Design Thinking Modes for Innovation

 Repost from my article in Koran Jakarta, on Innovation & Science column, ed Tuesday, Aug 25th, 2015===============

“Thinking like a designer can transform the way you develop products, services, processes-and even strategy” Tim Brown, CEO and President of IDEO – Innovation & Design Firm

At a market located in Kebayoran residential area – South Jakarta, there were three persons, namely Dina, Yurry and Boy, simultaneously observed and interviewed a respondent. The respondent was a merchant on the bottom floor, which is already more than 10 years of trading there. But in the past year, the market situation turned into a sort of mall without air conditioning that is loved by young people. On the 3rd floor of the market, the young people changing market stalls become like-cafes that offer a variety of foods and beverages that are trendy among them.

The merchant told them since the market became crowded by young people, his trading home-supplies are growing. The young people who opened cafes on the 3rd floor buy supplies and materials from the traders in the lower floor, for their cafe’s cooks. This is certainly beneficial to both parties.

But traders are also lamented. Because the market is getting crowded and many prospective traders are eyeing the empty stalls on the 3rd floor, so the price of the rental or purchase stall increases dramatically. Even the price increase applies to stall trader downstairs.

On the other hand, surrounding local people become annoyed with the increasingly crowded car park of the young people who parked in front of the fence of their houses, because the market is in the midst of a residential area. Besides that, the traders that exist around the market were displaced because their stalls will be built as a parking lot. Until the end of the interview there were some conclusions and ideas to translate the challenge of how to revitalize the social relations between traders in the market, as well as to help increase the comfort of the local surroundings.

Dina, Yurry and Boy terminated the interview and returned to the discussion in MakeDoNia Makerspace to formulate the input and insight gained. They begin to spawn a variety of ideas to better understand the problem and find a solution. With a wide range of equipments and tools provided in Makedonia Makerspace, they began to reconstruct the insights into the sheets and Post-Its to be more clearly seen and recorded. In a great discussion, they agreed to create a prototype of their idea to answer the challenges that have been formulated. A little story above is a real experience of how the Partners in MakeDoNia Makerspace & Innovation Hub running modes or the cycle of Design Thinking.

Modes of Design Thinking

In my previous article, I’ve written 5 modes / mode in Design Thinking which I learned from Bootleg Bootcamp, namely:

  1. Empathize
  2. Define
  3. Ideate
  4. Prototype
  5. Testing


Let us discuss further the fifth mode.


Empathize or empathy is the foundation of Design Thinking. As a Design Thinker we should be able to understand all the feelings, thoughts, complaints, expectations and habits of the people whom we’ll make the design ideas and solutions. Therefore every sense, feeling and thought should be focused and centered to the person, supposing the English term “Putting ourselves into their shoes”. In this stage we can ask anything, to better understand.

How do we empathize? Easy thing we can do are three things: 1) Observe (observed); observe the behavior and habits of the person as what he/she is in his/her environment. Watch how he interacts with the surrounding and how he uses any goods or services that are available to him. We quite simply by paying attention without having to interact with him, we can record it with a camera.

2) Engage (involved); here we can interact by asking or interviewing the person. Previously we have prepared a series of questions with a sense as courious as we may to ask what is done by the person and what he wants. The key is to ask in depth, “Why? Why why?”.

Then 3) Immerse (into the field); here we look at the immediate context and the environment in which people live or work, and how they interact with their environment. Usually we go to her workplace, or her home or a place she does something. Just like Ethnographic studies, Immersion is also doing the same thing. Go directly to the context of the environment makes us understand why she behaved as she did.


Results from empathize mode becomes material for us to define any findings of observation, engagement and field immersion. In this mode we pay attention to every detail of the data and information we found. Then we focus again to the insights, needs, and scope of the challenges faced by the person. Results of this mode is a form of problem statement or formulation of the problems and challenges faced by the person and also what is the scope of the design space of innovation which we will do. In “Define”, we formulate the problem statement as the focus of the problems faced by the person, from our point of view.


If the problem statement has been formulated with a fitting and focus, then the next step we generate a wide range of ideas to address the challenges and meet the needs of the person. In this mode we can think of flaring to the creative process that is as large as possible. Surely, the creative ideas that we can think of to be tune in with the problem statement in the previous “Define” mode. In addition, it is also important to be able to spawn ideas that are unique and original.


Well next, after all sorts of ideas have been thought and recorded properly, it is time to translate these ideas in a more obvious physical or visualization. This is where we make the prototype phase or prototyping. In this mode we focus on ideas which are most likely and best for a prototype we make. Prototype can be in any form, from simple things like images on a sheet of paper, or sketch-style building architect, or up to a more advanced prototype of such a program or computer application. So the prototype is not necessarily good or wrong immediately. The important thing with the prototype can describe the idea that we want and make everyone able to interact with our idea of it.


Prepare our prototype and then try to do a series of tests to the target user we’ve visited or interviewed before. Try to see how people interact with our prototype. Look closely, whether the features that we’ve designed, well received by the person. Or are there things that are or are not in accordance with our expectations when the person using our prototype. Here we note what are the points to increase our prototype so it could be better.

“Fail early to succes sooner” – IDEO

Once we get acquainted with the five modes of the Design Thinking, we get to know the beauty of the modes and pattern of thinking is to be more innovative. When we spawn ideas in the form of visualization there we can equally interact with the target user or members of our group. And it does not matter if the initial prototype that we’ve built, not in accordance with the expectations of potential users. Because we still have room to improve it in iteration that it becomes a solution or finished product that is ready to launch to prospective users.

Design Thinking provides a space for us to fail. Learning from failures, we have to understand why we failed and why we have to fix it. The term is often used by Design Thinker for this is “Fail early, with low cost, to succeed sooner” – quoted from IDEO. Precisely with a variety of failure of ideas, prototypes, testing etc, making our innovative idea to be ready when it is launched.

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