Design Thinking and Agile: Two Mindsets?

Design Thinking is a new paradigm gaining momentum in the way we create and build products. Its in a simple way , its a process on how we explore the problems and solutions. More or less, its a effective way to understand a customer’s needs, and involves finding out “why” the customers do what they do and then thinking out of the box or coming up with ideas that might be the solution that a customers will love.

So how design thinking is intervened in agile. Are they two different concepts or they are part of the same continuum. Where design thinking is exploring and developing the customer understanding of ‘why’ , agile is the next step to ideate and test the solution with small incremental builds and releases.

Design Thinking has 5 phases or principles and they are key to the implementation and in that order. These 5 key phases — and principles are:

1) Empathize: The first phase is to think like a customer or target market or an audience.

2) Define: Define customers needs, any problem they might have and how you visualize the problem based on your understandings. It could be a problem statement or a challenge that the customer is facing.

3) Ideate : Ideate with brainstorming sessions or create ideas with innovative solutions

4) Prototype: Create a working Model, Prototype or do a POC and start creating solutions. Demo, show to the customer to get the feedback

5) Test: Finally , Test these solutions from the feedback and create a Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

The next step is how to deliver the unique ideated solutions to the market, this is where the agile paradigm starts. The Agile project works by dividing the large project into smaller bits, delivering quickly, adapting to change on the real-time customer feedback. The similarities between the design thinking and Agile (Scrum if chosen) is the same iterative process. Also both emphasize people over processes. The team can start with design thinking by embedding it into Sprint 0. But before that can we have a design Sprint?


Design Sprint: Design sprints entails the Product Owners with UX Designer talk directly with customers and visualize the step to solve their problems. This means engaging customers in dialog and create light-weight designs that the project team can use once they get into formal development process

Sprint 0: The UX Designer owns this and defines the problem statement holistically and charts a design framework. Before the coding begins, s/he creates design patterns for the common problems, it could be templates or user flow. These design pattern should help in consistent user experience.

The team next follows the sprint cycles as decided by the Scrum team

Team Structure:

Create Cross-functional teams : Create a team that is a mix of user experience designers, developers and testers. As far as possible these teams should be co-located or try to leverage teams those are co-located in various geographies.

Interweave Design and Development : Since the design teams focus more of the front end of the process, the assumption is that the Design and Agile team are mutually exclusive. But since the product is delivered in increments, the designers should jump in and share the user insight to the dev teams and should re frame the problem for the dev teams to continue

First Time : Start small and team should focus on low risk but high-value stories to gain experience with design thinking and agile together. As the team matures, they take on more complex stories/project in this paradigm.

Summary: Combining design thinking and Agile methodology calls for a new way of thinking . By merging these two paradigm in any development work and utilizing the key concept of both , the teams moves from problem finding (design thinking) to problem solving (agile ) , The end goal is to get the finest ideas into Production.



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Kumar Anil

Not a geek but interest include one , i write on practicing work that genuinely reflects the experience | Runner | Avid Walker