How To Use the Double Diamond to Innovate Better

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“Businesspeople don’t need to understand designers better.  They need to be designers.” — Roger Martin, Dean of Rotman School of Management

You can use the Double Diamond to help you explore the problem and solution space for a given challenge or opportunity.

The Double Diamond is a design process model popularized by the British Design Council, and adapted from the divergence-convergence model by Bela Banathy.

You can think of the Double Diamond as a journey of diverging and converging phases through a design process.

It’s this breadth and depth that can help you innovate better or help you create better solutions by thinking bigger, thinking broader, and thinking beyond.

Sometimes, the most helpful part of the Double Diamond is simply letting other people know where they are in the journey.  Seriously.

But the Double-Diamond is also a great reminder to cast a wide net before you narrow down on which problem to solve, and to also explore a range of potential solutions before selecting one.

A Journey of Diverging and Converging Phases

Here is a simple way to visualize the Double Diamond  model for the design process:

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Note how each phase is expanding or contracting as you move through the design process.

4 Phases of Design – Discover, Define, Develop. and Deliver

In the model, there are 4  phases for design:

  1. Discover – The goal of this phase is to gain insights through research.  This will likely include researching trends and insights, as well as user and technology research.  The goal of the user research is to build user empathy.  You might do this through interviews, observational analysis, personas and scenarios.  In this phase, you are diverging and expanding the problem space.  Brainstorm the problem space with all the insights you gain, and create a big list of potential problems worth working on.  Reframe the problems as Creative Questions.
  2. Define – The goal of this phase is to narrow down on a problem worth working on.  A great output of this phase is a specific problem, well-phrased as a Creative Question.  This is the specific challenge that you will attempt to solve.
  3. Develop – The goal of this phase is to develop potential solutions.  Generate ideas through sketching, storyboarding, and scenario mapping.  Iterate and learn.  Explore and expand the potential range of solutions.
  4. Deliver – Narrow down to a potential solution based on everything you’ve learned and testing with users for the best experience and fit for the challenge.

Let’s run through that again, but this time a littler faster and simpler so it sticks:

In the Discovery stage, you are identifying and contextualizing the actual problem or opportunity.  In the Definition stage, you are filtering ideas down to the one you will work on.  In the Development stage, you are prototyping solutions.  In the Deliver stage, you  are shipping your solution.

Solving the Right Problem and Solving the Problem Right

As you go along your design journey, remember what you are trying to accomplish.  The process should work for you, not the other way around.

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The big thing to keep in mind with the first Diamond, is that you are ultimately identifying the right problem to solve.

You do this by learning the problem space, building empathy for the users and stakeholders, and creating clarity around what the challenge really is.

The big thing to keep in mind with the second Diamond, is to focus on solving the problem right.

You do this by learning the solution space and

Let People Know Where They are In the Double Diamond

I remember asking a friend what he found most helpful about the Double Diamond.  He said that it really helps to orient and ground people to where they are in the design process.

If you are expanding or diverging the problem space while somebody is trying to converge or narrow down, you’ll run into conflict.

Similarly, if you are brainstorming the solution space, while somebody is trying to brainstorm the problem space, again, you will experience conflict.

So in effect, the Double Diamond is actually a good, visual way to get people on the same page.

For me, I like to remind people that before we start solving a problem, I like to explore the problem space to figure out what’s worth solving.

The Double Diamond can be a simple tool to help you team up better, innovate better, and take on big challenges in a more effective way.

Enjoy.

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