Design Thinking Explained


I had a hard time understanding this “design thinking” – I feel a lot of people do. Most people think of Design as an object or artefact, but this refers to design in the context of doing. Part of the problem is that the word is unfamiliar and it doesn’t really tell me what it actually does, and the benefit is not instantly implied because used together the words become vague or some would say common sense.

There are many professional societies, that have talked about Design Thinking (DT) at one point or another in the last 10years. There are also mega-organizations that use DT in their daily work life. All these have slight variations on nomenclature and details, but in essence, the DNA is the same.

It was only when I read a lot of papers, books and articles regarding DT that it finally started to make sense. But in reality, the normal person would not have the desire to read as much on one subject “DT” therefore I will streamline your process and help you understand it.

Design Thinking (DT) is definitely not one type of thinking methodology -it’s not analytical based thinking, it’s also not abductive or deductive reasoning. It’s not creative thinking, yet uses it in parts. DT combines a lot of tools and techniques that are of the mind and puts them in one process.

Steps for Understanding DT methodology:-

#1 Think of a hypothetical engineer character. Working on a detail of a project, refining and solving then going on to solve the next detail. Honing and perfecting the craft of making something work really well.

#2 An artist. Always asking why maybe daydreaming. Observing situations and interpreting things. Thinking what if. Sometimes in abstract, sometimes in interpretive structure.

#3 A business person. Always making decisions, combining data, gaining insight, setting a vision.

#4 A psychologist. Understanding human behaviour, motivations and drivers behind human beings. Dealing with emotions and touchy-feely subjects.

#5 Smash the qualities of these people together. Changing activities and varied sections of converging and diverging thought patterns are critical to the DT process.

#6 The process timeline contains specific points where divergent and convergent activities happen, in an iterative manner, (meaning that sometimes you have to stop and go backwards to go forwards) That is the Design Thinking process abstracted by these characters.

As defined by IDEO the basic DT thinking blocks are:


Why is Design Thinking Great?

#1 DT is specific when it needs to be, and at the same time, it’s holistic when it needs to be. The ability to accommodate both is key.

#2- DT considers a multitude of real factors all at the same time. From the consumer to manufacturing

#3- DT is creative, as you have to generate and prototype a lot of ideas.

#4 DT is value based iteration, as you have to stop, start and learn from then refine. Adding value through iteration.

#5 DT is Accountable, as it tests the results to ensure the output works/meets the criteria developed.

#6 DT is Inclusive as you have to have input from many sources during the process that shapes the final solution, so everyone shapes the output from their disciplines.

#7 DT has been proven to be successful.



Modern Balanced Thinking

I don’t need to tell you the benefits of DT, as I have just created the classic sweet spot in a Venn diagram with overlapping spheres. Consider these words, Viability, Feasibility and Desirability. The intersection is a sweet spot — Design Thinking gets you to this sweet spot faster than anything else.

DT is best used as a Relevant Innovation tool, and when I say “innovation”, I mean the creation of something, such as a service or product that is not just new to the market, but is also relevant to, and rooted in real human needs.

Design Thinking Variation

The chart below is an adaptation of the Design Council’s classic double diamond. Its an illustration that helps show the convergent and divergent thinking needed over a timeline with different activities. It’s the process we use here at

design thinking process

Where can DT be applied?

DT certainly can be applied to a new widget. Beyond that, DT is a strong methodology able to extract and define experiences for any type of industry or consumer experience, from developing a rice cooker to the way customer service works in an organization. DT helps services, products and human organizations be more successful by being more human-centered.

“It’s a methodology for discovering new opportunities and solving unknown problems through application of principles of design to the way people work.”

Taken from Why Design Thinking Matters to Marketers at

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