A Manual for Innovation

By Adam Fard - Lead Product Designer

You can read the part 1 here: Design Thinking Demystified: Business Models.

Having seen the ways we can use design thinking to create innovative business models, let’s now determine how we can use it to come up with new products and services. It all comes down to the following five steps:

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In this step, the goal is to show empathy, or to get into somebody else’s shoes to develop a fresh or new outlook of things. To make use of this process fully, you can use three steps:

1. Interviews

This involves having interactions with the customers, getting an idea of their workflow, their environment, and their challenges, as well as what they hope to gain from a product or service.

When conducting interviews, establish a rapport, or a strong connection, with your interviewee. Try not to influence their answers. Also, seek stories from them, as these are a gold mine for valuable information. Another tip is to give the user time to think after you ask a question. Even if it leads to silence and awkwardness, don’t cut them short or try to influence them.

Finally, opt for quality over quantity. This means dealing with fewer interviewees but handpicking people who will represent various audiences that will use your product or service.

2. Observation

Another way of getting into the shoes of the user is by observing. Give the user a task and then sit back to watch. This greatly complements interviews.

For example, you might ask a user, “Do you find it difficult buying books on our online bookstore?” And they will probably answer, “No, it’s a piece of cake.” However, if you actually observe that person making a purchase, you can identify any struggles they encounter along the way.

3. Experience

This entails using the product your customer uses, be it yours or your competitor’s. This will give you a front-row seat to seeing their challenges or what they cherish.


Once you are through with the empathy phase, you should go back to the whiteboard, take a fresh look at the initial design, and try re-defining the problem.

When re-designing, take into consideration the needs and insights of the user. The needs include their emotions and the depth to which they interact with your product or service. Insights, on the other hand, are the surprises you encounter in the first phase, the findings from the interviews and observations, as well as information that may have contradicted what you formally knew. All these should be part of the solution.



After going through the first two stages, the third stage involves putting brains to work. It narrows down to two sections:

1. Diverge

In this stage, your team gets together to generate ideas without judging one another. Focus on quantity. This will prevent you from settling on obvious solutions and cause you to venture into the unknown, which harbors innovation.

A few rules by which you might want to abide include: having only one person speak at a time, being visual, staying on topic, encouraging wild ideas, and building on other people’s ideas.

2. Converge

In this stage, choose from the wide array of ideas, the ones you would like to work on. The ideas that get voted on the most are the ones you go with.


A prototype translates the idea into something visible or something that can be experimented on. It provides the opportunity to fall down and get back on your feet. It is, in fact, less costly to fail in the initial stages as opposed to failing later after many resources have been rolled out. Prototypes are also an opportunity to learn, settle conflicting ideas, and manage the process.


The final stage involves testing the prototypes on real people. Through testing, we get to refine the prototypes, as well as the solutions. We also learn more about the user, their needs and insights.

When testing, give the users time to tinker with the prototypes while you watch and listen. If you can manage to make small tweaks, do so and then test again. Lastly, don’t hold onto your ideas.

This has been a guide on what you need to know about design thinking. Incorporate it into your business and you will reap benefits.