I first heard of design thinking during my Global Health and Innovation class in college. Week after week, we came up with solutions to solve a wicked problem related to health. The course was novel to all of us, which was refreshing after taking subjects, such as biology, chemistry, and the like. Using IDEO’s human-centered design, I was amazed by the outcomes of my groupmates and my entire class. Not only that, the process of design thinking gave us a clearer perspective of health problems as we’d conduct focus group discussions and interviews with communities. Being more familiar with the health system, I could see myself doing this in the future. Inspired by my undergraduate class, I took a certificate course on technology and innovation from Stanford after graduation. Fast-forward to two years later, I now empathize, brainstorm, and prototype for a living in EpiMetrics.

What is design thinking?

Design Thinking is an iterative process intended to be performed repeatedly until an optimum solution emerges. This is done using the five steps above, although there are other toolkits used by innovation specialists. These steps aren’t always followed chronologically, and one should keep in mind that for each problem, there are countless ways to start the method. Another common misconception with design thinking or innovation is that its result is a tangible product. However, the outcome of the process can simply be an experience for your users. You don’t have to be an engineer or work in computer science for this - you just have to know how to follow instructions!

Most people get intimidated with the word “innovation” because they think that they have to be “techy” to innovate. Others, on the other hand, feel as if they cannot be good innovators because they aren’t creative. By simply following the five-step process, you will definitely arrive with a solution that’ll answer your wicked problem.

Design Thinking in Health

In all aspects of what we do in the company, I try to apply design thinking. I mainly use the method in proposal writing and bidding for grants. Since most grants start out with just a general topic that we can further explore, I usually ask for an hour from the staff in EpiMetrics to brainstorm every Wednesday. Here, I either give them pre-work, where they’ll do initial research on the general topic, or we just throw ideas back and forth with a “How-Might-We?” or HMW question I propose. I try to limit our brainstorming sessions within in an hour, and we usually end up with 100 ideas that we summarize as a group. The outcome of the brainstorming session would be the general and specific objectives of the proposal we’ll write.

Aside from proposal writing, we also apply design thinking for product development for oure-health division. For this, we use a user journey map and highlight the different steps from accessing the product until after using it. A user journey map allows us to find the opportunities in the “happy experiences” or best case scenarios and “sad experiences” or worst case scenarios during each step of the journey. The intersection of both happy and sad experiences allows us to add features in the products we develop. Our latest project that employed a user journey map allowed us to help GabayMedikal improve their telehealth hotline.

We have also recently provided our design thinking services to external clients. Currently, we are helping a rare cancer patient group set-up their organization. We started out with empathize, and we are currently in the prototyping phase after identifying their priority intervention.

Design Thinking in Life

Indeed, there are countless of ways to use design thinking, both in your respective field or in everyday life. Frankly, the term “design thinking” is a misnomer because you do more than you think. You should keep going through the entire process over and over again until you find a solution that fits best to your users. The true essence of being a design thinker is really remembering the process and mastering how to apply this in our lives for the betterment of the people we’re serving.

If you want to get into design thinking, familiarize yourself with the tools and let go of any fear that you aren’t creative or techy enough. There are toolkits available online, and these steps are easy to follow and understand. One of the reasons why there are still apprehensions about design thinking is because it hasn’t been applied in various fields here in the Philippines. I’m encouraging you to have that initiative to use this method in solving problems at work, wherever you may be!

Remember, the only way to be a design thinker is to jump right in.