31 Design Thinking Processes for Product Owners

When we say Design Thinking, we mean creative problem-solving. In today’s economies, this is a must-have skill for any organization and any Product Owner. While creativity might make you think of very talented and artistic minds, design thinking processes organize in a way in which everyone can be creative.

Five stages characterize Design Thinking:

  • Stage 1: Empathize — Research Your Users’ Needs.
  • Stage 2: Define — State Your Users’ Needs and Problems.
  • Stage 3: Ideate — Challenge Assumptions and Create Ideas.
  • Stage 4: Prototype — Start to Create Solutions.
  • Stage 5: Test — Try Your Solutions Out.

31 Design Thinking Processes for Product Owners to define products in Lean-Agile environments:

1. Empathy mapping. It is an excellent exercise that will allow you as a Product Owner and the rest of the Scrum Team to know who is using the solutions you are building. The process consists of identifying a representative client — a real person with a name. While thinking of this person, you’ll analyze what the person thinks, feels, does, wants.

2. Experience map — it draws the interaction customers have with your product. The goal is to identify the product story, learn about the customers the bad experiences when interacting with your product. The focus is on customer emotions.

3. Customer Journey Maps is the same as the experience map, but it shows the big picture, the overall experience, not necessarily the bad feelings.

4. Story Maps. Product Owners can use them to define the little picture of the experience the customer is having with the product.

5. Prototyping — represents the creation of a sample future product or functionality with the main scope of getting feedback from the customers. Ready more about this method on How to use the Product Prototyping Workshop to Estimate your Product Backlog.

6. Design Sprint is a five days workshop developed by Google, which aims to take a big challenge, a team of experts (marketing, finance, design, customers, developers) and through a series of exercises, define, create and test solutions to the challenge with real customers.

7. Impact Mapping is a visualization of the strategic business goals and the way to achieve them. In highlights, the actors and the impact(behavioral changes) needed for the product to be successful.

8. The five why’s is taking an in issue and asking Why does it occurred, then take the answer and ask again why does it happen. You repeat it five times. The researches say the 5th answer is the real cause of the issue. What is essential in this process is to go deep, be open and honest. Never stop at the answers you already know.

9. Problem statement — this is a technique used most of the time in combination with other methods. In consist in identifying an unmet need the customers have.

10. Business model canvas is a lean startup template used for developing a new business model. The canvas contains a clear and brief information description of the product value proposition, target customer, finances, and infrastructure.

11. Value proposition canvas is focusing exclusively on the market differentiators of the product and the needs that the product brings to its clients. It takes into consideration multiple customer segments.

12. A feedback grid helps the Product Owners and the scrum teams to structure the feedback received from the customers. Typically, this design thinking technique complements other processes.

13. Impact/effort matrix — As a Product Owner, this technique is used by the product owner with the help of the team and customers to prioritize the features to be implemented or tested.

14. Power/ interest matrix — is mainly used to get to know the stakeholders better based on how much they can influence the product and their interest in the entire product or parts in the development.

15. Personas represent identifying real customers. The advantage of this exercise is to go beyond the surface of calling your customers only users. When getting to know them, you’ll know better the product of your client’s needs.

16. Needs statement technique. Based on evidence that supports each need. The participants to the workshop define the demand in the form of [User Role] needs [need] so that they [benefit]. The team clusters the needs and solutions emerge.

17. How might we — is a practice from design sprint. It is positively reframing the issues, like finding a solution question. Instead of saying customers don’t know we exist, you say how we might be present where our customers are?

18. A community prioritization board helps the Product Owner to identify the requirements that resonate most with the customer’s expectations. The technique becomes very valuable when there is a strong community of customers.

19. Visualization, draw it. Doesn’t matter you think you’ll not know how to draw. Try it. An image is worth 1000 words. By drawing the issue it makes us visualize the issue, not just words think, see the problems from a different perspective, it changes the image of it. It can lead to finding innovative solutions or problem statement.

20. Value chain analysis. We build products to be used. A used product is a product that creates value for the one using it. Look at the product you are making and describe what the chain of value of your product is.

21. Mind mapping is a fantastic tool to “dump your brain” in any order you want. I recommend the Product Owners use it often and in combination with other design thinking techniques.

22. Rapid concept development. It sustains the idea of putting in practice your thoughts as soon as possible, uses the momentum to launch your product.

23. Assumption testing- identifies a relevant data set available with the goal of testing a product idea through experiments. The data selection is significant as a Product Owner should for the results that could prove the product idea is not the right one.

24. Rapid prototyping. A prototype is a replica of the final product. The interest in creating a prototype first is to allow you to gain customer feedback before investing in the final product. In this way, the risk of building the wrong thing is smaller. Validate first the idea and then create. Depending on what we need to achieve, the team can prototype on paper, drawing, mini model, a real looking system.

25. Customer co-creation. Involving your clients in the definition and creation of your products is a tricky decision. You want to get the help of your ideal client, but you want to make sure you serve more than a customer. Use this technique as a way of gaining early adopters and ambassadors.

26. Learning launches represent putting on the market an inexpensive version of the product with the sole goal of learning, including the commercial roll-out.

27. Storytelling — Every great brand has a story behind it which conveys a message, is simply to follow. Your product must say a story that consists of sharing experiences, explaining values, and deciding on solutions through vivid verbal and visual accounts.

28. Stakeholder maps enable the team to discover ways to influence the stakeholders, determine risks. When doing this workshop, as a product owner, you want to identify the stakeholder’s thoughts, opinions, expectations.

29. Service blueprint maps the needs and the issues against the customer journey. It overlaps customer touchpoints and systems and the people behind the operations.

30. Delivering benefits throughout features. It is a process used in the Scaled Agile Framework. Features are a piece of functionality that is providing a considerable interest to the stakeholders. In SAFe, we prioritize the features based on the feature-benefit hypothesis.

31. Business model innovation is probably one of the hardest to perform the design thinking process. Through a serious of exercising, the team takes the strategic elements of the product and innovates. The vital components are identity, core resources, target customers, supply chain strategy.

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