Design Thinking

LEMELSON INTERNSHIP 2021

Blog #2 – 

The first week of the internship was really a busy one, with a lot of skills to learn and a lot of challenges to work on. The second week however was really calm and more a week of reflections, discussions and sharing ideas amongst each other. We went through how one could come from a problem to a solution in a more efficient way. It was really astonishing to learn how understanding a problem well could make the journey from a problem to a solution a lot more productive.

To better understand problems that were solved by technology, we looked at the attributes of an appropriate technology. It is important to make sure that whatever technology we use in finding solutions to our problems is appropriate. We learnt that in order for a technology to be appropriate it should involve a socio-cultural need identification, be technically feasible and innovative, be sustainable and empowering and involve an active role of stakeholders. We specifically assessed the Roundabout PlayPump as an appropriate technology and discussed why it was an appropriate technology and what went wrong.

We had a chance to take a deep dive in needs exploration and needs finding. One thing that makes needs finding really interesting is that sometimes you have to look for needs from people who do not know they have the needs. We assessed the needs based on the problem itself, the population it affects as well as the outcome expected if the need is successfully solved. The earliest stage in needs finding is the background research. This involves finding the details in respective areas of interest.

Background research can be either primary or secondary research. We looked closely at different ways of conducting primary research such as observation, interview and questionnaire. In observation, we looked at how to conduct observations to accurately get as much detail about a problem as possible. We also looked at some important things to do while conducting an observation such as, being curious, finding patterns, listening carefully as well as asking questions whenever necessary. In interviews, we looked at a solo interview, group interview and briefly on an expert interview. We also looked at things to do before an interview which include recruiting tools, deciding on the type of interview and preparing questions beforehand. We closely looked at how to prepare open ended as well as general interview questions. 

The most interesting part of the week was interviewing a client from Selcom, a company which deals with food delivery. The problem they faced was that during delivery of drinks from restaurants to the customers using bikes, drinks spill and therefore the delivery does not happen as intended. We had a chance to exercise the theory on interviews. It was honestly a very good experience since we had to use the interview to make sure that we understood the problem well and identify any other problems associated with the original problem. We prepared our questions really well and in the end we were able to find answers to most of the questions we had in detail.

Figure 1: A close look at the delivery bike and the items holder to better understand the problem

After the interviews, we did some secondary research to get even more details about the problem and add to what we already obtained from the interviews. After finishing our research, we downloaded our learnings by each member of my team writing little notes on different ideas and new learnings we captured through the interview as well as the secondary research. We had lots of different amazing ideas deduced from our research.

Downloaded learnings gave us so many items from the research. It followed that not all information from the downloaded learnings was useful in getting the solution to our problem. We therefore learnt how to find themes from the downloaded learnings. Themes are just clusters that include learnings with similar patterns or characteristics. After getting the themes we saw how to create insight statements from the themes. Insight statements drive the design out of a huge body of information we gathered. It is from the insights that we can get some of the actionable statements.

Figure 2: Themes and insights from the downloaded learnings

To wind up, as engineers we usually want to solve our problems as fast as possible. It is however how well you understand what you are dealing with that will determine how well your solutions solve your problems. I believe that by the end of the following week we will all be able to clearly dig out problems or needs, understand them, and come up with solutions that accurately solve the problems.  

 

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