How to use the Design Cycle to solve anything

When faced with the task of solving a problem, a common methodology can be employed called the Design Cycle to lead one to create an appropriate solution. The Design Cycle is a standard methodology that is used regularly in many industries and can be used on problems from small to large, regardless of the scope or complexity. There are two distinct benefits to the Design Cycle. The first benefit is that it keeps function, or applicability of the solution in the real world, in the forefront of the mind while solving the problem. The second benefit is that the methodology is heuristic, making it applicable to any type of problem, or particularly effective in learning new subjects.  The methodology consists of four total steps that do not have to be completed in order and can be completed in an iterative process.

Step 1: Investigate

The idea of the first step, investigate, is to identify, evaluate and outline the issue. During this step, collect any information about the problem that is available to further clarify and justify the issue at hand.  If possible, research the problem and benchmark with others who have had similar struggles to find out what solutions they employed. An outline brief with this information, along with the required specifications and tests will help illuminate the path for the next steps.

Step 2. Plan

Using the outline brief created in Step 1, ideas on how to create a solution can now be developed in more detail. Then one solution of the many ideas can be selected, and a plan for that solution can be completed. The plan can be as simple as a list and should include items like the materials required, the timeline, and any other resources necessary to complete the chosen plan. During step 2 is when a rough sketch can become a blueprint, complete with measurements.

Step 3. Create

Using the plan or list created in Step 2, gather all the resources needed to tangibly create the planned solution. If the solution is an algorithm, the algorithm can now be “run” to reach the goal state or the desired results. If the solution is a design, the design can now be drawn or created using physical materials. Initial testing of the plan can occur at this stage, and if the solution isn’t effective or applicable, this is the time to go back to Step 2 to alter the plan.

Step 4. Evaluate

When the solution is tested to reach the goal state, evaluate if the desired outcome has been met. If the desired outcome has been met, then the solution now has been created. Before officially marking the solution complete, return to the list of requirements from Step 1 and confirm that all the requirements of the solution have been implemented. Ask others to evaluate the solution and validate that the goal state has been met with the solution that has been implemented. Steps 2-4 can be repeated if the goal state has not been met or to further advance the solution. Just return to Step 2 to alter the plan, continue to Step 3 to test the plan and Step 4 again to evaluate the results. As mentioned in the introduction, the steps do not have to be used in order and can be iterative.

When the goal state has been met in Step 4 and the solution has fixed the known issue identified in Step 1, the process is complete! The Design Cycle is an easy methodology to use to solve any issue, as it is intuitive but straightforwardly structured to organize work.