that was still being worked on and learned that the client preferred the software language to be in English, besides Nepali. If Young Innovation had provided the complete software to the client, they would have had to make a series of changes to the software due to this minor problem. This example shows why the requirement of keeping in touch with the client is vital for the design thinking process.

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Guest Tuesday, 30 November 2021