Innovation is about seeking creative solutions to challenging problems. In the world of business, creativity is not only about being novel and original, but also about being useful to the end-user. Does the solution solve a user problem effectively and efficiently? Does it address a customer need? Does it do a job for the consumer, a job that needs to be done? In this course, we will learn about the process and tools of design thinking that can help us to understand and define consumer problems, generate ideas to solve these problems, develop concepts and prototype solutions, and experiment and tweak these solutions.
What is design thinking? In the words of Tim Brown of IDEA: “Put simply, [design thinking] is a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.” More concretely, design thinking usually refers to:
- A human-centered approach to solving problems, and
- Using an iterative process to arriving at a better solution.
Human-centered refers to focusing on real people’s (usually customer’s) needs and problems—as opposed to focusing on the problems of a demographic group or a segment. We will use methods such as observation and depth-interviews with real, individual consumers and develop products/services based on the insights we generate on the basis of interactions with these consumers. This emphasis on observation and interaction rather than surveys recognizes that we don’t usually know what would solve our challenges and disappointments, and are therefore are at a loss to articulate it.
An iterative process refers to the notion that a solution need not be complete and elegant. Rather, design thinking focuses on building somewhat rough product prototypes that are based on deep customer understanding of “jobs to be done.” These prototypes are tested soon and often and constantly evolve. Experimentation plays a big role in testing and refining potential solutions.
So, to summarize, design thinking is a creative and systematic approach for solving problems by relying on human-centered and iterative processes.
Meyer Feldberg Professor of Business
Gita V. Johar (PhD NYU 1993; MBA Indian Institute of Management Calcutta 1985) has been on the faculty of Columbia Business School since 1992 and is currently the Meyer Feldberg Professor of Business. She served as the school’s inaugural Vice Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion from 2019 to 2021, Faculty Director of Online Initiatives from 2014 to 2017, Senior Vice Dean from 2011 to 2014, and as the inaugural...