In recent years, we have seen a wave of AI advances with tech companies racing to develop and deploy state-of-the-art solutions. One approach that has gained significant recognition for driving AI innovation is design thinking. While we may be tricked into thinking that the concept is centred around product appearance, the truth is that it goes beyond. According to Jennifer Kilian, partner at McKinsey, “Design thinking is a methodology that we use to solve complex problems, and it’s a way of using systemic reasoning and intuition to explore ideal future states.”
In essence, it is a special way of ideating and developing innovative solutions catering to human needs. So, how do we leverage this to drive AI innovation?
Getting to the root of the problem
Design thinking emphasises understanding and empathising with end-users. By adopting this user-centric mindset, AI developers can identify real-world problems that can be solved through AI solutions. The process begins by deeply engaging with the target audience, conducting user research, and uncovering pain points and unmet needs. Through this, developers gain valuable insights that inform the creation of AI algorithms and systems tailored to user requirements.
According to Harvard Business School, brands such as GE Healthcare, Netflix, and UberEats, are already utilising design thinking to develop effective solutions to challenges. For instance, Netflix, the streaming giant, leveraged design thinking to transform the movie rental experience. By delivering DVDs directly to customers' homes, they eliminated the inconvenience of visiting stores. As the technology evolved, Netflix introduced on-demand streaming and original content and improved the user experience through design thinking.
Design thinking also promotes a culture of continuous learning. AI developers can leverage this to experiment, iterate, and adapt their algorithms, models, and architectures. By doing so, they can learn and refine their AI systems.
Fusing engineering with human centricity
While design thinking emphasises user needs and problem-solving, it places equal importance on engineering excellence in AI innovation. We are already seeing this unfolding in industries such as healthcare, where AI-powered systems are being developed to assist doctors in diagnosing diseases more accurately and efficiently. Similarly, it plays a crucial role in developing autonomous vehicles. AI algorithms are being designed to analyse vast amounts of data in real time, enabling vehicles to navigate safely and efficiently.
What's particularly remarkable is the potential for co-creation, enabling developers to actively involve users, stakeholders, and other experts in an ongoing dialogue. This inclusive approach fosters interdisciplinary collaboration. And through this multidisciplinary collaboration, AI models gain a deeper understanding of human behaviour, resulting in improved accuracy of predictions and personalised experiences.
Designing the future
Design thinking is emerging as a powerful approach to driving AI innovation and will shape the future of AI systems in a human-centric manner. By marrying design thinking with AI, developers can create transformative solutions that the world needs right now. Nevertheless, it is important to acknowledge that design thinking is not an instantaneous process. It requires a substantial investment of time, research, and rigorous testing. To achieve this, adequate training, leadership support, and a commitment to fostering a design-thinking mindset are essential.