When inexperienced entrepreneurs start a new business, they enter what I would call "the crazy ant phase". If you have no idea what you are getting into, if you don't even know what you don't know, if you need answers but you have no questions, where do they start? I doesn't really matter. If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there. So just like the crazy ants, you need to run around randomly until they run into things. You can run into people, facts, insights, all little pieces of the puzzle. The image of you business becomes clearer when more and more pieces of the puzzle are collected. After a picture starts to emerge the research can focus on missing pieces and the research effort becomes more focused. Assumptions can be challenged and facts can be verified. The picture becomes more detailed, more complex but also more focused and substantiated.
The idea of the Empathize phase is that you try to live the life of your customers. What do the really want (hidden desires)? What keeps them awake at night (hidden anxieties)? What consumes their income? What deteriorates their social status? How will their lives improve when the do business with you? This phase take a lot of research because any assumption you make is most likely not true. Asking people about the desires and anxieties is no use either, because they are "hidden".
When you have an idea about your customers, your business environment and the problem you want to address, its time to define the problem to make sure you solve the right problem. Do you know what causes the problem? Do you know the cause of the cause? If you can't get to the root of the problem your solutions might not fix the problem.
When you define your problem, describe it in a scientific matter, including the ambient factors which have impact on the problem and define the circumstances under which the problem is worth solving. Check the definition for assumptions and beliefs and start by checking those assumptions and beliefs before you continue with the next stage of the Design Thinking Cycle.
When you are clear on the problem definition you should be able to
define the criteria for a good product/service design. Use the Value Proposition Canvas to formulate customer groups and per customer group: Jobs to be done, desires and anxieties and required benefits, features and experience.