There has been an increased demand for design thinking in businesses over the last few years. I have run dozens of workshops, face-to-face and now virtual, on design thinking and how to apply it. Design thinking is creative problem solving with empathy at its heart to join the dots between providers and suppliers. It has five key stages: Empathise, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test. The key to design thinking, as opposed to other similar and overlapping methodologies, is the emphasis on empathy with the end user/consumer/customer. What do they really need, want and expect?
In the current situation of COVID-19, empathising has never been more important, but it has also never been more difficult. How do you anticipate what will be the needs, wants and expectations of your audience in the so-called ‘new normal’?
This is where design fiction can help as it is more suited to the unpredictable future that we all face. Design fiction is a design practice that overlaps with design thinking, but explores not just future products and services, but also the context in which they might exist. It is much better suited to the times in which we find ourselves, as can be shown by looking at the 5 stages of design thinking:
In writing my future fiction novel, Blinky’s Law, I had a lot of fun imagining a society in a longer term future. Within its pages are new ideas about how we might interact with the world around us when emerging technologies have played out - such as motavatars, personalised time and super-smart fridges. The ideas are not the focus of the book, they form part of the background to the story. The same should be true when imagining a nearer future. With design fiction, the newly designed thing or process should be seen in its overall context not just plonked into our current reality, otherwise it could just turn out to be another shiny gadget or fad.
Design fiction will help us make the right decisions today that will play out in the uncertain tomorrow.
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