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Can Design Thinking with Scrum Really Help with Product Development?

Jelena Babić

April 15, 2024

6 min read


You are building a new product, creating product development plan, investigating development process, looking for a new company to build your idea. If yes, then let’s see how Design Thinking with Scrum can help you with this process.


More Innovative Solutions with 5 Stages in the Design Thinking Process

If you are, while designing your product, thinking about end user, your customer, you could say that you started with Design Thinking. What is common for Scrum and Design Thinking? They both deal with complex problems. How user will behave, think or how your product could change his life, Hasso Plattner, Institute of Design at Stanford proposed five stage Design Thinking model: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, Test.





In this phase you need to understand your users, their needs and the problems, problems that will be solved by using your product. Good thing is if company that will build your product is using Scrum. One artefact in Scrum is Product Goal. When Scrum Team is building product, they always have Product Goal in mind. It didn’t all started with Product Goal, it started from Vision, Product Vision, Product Roadmap to Product Goal. Both in common to Design Thinking and Scrum is to have end user on mind. When you search for a company that will create a product, company that you are entering product development process with, expect to talk about and users as well, there is nothing worse than build a product that nobody use. If you fail, fail early. You have opportunity to inspect and adapt.



Think of your product as a solution for customer problems, needs. Think about features that are solving problems. Communicate your product as solution to client’s problems to company that is building your product as well. Be on the same page. Scrum will help you with increment development, every iteration called Sprint is adding value to your product, you are able to collect feedback as product is developing to gain feedback early. When you are invited to Sprint Review event, by the team that is building your product, please don’t skip it. This is your opportunity to redefine, to give feedback, to coordinate with your product development plan.



All team members are suggesting ideas, here is when psychological safety comes in place. In psychological safe environment team members feel safe to talk. Whether you are empowering existing product, developing your product idea from the beginning as MVP, celebrate every suggested idea. In some companies, people are rewarded for rejected ideas. If you are in situation where ideas are coming one after one you are lucky. So, when you chose company for product development, “listen” carefully.



It is time to create your solutions for previously defined problems. This is when Product Backlog is created. It is a prioritized list of work for the developers that is derived from the roadmap and its requirements. Product Backlog items on top goes to iteration, at the end of iteration called Sprint you will see first prototype. Inputs for Product Backlog are very important. They are coming from product vision, product roadmap, customers, marketing, sales… When communicating your requirements with company for product development let them be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-based).



Now your users are testing your solution, giving you feedback so you can go into next production iteration. Try your solution and gain feedback from customers. Both with Design Thinking and Scrum you have 3 pillars of Empiricism in place: Transparency, Inspection and Adaption. Use them all.


Core Principles of Design Thinking


There are several key principles that guide the process in Design Thinking that you could use:

  • Human Centred – focus on creating solutions that meet customers requirements. Customer is in the centre of your mind. You are solving his problems. 
  • Empathy – Design Thinking is calling for active listening, understanding clients’ emotions and motivators. This is why we are born with two ears and one mouth.
    Iterative Process – transparent process that enables to inspect and adapt, delivering value with each iteration. 
  • Collaboration – all Scrum events are calling team members to collaborate because it leads to more creative solutions, effective ones. 
  • Mindset – all that you were able to read previously is a matter of a mindset. If you get value from this blog post that means you have a mindset for it.

This principle enables you to build product that are meaningful and have impact for end users.


Impact of Design Thinking on Product Development

Design Thinking is not just impacting product development it starts from Vision. First vision was created in mind, so we can say that Design Thinking is a mindset, as well as Agile, mindset that can be applied across all aspects of a business enabling solutions to complex problems.

Right mindset is in place when principles come to live. Both Agile and Design Thinking principles foster collaboration, encouraging employees to think outside the box and experiment for solutions. Make decisions based on experiences. Look for a feedback loop. Gain your deserved market share.


Embrace a Mindset to Design Thinking

When you are practicing empathy just put yourself into customers shoes. Think from different position. If you need, put yourself in third position as well and think like observer. Remember how acters are preparing for their roles, in real time situations most of the time. You are preparing yourself to solve real problems and empathy can help.

If you are a real talent but you can’t collaborate with others, you miss lots of chances for success. Collaboration fosters creativity, generates innovative solutions. Freedom to experiment and psychological safety, encourages a culture of experimentation and iteration. It values the process of trial and error, allowing designers to explore multiple solutions, refine ideas based on feedback, and iterate until they arrive at the most viable and effective solution (MVP). This freedom to experiment encourages risk-taking, fosters creativity, and ultimately leads to great innovations.

Having a mindset to design thinking with empathy, collaboration, and creating an environment where experimentation is encouraged, complex challenges can be led to meaningful innovation.




What if You Ignore Design Thinking?

Nothing will happen, or you could build something that nobody uses.  It is up to you. 



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