The second step of the Design Thinking process is Define. According to the Stanford D. School, the primary goals of the define stage is “to develop a deep understanding of your users and the design space and, based on that understanding, to come up with an actionable problem statement: your point of view.” In the first stage of Empathy, we already discovered the feelings and needs of the users. Your point of view has to be based on the users’ information. In the define stage, we will analyze everything, refine the data, and identify the real problem.
Solving a problem is often more complicated than we think in advance. There are usually several problems involved, making it challenging to find the right solution. If we only come up with solutions, we always come up with the same kind of solutions, which does not work effectively. We keep reasoning in the same circle all the time because these are easy and safe solutions, and we are afraid to step out of our comfort zone. It is, therefore, convenient to work with two or more persons together because everyone has different thoughts and insights. Someone else looks differently at specific problems, so together we can come to a better idea.
We can compare problems with clouds. If the weather is dull, several clouds merge into each other, and this is most of the time the case with issues too. A bird’s eye view is needed to separate them. Look at the problems, separate them, and define them. After those steps, we will conclude what the overall problem is.
It starts with accepting that the problem exists and that there is a solution but that we do not yet know which solution is the best. By asking questions in the form of “how might we”, we can better define the problem. Questions beginning with words like who, when, what, where, and why are helpful questions because they give us more information about the case. Solutions will soon come up when asking these questions. However, these do not always have to be the best solutions. Don’t rule out ideas; there are no wrong solutions and write down all the possible options so that we don’t forget them. In short, stay open-minded when coming up with solutions. It is useful to make a hypothesis about the best option, for example, can this solution work in these circumstances? After the thesis has been drawn up, we will investigate and assess whether the hypothesis is correct using questions. If the thesis is incorrect, we can still change or adjust it. Then the hypothesis and its correctness are critically examined once more.
By setting the hypothesis and coming up with ideas for solutions, we have discovered the current problem. We have found the causes because we have split the problem into smaller parts. This allows us to choose the best ideas and further develop them. When three or four plans have been worked out, it is time to select the best idea. But how do we know which design works best? We have to think of a lot of factors, which concept would work best in the present? Technology is changing rapidly nowadays, so we have to consider whether it will still be a properly functioning and valuable product in 5 or 10 years. It is difficult to predict what will change in the future. Through looking at previous years and the growth of specific technologies, we can estimate which technology we will have in five years. We have to be more openminded and flexible to changes even when we might not have expected these changes. We have to adapt our designs to this, and not let ourselves be overwhelmed by the changes. We have to make changes in our design as possibilities to make a better product and to learn more as a designer.
I generally think that we should see everything more as opportunities rather than failures. If something goes wrong, it’s okay, as long as you learn from it and try to do better next time. The technology is changing very quickly; it makes sense that we sometimes have ingenious designs that are entirely unnecessary after two years. We have to see the fast movement of technology as a challenge to come up with excellent and longer-term designs to make life better for people, animals, and the environment.
“If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.” Albert Einstein said. Even when this stage seems unnecessary at first, defining a problem is crucial to get the right solution.