Willem Mees van der Bijl

"As a product developer, I feel privileged to be surrounded by people who love to create solutions that will make a difference"

IDE Connect event - National Innovation Centre, Australian Technology Park

IDE Connect event - National Innovation Centre, Australian Technology Park

As a product developer, I feel privileged to be surrounded by people who love to create solutions that will make a difference. Sometimes we are working on the most incredible innovations, without realising how special this is and sometimes even without knowing how we do what we do. During the ide Connect event called “Reframing” on 21 May 2014, we took the time to think, share and discuss how designers think when realising innovations and how powerful this “Design Thinking” can be. This blog supports the slides used during the ide Connect event. To view the slides, click here.

Design methods and tools can help us develop successful innovations. But sometimes these flowcharts or step-by-step approaches do not reflect the way we really work or think. For example, when developing medical devices, for the sake of clarity and rigidity, development professionals use stage gate approaches that start with the User Needs, then translate these into Design Inputs and then the team can start designing. The design stage will then result into Design Output that can then be verified against the Design Inputs. The final Device will be validated against the User Needs. Although this approach ensures that the new solution is thoroughly verified and validated before it is introduced to users, it does not reflect how designers really think.

Typically, a design team develops an increasing understanding of the user, the product, the use-product interaction and the context in which this takes place, all at the same pace. In other words: the understanding of the design challenge and the understanding of what the answer to this challenge is, are being developed simultaneously. In order to combine this Design Thinking with a safe and robust process needed for Medical Device development it is important to become conscious of these two mechanisms. At ide we have captured this consciousness in our design philosophy of Discover- Develop - Deliver.
Being a designer, it can be confusing when other people are talking about Design Thinking. Since 2005 Design Thinking has become increasingly popular. During last years’ VIVID festival it was a hot topic at the “design as strategy” forum, where large corporations like Deloitte and WestPac marvelled about this new way of innovating.  But some already say that Design Thinking has lost its momentum and the hype is over.
This may be true if your definition of Design Thinking is limited to the use of a couple of tools that help you single out a user-need and create some “out of the box” ideas to address this need. But to me, design Thinking is more than using tools or a process.

In 2000 I used the ViP method to “reframe” the way we design for children with disabilities. (see: ViP model, Hekkert and Van Dijk (1999) Creating a new “Vision” by “Deconstructing”). This method helped me understand why, how and what shaped the way children with and without disabilities play. And it not only helped me understand but it also allowed me to create a new frame, a future world where things would be different! This process of “reframing” illustrates clearly how Designers think when creating solutions. By starting to understand WHAT products are out there, and HOW they behave in user interaction we learn more about WHY these products were developed in the first place.
Then we can take a step back and “deconstruct” this understanding. By doing so, it allows us to use these building blocks of knowledge an understanding to create a new WHY. This is the “difference” we want to make. The new WHY allows us to create a reframed view on HOW the user interaction should be. Through this frame we can see new solutions that support this new interaction. Very often these solutions can be products or services. They embody WHAT needs to be created to make the difference possible.

During the night I was thrilled to see that there was so much energy and drive to create real innovations and make a difference. In my opinion we can multiply this energy by learning, sharing and connecting even more. I look forward to the next event!

Erin Evanochko