Design Thinking Overview

Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation—anchored in understanding customer’s needs, rapid prototyping, and generating creative ideas—that will transform the way you develop products, services, processes, and organizations. By using design thinking, you make decisions based on what customers really want instead of relying only on historical data or making risky bets based on instinct instead of evidence.

Design thinking brings together what is desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable.

  • Desirability: What makes sense to people and for people? 
  • Feasibility: What is technically possible within the foreseeable future?
  • Viability: What is likely to become part of a sustainable business model?

 

Design Thinking Process

"Design thinking is not limited to a process. It’s an endlessly expanding investigation." —Sandy Speicher, IDEO CEO

We teach the phases of design thinking as linear steps, but in practice, the process is not always linear—the phases combine to form an iterative approach that you can try out and adapt to suit your specific challenge. 

  • Frame a Question Inspire your team to think about your customers (who you’re designing a solution for) and what they actually need.
  • Gather Inspiration Go out into the world and seek inspiration by observing and discovering what people really need.
  • Generate Ideas Use the inspiration you gather to help push past the obvious to come up with fresh solutions to your problem.
  • Make Ideas Tangible Build rough prototypes and find what’s working and what’s not.
  • Test to Learn Test your prototypes, gather feedback, and iterate.
  • Share the Story Once you’ve arrived at the right solution, craft and share the story to introduce it to your colleagues, clients, and customers.

Some of these steps may happen several times, and you may even jump back and forth between them. Moving through the phases of design thinking can take you from a blank slate to a new, innovative solution. 

Why Design Thinking is Valuable

We live and work in a world of interlocking systems, where many of the problems we face are dynamic, multifaceted, and inherently human. The following IDEO case studies consider the questions How will we personalize health? and How can design advance learning and education?