Design thinking

If you want to accelerate your business growth, it’s time to get creative. Businesses operate in such a fast-paced environment these days that it's easy to overlook patterns and solutions. When companies take the time to step back and analyse day-today problems, they can often find common issues and potential causes. This allows them to make strategic changes and improve overall efficiency.

Problem-solving techniques such as design thinking are gaining popularity and for good reason. Here we’ll take a deep dive into the design thinking process, and show you what it means in practice to think outside of the box, or separate from the status quo to create an entirely new one.

So what is design thinking?

It's a collaborative, human-centred approach to creating products, services, and experiences that people love. It encourages divergent thinking and experimentation, accepting failure as a stepping stone to success. Design thinking helps you focus on the needs of users by involving them in the process. Users can help guide decisions from ideation through post-launch, responding to changing customer needs based on real-world feedback.

Not just for designers

Design thinking is more than just a buzzword—it’s a critical aspect of innovation and is used to solve complex problems in various industries. Design thinking isn’t unique to designers; great innovators in literature, music, art, science, business, and engineering have all practiced it.

Design thinking isn't just for new technology and products either, it's a new way to see your world. It offers a process for better understanding the potential of our lives and the people around us. It's a way of thinking about everything from business meetings, town hall gatherings, and school field trips to rainy days at home with family and weekend road-trips with friends.


Design thinking is human-centred, this means the process understands the inner psyche of the consumer. The way they think. The way they dream. Design thinking understands how to make your product come to life in a such a way that is natural and effortless. Rather than the impersonal approach that comes from traditional business mindsets, design thinkers are able to communicate with consumers on the largest level possible.

Simply put, to be valid, a design must serve a need. To create a better consumer experience, consumer researchers study patterns of human behaviours in order to understand needs and behaviour. In this process, they develop hypotheses that predict how well a product will serve the needs of the user.

Rapid prototypes

In contrast to traditional problem solving, design thinking is based on iteration. A good design process starts with identifying a problem and brainstorming solutions, but then it moves to prototyping and testing to measure whether the solution is effective in real life.

The “iterative” part of the design process leans towards getting prototypes out there to see what's working, or not working. It favours moving quickly, rather than endless research or rumination.

Iteration, while scary and new to most entrepreneurs, is the only component of design thinking that you actually need to grasp. Instead of diving deep on research and analysis, iterate: try new things quickly and test them against real users. Diversity and inclusion in your product or service can propel growth and profits.

Why is design thinking important?

Design Thinking is a powerful process that helps you create meaningful experiences for your customers. The process is useful in any system that's complex (not just design systems) because it helps you get insights on how people really interact with your product, service, or brand. The process is useful because it:

Solves a concrete human need

Design thinking is an approach that can help you get to the root of an issue. It starts with an observational, human-centric approach to discover pain points from the consumer that you hadn’t previously thought of, ones that the consumer may not even be aware of. Once those pain points are identified, you can use the approach to solve them. Design thinking has been proven to improve user experience and ultimately sales.

Tackles problems that are ambiguous or difficult to define

When consumers can’t describe the problem they want a solution for, businesses need to tap their customers’ real behaviour and user experiences. If a customer says, “I want to be able to buy this type of shoe with one click,” business leaders should ask what problem they think the customer has (e.g. small, low-price shoes being difficult to search for).

By studying the way consumers interact with their (purchasing) habits, you can identify pain points and unmet needs. They might not always be able to explain what problem they want solved or what features they want included in your product. But by observing them, you will start to see patterns that point you toward areas of opportunity.

Leads to more innovative solutions

We, as humans, have been conditioned to believe what's possible based on what we've seen before, whether in person or in media. That means we can't ask for things that haven't been created yet. Design thinking is about exploring unknown possibilities and uncovering unmet needs. This approach enables a process of iterating through different possibilities until a solution that solves a problem is reached — a non-obvious solution.

Makes businesses more agile and efficient

Design thinking is a powerful approach to problem-solving that results in a greater focus on what works, rather than just what is feasible. Instead of delving into the research and analysis phase of a project, design thinking is all about prototyping, testing and then improving your solution.

Five-stage process

Designing and building a great product requires creativity, thought, and iteration — and a process. The design-thinking process is a structured, five-stage framework that helps you to come up with innovative ideas and build better products. Let's take a closer look at each stage of the design process:

  • Stage one – empathise

In order to gather consumers' critical and meaningful insights about a product and its value for them, you need to approach it with empathy. This first stage of the process involves suspending judgments about what the consumer needs and observing human behaviour without having preconceived notions of what the user is looking for or how they will interact with your product.

Empathy is the ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes and understand what they're feeling. It means you feel their pain and see the world from their perspective. Empathy is a powerful tool that can help you get to know your customers, gain insight into their problems, and create products that solve their problems better than the competition.

  • Stage two – define

Second stage: define the problem. This stage is all about defining the problem your consumers are facing — or, more specifically, the pain point they experience when it comes to this specific product category. Create a buyer persona and think through their day-to-day, then apply that information to your product category and think about how they experience the problem, where they encounter it, and what kind of difficulties they have around it.

  • Stage three – ideate

“The best way to get a good idea is to get lots of ideas.” —Linus Pauling.

The ideation process involves coming up with as many solutions as possible. This can be done on a whiteboard in an office space, or it could be done individually at a coffee shop or a co-working space. Both approaches have their benefits. The group approach might lead to better synergy and creativity, while the individual approach could provide greater insights and ensure that ideas don’t get lost in the fray.

  • Stage four – prototype

Prototyping is an essential part of the product development process. Prototypes are not always perfect — in fact, they should never be perfect — and that's by design. Prototypes are meant to be imperfect, quick and ugly, so you can get honest feedback about your product before you spend a fortune on expensive processes like manufacturing.

  • Stage five – testing

Once you give a prototyped solution to consumers, you must observe how they interact with it. This testing stage is the one in which you collect feedback on your work. 

Design Thinking is an iterative design process that incorporates the needs of the consumer throughout. Each stage leads to new insights, which in turn lead to new ideas, which lead to new insights, and on and on until you have a solution.

These five stages are not sequential but coexist at the same time and evolve iteratively. In other words, there is no clear-cut framework or model for innovation and its different phases or stages. What it has, though, are a set of operational principles that are compatible with the above-mentioned model of competing modes and converging trajectories.

A space for innovation to flourish

Design thinking is a powerful methodology that you can use to improve your business. The premise behind design thinking states that the solution to a problem should lie in the understanding of the problem itself. Design thinking promotes empathy and human-centred thinking, making your business a whole lot better if you implement it. Think of design thinking as the lens by which you view a problem and its possible solutions.

A new way to solve problems and identify solutions — design thinking is a participative approach that grows out of research, collaboration, and innovation. Used in multiple industries, and especially those with high-volume growth in need of rapid change, design thinking is an effective approach to developing new strategies, while catering to the ever-changing demands of customers.

Design thinking creates a space for innovation to flourish. It's about being flexible, iterative, and quick with solutions. Companies that have adopted design thinking have the edge in the market right now because they are able to create an environment where employees are free to explore solutions. They can transcend their situation and find true genius.