A PM’s Need-To-Know for an Impactful Design Thinking Process

By Daramola Temilolu Joyce

Design thinking is a non-linear Iterative process that helps you to relate to your customer needs, understand those needs and assists you in coming up with innovative and workable ideas in meeting them. This process helps you in understanding the problem, so you can redefine it and proffer a workable solution. 

It is not in the exclusive zone of just designers, it spans across different fields including Product management. The world we live in gets increasingly complex as the day goes by, so in applying design thinking as a Product Manager, it is crucial that you understand the different needs of all your users, because all your users do not have the same requirements that will meet their specific needs. 

Design Thinking pioneer Tim Brown in his 2009 Ted Talk stated that Design thinking is valuable in solving extremely complex challenges. In solving these challenges, there are five processes involved which are; research, definition, ideation, prototyping, and testing. These stages are important and you must not necessarily follow it up in sequence except where necessary. The most important aspect of following these processes is to understand the user’s needs and the users themselves. It is not just about questioning users but also listening to them. In following these iterative processes of design thinking, the following basics must be taken into account;

1. Establish A  Good Relationship: Although a PM  has to be firm and well-coordinated in dealing with team members, you also have to develop a good relationship with them. Product Managers also work with other teams from marketing and design and to get the best out of these other teams, a good relationship has to be established from the beginning. Lastly, a friendly relationship must be created with the customer. PMs should not portray themselves as too tough or impolite with existing and potential customers.

2. Understand Your Customer/User need: To understand customer/user need, a good relationship has to be created. Customers can state a thing as a need, it is your duty to try and understand if that is the need that will solve the particular problem or not. For example, if the user states that he needs a driverless car with unlimited WIFI, as a Product Manager, you know the major problem is to solve the issue of transportation and also provide internet access, you can also go further to state that the drivers provided are well behaved and they will not bug the user with unnecessary discussions or they will be mute depending on the user’s preference.

3. Know Your Product: To create a certain level of trust and credibility, you have to know your product and understand it. Knowing your product is not just only for you to be able to interact with users, majorly knowing your product is meant for interactions within the organizations with people who also interact, see, and probably feel the products like you do. You should be able to give proper information when and where necessary.

4. Know Your Competition: Knowing your competitors is not just having the knowledge that you are in the same market offering the same product, but also understanding their approach to problems and how fast they come up with solutions and innovations. For example, when watching a Reels video on Instagram, it does not automatically move to the next video. Unlike Tiktok, Instagram feels their users will want to watch a video again once the video is interesting, they also know that their users might want to watch it again or show someone beside them. Tiktok, on the other hand, says, why waste the users time on just one content when there is more to watch. In this instance, a Product Manager would sit and brainstorm, since we share the same users, which do they prefer, will they want to watch content all over again or will they prefer to move to another. That’s how you understand your competition; you place your innovations side by side with that of your competition and see which one is a more preferred option to the user.

5. Always Go Back To The Drawing Board: It is not enough to kill a product because you followed all the iterative processes and it failed, go over it again, look for the missing link and figure out where you failed, how you failed and proffer another solution by taking a different approach.

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