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We've come a long way delivering innovative solutions. But our next chapter is still being written.
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In today’s complex world, government agencies are grappling with enormous social challenges. These are what we call “wicked,” or “sticky” problems—and include the opioid epidemic, suicide prevention, human trafficking, and sexual assault in the military. There’s no easy answer. And with so many intricacies and moving parts at the heart of these issues, it’s hard to get your arms around them.
Design thinking can help solve these complex challenges. A tool box of techniques born from the designer’s mindset, design thinking is a human-centered innovation methodology that discovers people’s unmet needs, reframes problems, and inspires new ideas to improve the human experience. Instead of starting with technology or business positioning, the people that the problem affects most—patients, warfighters, customers, or employees—are the focus of the design process.
Designers must be ready to listen, focusing on the user perspective. They suspend their own assumptions, preconceived notions, and unconscious bias. They must immerse themselves in the environment and context of their customers. Through collaborative interviews, workshops, field research, and analysis, designers grow to understand end users and their pain points.
Collating all their observational research and data, designers synthesize their learning into reports and recommendations. Government leaders can use these insights, journey maps, needs, gap analyses, and more to reframe their understanding of the problem. The design process doesn’t stop there—designers can then collaborate with government leaders and users as one team to work through creating and testing innovative solutions in a flexible, co-design process.
By uncovering people’s perceptions and needs within complex societal issues, design thinking can give government agencies a springboard for meaningful innovation and impact.