Coming up with ideas is very easy, identifying the problem is not

Empathise phase of the design thinking

Coming up with ideas is very easy, identifying the problem is not

(I would recommend giving this a quick read first 8 aspects to be aware of whilst doing Design Thinking)

Most of us, when we hear about a problem, we automatically start thinking about the ways to solve it. These mental solutions stay with us throughout the process of the development of a solution. However, at this point, focus on identifying the problem. Hold your horses right at the start and forcefully ignore the ideas for now.

Empathise - Define - Ideate - Prototype - Test


Be the user:

  • Even if you think you know the user, talk to them. Do what they do. e.g. Arunachalam Murunganatham, commonly known as Pad-man, actually used sanitary pads on himself and artificially introduced blood through a football bladder. Almost for every situation, you can be the user. Want to understand the problems of a cab driver, try carpooling.

Ego management:

  • Managing egos of a teammate, who thinks s/he already knows the user, could be tricky. On many occasions, your teammate may actually be right. Acknowledge that and ask her/him if s/he could share details of the users they have been in touch with, so that you can learn more about them.
  • You could also create a survey and ask you teammate if s/he could spread it around to have more data for future reference.
  • Additionally, write down the pointers that your teammate claims to know and see if you can validate them during your user interviews.

Relationship building:

  • Let the users talk. It is ok if they take more time than expected. Have your questions ready and try to get them answered. Any additional information is always a bonus. You would always need your users throughout different phases of Design thinking. The more you listen, the more are the people invested in what you work on.

A couple of additional pointers:

  • Talk to 6-12 users; above that the answers may become repetitive.
  • Try and identify the stories(need) behind the actions of the users. e.g. I bought a Beetle because I have memories of my father driving me around in a beetle.