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Insights from an innovative Design-Thinking program
Today we are talking about Design Thinking through the lens of a unique new program at the University of Wisconsin that is teaching product design from a multiple-discipline perspective. For example, product design grad students learn UI/UX principles while learning about electronic circuits and product packaging. The cross-discipline experience is unique and provides a valuable perspective.
Joining us to discuss Design Thinking is a recent graduate of this program, Emily Phelan. Emily is now a customer experience strategist for Landor & Fitch, the New York-based brand and design group. Previously she was a marketing specialist for Accenture. She also had her own design company and pursued other entrepreneurial interests. And Emily is an amazing illustrator—check out her LinkedIn profile for some of the superheroes she has designed.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[5:49] Can you take us through the Design Thinking framework as you applied it through the University of Wisconsin’s program?
The framework we used was from the Stanford d.school. There are four phases:
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- Defining the problem
- Prototyping and testing
[10:05] How did you use this framework in your project?
I led a team through a redesign of a diabetes self-management program website. Our client was the Wisconsin Institute for Healthy Aging, and they had a diabetes-self-management program called Healthy Living with Diabetes. We were tasked with redesigning the program to be more inclusive of the black community in Wisconsin.
We started with identifying one anothers’ strengths. We needed to figure out what hats we all needed to wear and how we could best work together. Then we dove right into the empathy phase. We spoke with program coordinators, facilitators of the program, participants, doctors, health educators, and nurse educators. We needed to learn what the program currently looked like from the perspectives of all the stakeholders. Doctors and health educators were two critical stakeholders who had been completely overlooked. We found that in order to serve the participants and facilitators, we needed to engage doctors and health educators, who can make recommendations to patients and kickstart the self-management journey.
[15:56] How did you engage each of these stakeholders?
We did in-depth interviews. They were typically 45 minutes to one and a half hours. We had an interviewer asking questions and a scribe capturing information. It’s important to lay the groundwork with a comprehensive interview guide to achieve your goals, but it’s also important to go off script. If an interviewee is telling an important story, lean into that conversation.
[18:07] What other steps did you take?
We identified the problem by looking at patterns in our research. After conducting the interviews, we put ideas on post-it notes so we could move them around and identify patterns. We identified several key themes and barriers to the program. We found seven key insights that led us to three opportunity areas that we needed to build out to figure out the best solution to the problem. For each opportunity we had four to five ideas for solutions. We crafted a “how might we…” question for each opportunity: How might we inform and empower facilitators to facilitate a better workshop? How might we help participants sustain their healthy habits beyond the program? And how might we inform and engage health educators to be ambassadors of the program?
[20:48] How did prototyping work?
Before we prototyped, we analyzed the resources these opportunities would require and their potential impact. We built several prototypes of solutions: a healthy-living-with-diabetes conference marketed to health educators, a newsletter that program coordinators could use to market to health educators, and a website that included health educators in the ecosystem and provided resources they could use with patients. After prototyping, iterating, and testing, we ended up going with the website and accompanying resources. We got feedback from all the stakeholders and used it to iterate the website.
[23:34] Was there anything in the design thinking process that you found you needed to apply differently?
Since we were so heavy on our empathy phase, we could have spent more time on prototyping and testing near the end of the project in order to get a few more features on the website. We built a marketing plan for the client, and I would have loved to help them build the solution out. They took our work and are using it to conduct their redesign, but staying involved in that work would have been excellent.
Action Guide: Put the information Emily shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide.
- Connect with Emily on LinkedIn
- Check out EmilyPhelan.com
- Check out Design is Storytelling and Speculative Everything
- Learn more about Stanford d.school
“Commit and figure it out.” – Jimmy Chen
Thank you for taking the journey to product mastery and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.