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From problem to prototype – why more and more people are turning to design thinking

“The method is about first understanding a problem very well, learning and finding out as much as possible about it and then working on the solution,” says Prof. Dr. Oliver Mauroner. This refers to design thinking, an innovation method that is based on the way designers work and is open-ended.

The focus of design thinking is on people’s needs, wishes and behavior. Companies such as IKEA and Deutsche Bahn have already worked with it. But why is this method becoming increasingly popular? “Because it works well,” says Prof. Dr. Mauroner. And further:

‘It gives us a framework and therefore a clear structure. And at the same time, it is flexible enough to apply different creativity techniques. What exactly happens depends very much on the situation, the specific problem and the group.”

Prof. Dr. Oliver Mauroner
Prof. Dr. Oliver Mauroner Portraitbild
Prof. Dr. Oliver Mauroner; Photo: Hof University of Applied Sciences

Customer orientation and observing users as closely as possible are the top priorities. The next step is to get to the heart of the insights gained, for example with stakeholder maps, interaction diagrams or the creation of personas, to name just a few of the techniques that can be used in design thinking.

Design thinking questions existing structures and changes them, i.e. a group of around five people looks for possible solutions in order to develop a prototype – whereby the possible solution does not have to be the final result. At the end, the question arises: “Should we change anything else if the prototype has already worked quite well? And: Should we ask more people?” explains the professor from the field of technology-oriented innovation and start-up management.

How long you should plan for design thinking

The method often takes place as a workshop format. In terms of duration, design thinking can be used within an hour, but also within a week, as with the Ideation Week where you can try out the method on campus. During Ideation Week, prototypes are developed with a very specific problem in mind.

Nevertheless, it is not always easy to apply design thinking, says Prof. Mauroner, one of the organizers of Ideation Week:

“In real life, it can be very challenging to give enough space to understanding the problem and not immediately look for a solution idea.”

Prof. Dr. Oliver Mauroner

The next Ideation Week will take place in the summer semester of 2024.

Do you want to rethink, need inspiration and want to learn new methods to develop your ideas further? You can find an overview of other Startuplab workshop formats and lectures here

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