An entrepreneur walked into John McDonald’s office in late April with an idea that could transform the process of buying and selling a home. He had drafted a chart that laid out his plan, and now he needed an app and a website to make his vision a reality.

“The problem,” said McDonald, whose new Next Studios in Fishers just launched to try to turn ideas into products and products into companies, “is that at no point did he ask any Realtors, any homebuyers, any home sellers for their input.”

“If he continues to go down the pathway of developing this service, he might be right,” he said. “Or he might be wrong. In which case, he’s going to suffer a catastrophic failure in his business model because he failed to, at the very beginning, pressure-test the idea with actual victors or victims.”

So McDonald and his colleagues will be doing that pressure-testing with the entrepreneur using design thinking, the name for a particular way of approaching problems and situations to come up with solutions or products.

They’ll start with a session to gather input from potential users about his idea. That will yield information about their target persona—here’s whom they’re after and why—and they’ll use those findings to shape the rest of the process.

From there, McDonald and company might put the entrepreneur’s home-selling plan through as many as 14 exercises to test its viability. The purpose is to figure out how best to make the product faster, better, easier, more fun—and, therefore, improve the user’s life.

That’s design thinking.

DORIS (an acronym for Design Oriented Research for Impactful Solutions) is a firm that uses design thinking to help companies rethink their workspaces. The firm consulted with a west-side food manufacturer to reconfigure its workspace to help make its employees more comfortable.

The workers, called bakers, had a hard time at break times and lunch times with crowding and other concerns. Restrooms were too far away, and locker rooms were inadequate.

DORIS founder Samantha Julka and her colleagues went through an eight-step design-thinking process that prompted management to change the physical layout of the facility.

“It’s designed the way the employees thought it should be,” Julka said. “And once they reopened, they have outperformed month over month. Every month, they produce more. The inclusion of the bakers has paid off for them. They’re more productive and effective.”

An excerpt from the 2020 Innovation Issue.