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Design Thinking, Agile e User Experience – the three sides of the same coin

  • User Experience and Design Thinking

What do Design Thinking, Agile, and User Experience have in common when managing your projects and teams? Here are my thoughts:

We live in a time when we expect technology to bring more and more personalized experiences in a faster and more simple and intuitive way.

The way we consume products and services changes faster than we can absorb them. More than that: new needs arise, which demand new solutions. We are trapped in new competitors, new approaches, and new products. Everything is new, almost every day.

The endless techniques and methodologies lie behind the companies’ growing and changing needs. Companies focus (or should) on evolving the form and content of what they offer to the market.

At the heart of these numerous alternatives for project organization, problem-solving, and creation of value, there are three close disciplines, in the sense that they tackle challenges with mindsets that are sometimes identical, sometimes complementary:

  • Design Thinking (DT),
  • Agile Methodologies, and
  • User Experience (UX).

Let’s get into all of them to find these similarities:

What is Design Thinking?

In short, Design Thinking is a tool for creative problem-solving, which starts with understanding people’s needs. In other words, the primary focus in DT is the human being and their behavior and needs.

As the process evolves, the team collaborates to identify a clear problem to be solved. Once the need is identified, the focus shifts to the solution. The team then develops some hypotheses to be tested. After the feedback, the team defines which way to go. 

The DT technique can be applied to any context, with no exceptions.

Adaptability makes Design Thinking a powerful resource for the continuous improvement of products and services.

Quick disclaimer: This is a two paragraphs explanation. So take your time and google it. There is plenty of free material about DT or the two following disciplines.

Design Thinking (DT) The primary focus for problem solving is the human being
What is the primary focus of DT?

Agile Methodologies

They are sets of techniques for managing software development that aim to build business solutions quickly, iteratively, and collaboratively. The result is a process designed to respond promptly to the constantly changing scenarios that a project inevitably goes through.

The foundations of Agile come from Lean Manufacturing, back to the ’60s. Once again: in two words, lean prays for value delivery and elimination of waste.

What are agile methodologies?
They are a set of techniques for software development management, witch aim to build business solutions in a fast, interactive and collaborative way.
What are agile Methodologies?

User Experience (UX)

UX addresses all iterations between users, products, services, motivations, anxieties, and behavior patterns. The goal is to build products that are not only useful but deeply desired by customers.

Three links between Design Thinking, Agile, and UX

For each of these disciplines, we find a parallel universe. I call them black holes; there is simply no end. The more we investigate, the more there is to explore.

Over time, studying and applying this knowledge, a pattern emerged: some mindsets common to the three disciplines. A set of concepts and values ​​is the epicenter of the three areas of expertise, despite the different techniques, applications, and objectives.

From this set, I chose three points (there are many others) that, in my view, are the basis for everything else. That’s what I talk about in this article, and understanding them is understanding the essence and ultimate purpose of the three disciplines.

1. Communication: the critical factor

The overwhelming majority of a company’s problems are communication, as we have to connect with others to make things happen. Any technique depends on communication; it is the quintessential connection of every field of knowledge, regardless of its nature.

Exercising transparent and effective communication is not easy; we bump into hierarchies, egos, cultures, disciplines, etc. In this way, when practical, it helps us a lot. And the opposite is proportionally true: if it doesn’t work, the damage is significant.

It is worth the effort to study the best way to communicate at all levels. It is intense and continuous work, but productive and rewarding.

Exercise to analyze your company’s environment

Let’s think about positive and negative communication.

Think of positive communication as flowing communication. Everyone speaks, everyone is heard; this communication generates consensus. On the other hand, negative communication does not cause any productive effect. It fosters disinterest, ineffectiveness, and procrastination.

Now do a quick analysis, an imaginary scale. Which dish is the heaviest in your company? How to take care of unbalanced communications?

Effective communication is the DNA of Design Thinking, UX, and Agile mindsets. It is transparent, organized, and continuous, and it is the only possible way to succeed in any technique that applies.

2. The human being is the focus

Focusing on the human being is to pursue their real needs. We start by analyzing the human being to primarily find the right problem to tackle. It is a process of deep investigation and knowledge of the other.

This stance applies to both the end customer and the project teams. Employees, like end customers, also have their needs at work.

At this point, the aim is to promote well-being and motivation through comfortable and inspiring working conditions. As well as focusing on customer needs ultimately brings us more chances of success.

After all, a good product comes from a good process. And a good process is only possible through motivating human beings with a deep sense of purpose in the activities they perform.

3. Collaboration. Team strength trumps individual talent.

Nobody does anything alone; Score. In an environment focused on people (end customers, employees, and suppliers) and transparent communication, the perfect atmosphere is created for high-level productivity collective work.

Working collaboratively is understanding your work and the work of others. It means being aware of project timings, having a systemic view, and being prepared to respond quickly to changes.

There is no room for internal disputes or competition. The team should be aligned around the same objective: the project’s success.

In a collaborative environment, the client shares decisions, successes, and unforeseen events, with the team. After all, his goal and the team’s is to implement the project successfully.

Once the team reaches this state of total communication, concern for people and collaborative workflow, the virtuous triangle of productivity and well-being for all is created.

Your team will then have the fluidity and organization necessary to experiment with any Design Thinking, Agile, and User Experience techniques with much greater chances of success.

Exercise to apply in your life

Below is a quick exercise to assess your team’s degree of affinity/maturity with the mindsets we investigated today.

Considering 1 as “almost non-existent” and 5 as “fully existing”, the idea is to measure how aligned your team is with the mindsets of Design Thinking, Agile and User Experience.

The blue lines are just an example of filling. In this fictitious case, this team has a lot of collaborative spirit, but communication does not seem to be effective, and the human being as the focus of the projects is also just incipient in the environment; Look:

Analysis of the degree of affinity/maturity of your team

And speaking of communication, how is the evaluation of your triangle? What do you think about sharing with the team and making room for suggestions and points for improvement?

If you want to know more about how we apply Design Thinking in our projects that already have UX and Agile, just get in touch with us!

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