With the point of view (POV) tool, your team describes the situation of the challenge/problem with the most important insights and themes that were discovered during the Empathy phases of Understanding, Observing, and Researching. The point of view is subsequently narrowed down to one (or several) question(s) that can launch ideas for the next phase of Ideating.
Defining what the problem actually is marks the pivotal moment in design thinking. It is visible in the centre of the double diamond diagram below and known as the axis of the design world.
Source: Lindberg, C. Meinel, and R.Wagner (2011). Design Thinking: A Fruitful Concept for IT Development? In H. Plattner et al. (eds.), Design Thinking: Understand – Improve – Apply, Understanding Innovation (pp. 3-18). Berlin: Springer
Describing a point of view is the connection between the problem/challenge and the solution space. When you define the problem, this subsequently creates a frame for thinking about possible solutions. For instance, the idea for the Walkman (portable cassette player) was “born” only after a Sony engineer was asked to think about listening to music during trips.
Language is used to define, so to describe a problem, you write out the situation. Your descriptions have to make sense so they can be meaningful. You will want to be coherent and set off a spark to create a sense of purpose and enthusiasm within your team. This creation of focus and inspiration occurs primarily when you are defining. The point of view you create is much more than a cold analytical observation of the problem; instead, it will be an informed and animated vision of how the team understands the problem.
The point of view is your team’s unique design vision. It gives a meaningful focus to the situation, which serves as a frame for understanding what is going on and what is needed so that the design work can move forward. This narrow focus actually leads to a broader range of good solution possibilities, which in turn reinforces the pivotal role of this focusing/framing activity in advancing more good ideas.
The next step is to transform your point of view into an actual question that generates ideas. This can be done through the How might we… (HMW) question from design thinking and/or a type of frame creation from Dutch design thinker Kees Dorst. His recurring example is the unique vision that his design team developed on the crime problem in a late-night district in Sydney, where the problem was reframed from the point of view that saw the district as a metaphor for a music festival rather than as the law and order issue of crime. In this case, the underlying theme was defined instead as large crowds of young people wanting to have a good time. The frame posited that, “If the problem [of late-night crime] is understood as [a music festival], then …” This innovative approach to the problem generated many relevant ideas that might not have been apparent from a different point of view.
Design thinking as an innovation strategy aims to discover these new perspectives. Your point of view should combine your understanding and your creativity. The art of creating a good point of view is narrowing the problem down by framing it so that you have a wide enough scope to think about solutions which reach far beyond the status quo.
In contrast to systems thinking, the business-oriented versions of design thinking begin with users and their needs to reach an important insight about the users’ motivations or preferences. Defining a point of view then follows the logic, for example, that “a person who lives in the city… needs access to a shared car 1-4 times for 10-60 minutes per week … he would rather share a car with more people as this is cheaper” (see the complete example).
The version of design thinking that DT.Uni is proposing leans further into systems thinking, which reveals the deepest levels of the causes and/or motives for the behaviour of people or organisations. To understand this better, consider the visual metaphor of the iceberg model (here a printable version to keep as a reminder):
Source: Systems Thinking Resources, – The Donella Meadows Project, The Academy for Systems Change, http://donellameadows.org/systems-thinking-resources/
Source: Ecochallenge.org (formerly Northwest Earth Institute), https://ecochallenge.org/iceberg-model/
In the approach to innovation that looks beyond Market (needs) or Technology (development), two of the queries for innovation include
- Why are people using a certain product or service?
- Why are they behaving as they are – and how could we intervene in this deeper level of motivations (caused by important values, beliefs, and/or mental models) to make an improvement?
The third driver of innovation, then, is Meaning (see for instance the work of Roberto Verganti at http://www.verganti.com). A theme is this deeper level of meaning of a larger field, not just for one particular user group. For the challenge How to improve the social support in a specific neighbourhood?, the field research may reveal themes for the residents based on issues like security or loneliness. In Frame Creation, Kees Dorst shows that a theme will be simultaneously individual and universal. For example, people have similar concerns and desires related to the theme of loneliness, which are embodied by the specific people in the specific circumstances of that neighbourhood.
When design and systems thinking are combined, the point of view activity serves as a tool to describe themes your team has found during research and observation. For example, in the challenge to improve the knowledge sharing in an organisation, field research revealed the themes lack of time and stress. This process could lead to the following point of view:
Employees in this organisation need to share their knowledge more for the organisation to be competitive and innovative. They do have strong personal and professional motivations to do so. However, high time pressure puts a significant limit to their ability and willingness to share knowledge with colleagues.
Since you cannot design everything for everyone, the next step is to focus your point of view on a specific user group through a persona. Imagine that the Persona is a 40-year-old account manager that is eager to express their ideas and to advance their career. The specific How might we…? question could be as follows:
How might we provide an account manager in this organisation with more time to share their knowledge and insight?
You could also create the following frame, blending both theme and persona:
If the problem of insufficient knowledge sharing is approached as an issue of lack of time, then a 40-year-old account manager would …
It is important to remember the following:
The How might we…? question or frame should not yet suggest a particular solution. At this point, it is just about creating a frame for innovative thinking.
The point of view should offer you the chance to answer your questions in a variety of ways
Your frame should be narrow enough to start your brainstorm, but also wide enough to give you room to explore ideas.
You may create several ‘How might we…?’ questions or frames to give you the opportunity to pick the best one for ideation.
To summarise, to create your point of view, follow these steps:
- Describe the problem/situation by using the theme(s) that you found during your research
- Narrow this description down by making one or more ‘How might we…?’ questions or If … then frames.
- Then use your persona to focus these frames.