Practical Design Thinking Tips for Product Managers

Posted by TJ on 22 May 2023

Product management can be a complex dance, requiring us to find the right balance between technical requirements, business needs, and user experience. One process that has proven to help product managers glide through these challenges gracefully is design thinking. Here's how design thinking can help product managers develop better solutions, along with some practical tips to harness its power for product success.

The Power of Design Thinking

Design Thinking Enhances Empathy for Users

Design thinking fosters empathy, which allows product managers to understand their users better and build products that genuinely meet the needs of their users. By stepping into users' shoes, you can identify their pain points, needs, and desires, and shape products that are truly user-centric.

Practical Tip: Consider introducing tools like empathy maps into your workflow. These are visual aids that illustrate users' perspectives, and can help you better understand their experiences. Regularly schedule sessions to develop empathy maps and conduct user interviews. Remember, empathy is not a static process, but a dynamic journey that adjusts with your users' evolving needs.

The Nielsen Norman Group has published a great article about empathy maps and explain how to create on step-by-step. It’s definitely worth checking out.

An example of an empathy map.

An example empathy map.

Design Thinking Fosters Innovation

Design thinking opens the door to innovative solutions by encouraging teams to explore a broad range of ideas without limiting them to the confines of current technological or business constraints. How often have you experienced individuals or groups purporting to know what the correct or only solution is, without having any evidence to back up these claims?

Design thinking encourages you to frame ideas as hypotheses, and to seek out successful or failed outcomes using an experimental mindset. This avoids the trap of thinking that you already have all the answers, making it less likely you'll settle on suboptimal solutions.

Practical Tip: Encourage innovation by arranging regular brainstorming sessions with your team. During these meetings, foster an environment of non-judgment, allowing free thought and unrestricted sharing of ideas. Adopt a "fail fast, learn faster" mentality that allows room for missteps and views them as opportunities for growth and improvement.

Voyce helps you quickly capture ideas and concepts from brainstorming sessions and link everything together so you don’t lose track of the complete picture. Here's a quick summary of the process:

  • In Voyce, open the problem you are tackling. If you haven’t defined it, do this first as this will aid immensely in generating solutions.
  • For each idea you have for solving a given problem, click the ‘Define a solution for this’ button. The solutions modal will open where and can note the idea down, attach any supporting images, documents, or thoughts, and specify a rough estimate of effort. Each solution you add will automatically be associated with the problem (including any attached insights) - pretty neat huh!
A screenshot of the problem details modal in Voyce, showing the 'Define a solution for this' button highlighted.

The 'Define a solution for this' button allows you to create an experimental solution for each idea you have.

  1. Simply repeat for as many ideas as you have generated!

Design Thinking Encourages Collaboration

Design thinking is not a solo endeavor; it's a collaborative process. It breaks down silos and brings diverse perspectives to the table, which creates a rich breeding ground for innovative and well-rounded solutions.

Practical Tip: Include individuals from different roles and backgrounds in your design thinking sessions. Harvest feedback and insights from your customers! Seek insights from a range of sources, not just your immediate team, but also from sales, customer support, and other stakeholders at all levels in your business. It's amazing where the best ideas will come from. Having this broader perspective enriches the ideation process and helps to formulate comprehensive solutions.

A screenshot of the insight details modal in Voyce.

Insights are easy for anyone in the team to create. Include as many groups and individuals as possible to ensure you're hearing as many perspectives as possible.

Get your customer support crew on board with Voyce (sign up free) and let them step up as customer champions, piping feedback directly into Voyce Insights - it’s quick and easy.

Since they're on the front lines with your customers, these insights aren't just nice-to-have - input from your CS team is downright essential to making sure no good feedback slips through the cracks, which, let's face it, happens more often than it should!

When you drop feedback into Voyce, you also have the opportunity to capture an individual customer's details so it’s easy to follow up with any questions or updates (your customers will love being listened to!).

A screenshot of the insight details modal in Voyce, highlighting the Customer details section.

Pop your customer's details in here when recording insights. This makes it really easy to follow up with them later, for more information or to give them an update.

Design Thinking Offers a Structured Approach to Problem Solving

A diagram showing the design thinking process, highlighting the part that Voyce helps with.

Voyce's focus is on the Empathize, Define, and Ideate parts of the design thinking process.

The design thinking process - Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test - provides a clear roadmap for problem-solving. It ensures that all relevant aspects are considered and helps you to stay focused on your user's needs.

Voyce is intentionally designed to streamline this very process, motivating you and your team to document customer insights and transform them into clear problem statements. This lays the groundwork for the generation of innovative solutions through the brainstorming process mentioned above.

Practical Tip: Adhere to the phases of design thinking - Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test. Each step serves a purpose and provides vital insights. It's crucial to resist the urge to bypass stages as you rush to produce solutions. Each stage helps to achieve a full understanding of the problem at hand, and how best to address it.

Design Thinking Enables Agile Adaptation

In the dynamic digital landscape, change is the only constant. Design thinking's iterative approach allows for continuous learning, improvement, and adaptation, and helps product managers keep their products relevant and successful in the long run.

Practical Tip: Think of the product development process as a marathon and not a sprint. Continually test and refine your product. Gathering user feedback should be an ongoing task, and you should be continually improving your solution based on the insights you uncover. And remember, design thinking is not a linear process; it's a cycle. Revisiting earlier steps based on new findings from the testing phase is not just acceptable, but expected.

Let's Wrap!

Design thinking can be a game-changer for product managers. It's a gentle process that puts your customer at the center of your ideation workflow, and helps you to build what they want by paying attention to their needs. It really is a win-win - build what your customers truly desire and your business will ultimately benefit! Embrace design thinking and set your product on the path to success!

See how Voyce helps with design thinking...
A range of product insights can be collated.

Capture and centralize your customer insights.

Voyce is a beautiful repository for all your customer research, insights & feedback.
Organize problems by severity and scope to help find those that should be fixed first.

Define, validate, and triage customer problems.

Link and convert your insights into clearly defined problems, to find the 'why?', and identify those that are critical to solve.
Easily generate multiple solutions to the problems you've identified.

Discover opportunities and build the right things.

Create smarter solutions that deliver real value and delight your customers. Understand when to say 'go' or 'no'.