Design Thinking is a methodology used by designers to solve complex problems, and find desirable solutions for clients. A design mindset is not problem-focused, it’s solution focused and action oriented towards creating a preferred future. Design Thinking draws upon logic, imagination, intuition, and systemic reasoning, to explore possibilities of what could be—and to create desired outcomes that benefit the end user (the customer).
“Design thinking can be described as a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.”
– Tim Brown CEO, IDEO
Distinctions Between Design and Design Thinking
“Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer — that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”
— Steve Jobs
“Design is the action of bringing something new and desired into existence—a proactive stance that resolves or dissolves problematic situations by design. It is a compound of routine, adaptive and design expertise brought to bear on complex dynamic situations.”
—Harold Nelson, The Design Way
Nigel Cross (2007), in his book Designerly Ways of Knowing, says, “Everything we have around us has been designed. Design ability is, in fact, one of the three fundamental dimensions of human intelligence. Design, science, and art form an ‘AND’ not an ‘OR’ relationship to create the incredible human cognitive ability.”
- Science — finding similarities among things that are different
- Art — finding differences among things that are similar
- Design — creating feasible ‘wholes’ from infeasible ‘parts’
It makes sense, therefore, to break out of the silos we have created in organizations and develop a cross-disciplinary inquiry to foster innovation.
Design thinking informs human-centered innovation
Human-centered innovation begins with developing an understanding of customers’ or users’ unmet or unarticulated needs.“The most secure source of new ideas that have true competitive advantage, and hence, higher margins, is customers’ unarticulated needs,” says Jeanne Liedtka (Batten Briefings 2015), “Customer intimacy—a deep knowledge of customers and their problems—helps to uncover those needs.”
Design thinking minimizes the uncertainty and risk of innovation by engaging customers or users through a series of prototypes to learn, test and refine concepts. Design thinkers rely on customer insights gained from real-world experiments, not just historical data or market research.