First Stage in Design Thinking: Understand

First stage: Every design thinking process (this is where the overview of the design thinking process begins) starts with the immersion in the problem area. The brain can process 7 ± 2 pieces of information in the short-term memory. This means, it takes awhile for humans to understand a complex problem. But no worries, we can do this much better than computers, as our unconscious mind can collaborate in the meantime and establish already known things, assemble for analogies and rely on familiar principles and competences.

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Why is the first stage in Design Thinking – Understand – important?

The rational work is natural, but crucial for most people. Only if the problem is really understood, it can be solved sustainably. That’s why the first step in Design Thinking is:

  • To discover and understand the connections
  • Who is involved?
  • Which relations matter?
  • What kind of organizational structures are there?
  • What is the history?

Depending on the case, this can be clear in 10 minutes or after 10 days of research.

„If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.“ Albert Einstein

The Most Important Methods for Understanding a Problem in Design Thinking:

  • Mind map
  • Extreme situations
  • Stakeholder analysis
  • Analogies & role models
  • Timeline
  • Semantic analysis

The rational understanding stage if followed by the second stage Empathize (learn more), which illuminates even more the needs and the human factors. After the third stage of the problem area Synthesize (learn more), the successful solution development can begin.

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