How I Use the Design Thinking Process in My Entrepreneurial Journey

Starting something on your own is incredibly hard, and it's a constant learning process. I've been exploring how design thinking principles apply to entrepreneurship, using my decade of design experience to navigate the challenges and uncertainties.
Written by
Wyatt
Published on
June 23, 2024

Starting something on your own is incredibly hard, and it's a constant learning process. Much of my day is spent trying to figure out the right things to work on, the best use of my time, and whether what I’m doing really matters.

I often find myself battling internal doubts, but that’s a story for another time.

I frequently wonder how to monetize my efforts and if I'm addressing a significant problem that people truly need a solution for.

This constant state of uncertainty led me to take a step back and think about how I can use my decade of design experience as a founder. I've been exploring how design thinking principles apply to entrepreneurship.

Here are the six stages of design thinking:

1. Empathize

2. Define

3. Ideate

4. Prototype

5. Test

6. Implement

Here's how I see these stages applying to business and entrepreneurship:


Empathize:


Listening to the market and people is crucial. Many businesses fail because they don't understand their target users' biggest pain points or connect with them emotionally. I’ve been trying to better understand email marketers by talking with them, learning what takes up a lot of their time, and identifying what frustrates them the most. This helps me understand the emotional drivers behind their purchasing decisions.

Define:

After understanding what makes people tick, I try to create a clear problem statement that can be translated into business goals. I often write these as "how might we" questions, since everything is an assumption in the early days.



For example:

Problem Statement: Early-career email marketers find it challenging to come up with impactful content and design ideas, and to stay ahead of industry trends.

How Might We: Provide a place for email marketers to get content and design ideas while understanding industry trends, so they can save time and create successful marketing campaigns.

Ideate:

Challenge the defined problems and think outside the box. Consider how you might question the problem or assumptions. For instance, assumptions that challenge the above could be:

- Marketers need help reducing noise to create effective campaigns faster.

- Competitive research is time-consuming and frustrating, so a tool that streamlines this would be valuable.

Prototype:

Create concepts without spending too much time. I develop test concepts to see if my assumptions are on the right track. I keep these prototypes lightweight. If you don’t have design skills or a budget for a designer, you can create a guided questionnaire to test your ideas. If you need to design help feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn and we can chat about your design needs.

Test:

This stage is straightforward. Test your solutions and assumptions. I present design concepts to people and see how they respond without leading questions. I ask for their first impressions and encourage honest feedback. Previously, I showed only one concept per call, but now I plan to show multiple concepts to get more comprehensive feedback. Listen more than you talk.

If you’re testing without designs, ask questions around your assumptions to see if any are correct and if people are actually looking for your solutions. If things fail and you gain a new understanding of what users want, go back to ideating, prototyping, and testing.

Implement:

Once you’ve received feedback and have a solid direction, you can implement and track its impact. Early on, I didn’t spend enough time truly understanding my users' pain points, which led to implementing features that nobody used. Now, I focus more on ensuring that what I develop truly solves a problem for my users and has a business impact.

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