Why You Need Design Thinking and How to Get Started

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Design Thinking: A Creative Approach to Complex Problem Solving

Design thinking has become a trendy topic in business these days. This type of buzz can cause some people to get so caught up in the hype that they can no longer see or understand its value. But for an adaptive leader, design thinking is one of the most effective ways to not only address the continuing complexity in today’s business environment, but also a method to facilitate team innovation and collaboration.

The process of design thinking may seem a little foreign compared to the way many businesses are used to operating, but once organizations have an understanding of the concepts and reasons behind them, they will realize that design thinking can help produce the best results, even if they seem unfamiliar or uncomfortable at first.

The Three Steps of Design Thinking

Step 1: Understand the Problem

This concept may sound simple, but where design thinking differs from some other processes is that it puts humans at the center of problem solving. Figuring out people’s need often spurs innovation. Design thinking participants need to step back, assess, and accurately identify their problems before simply looking for solutions or relying on “what we’ve always done before.” For traditional project managers, this means not just thinking about how to improve on a process or product that already exists, but also bringing people back to the center and getting a sense of what will actually effect or serve them best. This process promotes new ways to address customer needs.

Step 2: Generate Ideas

This part of the process is often where people can feel overwhelmed. In the early stages of part of design thinking, all ideas should be put on the table. While this may be counterintuitive to a culture that usually only rewards (or even wants to hear) the best ideas, starting with a wide range of ideas gives you more options to explore. But, as you move from just generating ideas to focusing on a few, you can start to flesh out the ones that have the most potential. This is part of the reason all ideas should be considered. Maybe someone is coming to the table with only the basis for addressing a problem, but collectively, it could be built upon to become exactly the innovation you are looking for!

Step 3: Develop Models

As you begin to hone in on ideas that have a lot of potential to address the problem you’re focusing on, you can start turning the ideas into prototypes. An important thing to remember, however, is that not all of these prototypes will succeed. And that is okay. Part of design thinking is experimenting and iterating in order to see what works and what doesn’t. To be clear, implementing this new process requires a culture and mindset shift. While many corporate cultures have not been accepting of failure or mingling of ideas across all levels of the business, design thinking encourages greater sharing and collaboration to discover new solutions to never-before-seen problems.

Although design thinking may seem like a passing trend or a daunting approach, today’s adaptive leaders understand that it actually spans across the company, leveraging different skills from different areas of the business, and aptly reflects the changing environment of today’s world. No matter the industry or size of an organization, design thinking can be an extremely useful tool to bring together and revitalize a team.

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1 comment

  1. Rachel Behrle

    Design Thinking requires a new way of looking at problems, which is something I learned first hand on-campus at Duke University last week. It requires the time to step back and think, then iterate on the thinking (with others) and then building on each other’s ideas to come up with something even more valuable.
    By the end of the 2.5 day course (Design Thinking for Results), I felt that I understood the tools and techniques, and I had practiced them, too. Now it’s up to me to incorporate them into my work. I’m looking forward to seeing the techniques in action with my team as I bring this knowledge back to the office.

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