Course Critique (Final Assignment)

For me the major takeaway from this course is definitely the importance of the empathize phase. In order to better understand customer’s needs, our customer has to be defined very precisely with a persona. A persona is a marketing technique used to point out information about demographic, employment, character of the research group. I have also learned that if a company wants to truly empathize with their customer and learn more about their customers behaviours they should, in addition to a classical persona description, investigate how their potential target group spends their time. The questions sets “Close to you, digital ecosystem, typical weekday” proved to be very insightful since they provide more details on the how the customer consumes data, which becomes more and more important in today’s data driven world. Such insight proved to be especially important when my group started discussing how our target group should find our prototype and what would be the perfect format to present it. While first conducting the mentioned exercises, I thought the outcomes are obvious since I knew some of the people being interviewed very well. The truth was that some of their habits, preferences and statements I didn’t expect. As a result, I learned that during the empathize phase a researcher should not assume that the obvious is true or that he truly understands the target group without conducting further research.

Another big learning in this course was the importance of critique. Getting feedback is essential to help you save time and resources in the Prototype and Testing stages of the Design Thinking process. Being quick and efficient allows us to move from creating a prototype, to putting it out to test it, to gathering feedback, and finally to creating a new and improved iteration of our ideas. Before doing this course, I tried to avoid critique since I always assumed it will be something negative that will bring me of track from my idea. Which was not far away from the truth since a lot of people don’t know how to give a helpful critique. During previous group projects at work and university, the critiques I received were often vague and sometimes I took a bad critique personally, so I tried to avoid when possible. However, in this course I learned that critique in necessary step in product improvement and must not be taken personally because half-hearted feedback as “yeah, looks fine” doesn’t add any value to the project. Furthermore, in order to get the most out it, the critique has to be steered and questioned in order to get most out of it. I got the opportunity to practice the skill of guiding the critique in the right direction as part of the interviews for Assignment 3. I tried to find out what part especially did the interviewees like or dislike about the prototype, why did they like it, and most importantly how it could be improved. Defining problems in obvious, conventional ways, often leads to obvious, conventional solutions. Asking a more interesting question can help teams discover more-original ideas. The constructive feedback is something I found very useful especially when it was backed up by data or logical reasoning.

I believe that the 4 assignment gave us an excellent insight in how a real-life innovation process looks like. The only step that might is redundant would be the phase 1 “Building Empathy: Immerse & Plan Research” since it created a lot of confusion in the group. We were unsure based on which factors we should choose the persona and whether we should discuss how the KLRU should be related to the persona. The real understanding of the persona came to me only after I finished phase 2 “Phase 2 – Defining the Challenge: Analyze Insights & Create Challenge Statements” where we made actual interviews with representatives of the persona gained key insights.

As we have seen through the semester, the structure of design thinking creates a natural flow from research to rollout. According to HBS Design Thinking is the framework to drive innovation in a company because the immersion in the customer experience produces data, which is transformed into insights, help teams agree on design criteria they use to brainstorm solutions. Assumptions about what’s critical to the success of those solutions are examined and then tested with rough prototypes that help teams further develop innovations and prepare them for real-world experiments. Some experienced designers have a different opinion and complain that design thinking is too structured and linear. After completing the course my opinion is that design thinking is an excellent tool for professionals that are involved in an innovative project, have to manage teams of people who are not designers and also aren’t used to doing face-to-face research with customers or getting deeply immersed in their perspectives, and designing and executing experiments. Structure and linearity help the project members to try and adjust to these new behaviours and quite frankly I wouldn’t change anything to the process itself since I was astonished by the quality of the end results. Regarding the organisation of the class time I really liked the open discussions and experience sharing from my classmates. The instructor did a great job in moderating these discussions and enriching them with practical examples from past projects he did and companies he worked in. The final project stimulated group discussions as the project structure included multiple phases of diverging and converging. In the diverging phases we had to open our self to new ideas and help our teammates to create new ideas. In the diverging phases we provided each other critiques and agreed on the best ideas to proceed with. While the assignment instructions encouraged the use of articles and slides provided on canvas, it was often difficult to navigate through the slides since they include many pictures and the parts needed to finish the assignment are scattered across the whole presentation. Even though every presentation did have a conclusion, it was not detailed enough to completely understand the whole content. I would suggest more elaborative slides for the next lecture or even a book to dive in some parts of the design thinking.

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