Design Thinking Stage 2 – Define

In the earlier blogs we discussed about the Stages of Design Thinking and how to use Empathy to connect Empathy Research. Now we will understand the Define Stage.

In this stage, the team distills the insights gathered during the empathy phase to define the core problem. It requires synthesizing information and identifying the underlying challenges that need to be addressed.

Key Steps & Examples

Let’s go through the key steps of the “Define” stage for our problem statement. Here we will go through the concepts for each step and then relate them to our problem statement.

Identify User Needs and Goals

Based on the data collated the next step is to analyse the interview data in depth to define the primary needs, goals, and expectations. The gaols are

  • to understand the hidden needs of the stakeholders which they have not conveyed directly.
  • what human needs can be addressed in this problem, Maslow’s Pyramid can help here.
  • what insights can be derived from the user behaviour.
Hidden Needs
(only perceived/points to be clarified
Human Needs
(Maslows Pyramid)
(root cause/reasons behind a user behaviour)
Safety Needs
Employees may seek to have a safe travel accommodations. This is important because they are going to a different location away from their home.Secure and reliable travel arrangements (e.g., safe transportation, emergency support).

Travel insurance and medical assistance. Protection of personal data and sensitive information during travel.
Insight: Employees may seek secure and reliable travel arrangements, including transportation and emergency support.

Root Causes: This behavior stems from the need for personal safety and the assurance that they will be taken care of in case of unexpected events or emergencies during travel. Insecure travel arrangements can lead to anxiety and hinder their focus on networking and business objectives.
Belongingness and Love Needs
Employees may seek opportunities to connect with colleagues and peers during travel to combat feelings of isolation.Opportunities for social interactions and networking with colleagues, peers, and industry professionals during travel.Inclusion in company and industry events, fostering a sense of belonging. Supportive and friendly travel companions or travel buddies.
Insight: Employees may desire opportunities for social interactions and networking during travel.

Root Causes: The need for social interaction arises from the desire for a sense of belonging, camaraderie, and connection with colleagues and industry peers. Isolation during travel can lead to feelings of loneliness and detachment.
Esteem Needs
Recognition and acknowledgment of their contributions during and after business trips can be essential for self-esteem.Recognition and appreciation for employees’ contributions and achievements during and after business trips.Opportunities for personal and professional growth during travel (e.g., attending conferences, workshops, or training).
Opportunities for employees to showcase their expertise and skills during networking events.
Insight: Employees may seek recognition for their contributions during and after business trips and desire opportunities for personal and professional growth.
Root Causes: The desire for recognition and growth is driven by the need for self-esteem and self-worth. Lack of recognition or opportunities for personal and professional development can lead to feelings of stagnation and frustration.

Define Problem Statements or Opportunity Statements

Now is the time to craft clear problem statements that reflect the challenges or opportunities identified during empathetic research. These statements should be framed in a way that focuses on user needs and guides the design process. 

Based on our problem statement, it can be something like this,

Problem Statement 1: "Employees face difficulties in booking business travel that aligns with their preferences, leading to frustration and inefficiency."
Opportunity Statement 1: "There is an opportunity to enhance communication and collaboration for employees traveling across different time zones, promoting productivity and engagement."
Problem Statement 2: "Employees express concerns about the safety and reliability of travel arrangements and a lack of support in case of emergencies during business trips."
Opportunity Statement 2: "We can address employees' safety needs by ensuring dependable and secure transportation, offering comprehensive travel insurance, and implementing a robust emergency support system."
Problem Statement 3: "Employees often feel limited in pursuing their unique goals and interests during business travel, hindering their personal and professional growth."
Opportunity Statement 3: "We can empower employees to reach their full potential by providing opportunities for creative expression, innovation, and personal development during travel, aligning with their individual aspirations."
and many more...

Prioritise Challenges

The previous list of Problem & Opportunity Statements can be very big & overwhelming, so there is a need to prioritise the challenges or opportunities based on their impact on employees and the organisation. It is also important to consider factors such as frequency, severity, and alignment with the company’s goals and values.

For example, in the 3 problem & opportunity statements given above, we might want to prioritise 1 & 2 and keep the 3rd problem statement in the backlog for future processing.

Set Design Criteria

Establish criteria that the solution must meet to be considered successful. These criteria should be based on user needs and the overarching objectives of the travel program. 

The Design Criteria for Problem Statements 1 & 2 discussed above, can be something like this. These criteria are kept very small here, but each of these can be expanded in detail with individual SLAs for sub-criteria.

Criteria for Problem Statement 1: The solution must offer a streamlined booking process that caters to different travel preferences, maintains user satisfaction, and improves booking efficiency by at least 30%.
Criteria for Problem Statement 2: The solution must offer reliable transportation, emergency support system, Travel Insurance, Safe Accommodation, Data Security, Health Precautions, Crisis Management Plan, Communication Support, Travel Alerts, Employee Training, Feedback & Reporting System, Compliance with Regulations.

Narrow Focus

Now the goal is to,

  • Focus on defining & scoping the problem statement.
  • A point-of-view (POV) statement might be a structured way to define and articulate the user need or problem on which we need to focus.
  • Refine the problem statements to a manageable scope of actionable problem statements. It’s essential to focus on specific challenges rather than attempting to solve all identified issues at once.

To do these, following questions can be asked.

  1. Which personas do you think are the most important and critical and you wish to solve foe?
  2. Where do you see opportunities for change ?
  3. What are your insights ?
  4. What are your 3 main challenges ?

For our problem statements, we can take the following points as narrowed focus points.

- Solve the problem of offline booking 
- Address the problem of safety & security
and so on..

By following these steps in the “Define” stage, you create a clear and focused direction for the design process. This ensures that the subsequent stages of ideation, prototyping, testing, and implementation are aligned with addressing the specific needs and challenges identified during empathetic research.

After the Define stage comes the Ideate, Prototype & Test stage. Lets dive deep into them.

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