Definition is not sexy. Although most avid fitness fans would disagree, Defining is not among the most popular stage of the Design Thinking process. There is a certain creative appeal about the stages in the second half of Design Thinking: Ideate and Prototype. It sounds like a lot of freethinking and experimenting whereas the first two stages of Design Thinking, Empathize and Define, are more about research.
After the Empathize stage, during which one really tries to observe and understand the people being served by putting yourself in their shoes, then you need to interpret all that data and research to determine the underlying problem.
“But what does that really mean?”
Have you ever had a student come up to you and tell you that there’s a problem outside in the hallway. Then you have to ask for more clarification—“What kind of problem?, What’s happening out there? Who’s involved? What does that really mean?” The problem has to be defined clearly to be able to respond to it in the most effective and relevant way.
In Design Thinking, the Define stage is to clarify the problem, to understand what needs to be solved. From product to service, clarity on a problem is critical because it will lead to what IDEO refers to as the POV (Point of View) statement.
The POV statement is created by making sense of who the users are, what their needs are, and the insights that come from the observations made. This is laid out in an easy formula below at IDEO’s D School:
"Design Thinking: The Define Stage and the Point of View Statement", The Leadership Program, Inc. 2016