Why is design thinking important

worth talking about

Another word that suddenly appears a thousand times in my timeline: Design Thinking. Can you create thoughts? What sounds like from the brainwashing department can be better translated as: Think like creative people. The aim of Design Thinking is to produce good and sustainable innovations and solutions for problems to find.


What is design thinking?

Design Thinking uses methods and techniques from the creative industry and the findings from creativity research. Design Thinking is a framework that uses these methods and the knowledge of how the human brain works to form a structured process that makes it easier to think outside the box. So it's about setting the brain, the mindset, in motion so that it can think new things and recognize ideas and solutions. These are improved in an iterative loop into marketable and successful solutions.

Who is behind Design Thinking?

Design Thinking is promoted and promoted by the Hassno Plattner Institute at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. There is now such an institute in Germany as well. Design Thinking was developed by David Kelley (founder of the innovation consultancy IDEO, electrical engineer and product designer), Terry Allen Winograd (computer scientist, researches on AI) and Larry Leifer (industrial designer, Prof. Stanford).

How does design thinking work?

As already described, design thinking is about innovation processes. But what makes an innovationsuccessful? To do this, it must meet three requirements: It must useful, economical and with the existing technical methods makeable be. Design Thinking focuses on these three elements (people, technology, economy). People and their needs play a central role in this.

The design thinking process takes place in logical steps:

  • First, the team agrees on a common understanding.
  • In the next step, it immerses itself in the worlds of the target group and tries to understand their needs as precisely as possible and from many perspectives.
  • This then turns into ideas and
  • later developed prototypes.
  • These are tested and
  • the process starts all over again to get better and better.

Who is Design Thinking for?

Basically, that is not a given. With design thinking you can develop products and services. But you can also use it in organizational development and think about new business models or digitization processes.

And of course you can use Design Thinking for creative processes, for example to find good topics for content marketing. As good content becomes more and more important, it makes sense to listen to the target audience and tell stories that are useful, helpful and entertaining.

Whether the target group that needs to be considered are potential customers or employees affected by digitization or other change elements, or all of them, depends on the project and its goal.

Design thinking promotes collaborative working methods and in this respect, just like Working-out-loud, is suitable for agile corporate cultures to develop.

What requirements does design thinking need?

A team with a T-profile

In order for such an approach to work, the team must have both depth of content and the ability to think beyond its own professionalism and concern. Dorothy Leonard-Barton (Harvard Business School) names the interplay of these two requirements T-shape concept, German T-profile. This means that depth of content is combined with generalist skills.

Specifically, it looks like this for Design Thinking:

The group should as diverse as possible be. That means: Depending on the project, there are different specialist areas, professional groups, departments or different age groups, genders, hierarchical levels, and cultural backgrounds. From this area, each group member brings the depth of knowledge and a very specific perspective that is brought into the process.

Each group member should also have a open mindset to have. They have to be interested in the worldview of others and be curious about how things can be viewed differently. And it requires a high level of communication skills. These skills are necessary so that the appreciative exchange works and the group can learn from the perspectives and experiences of the other as a whole and incorporate their findings into the product, the solution.

A space that encourages creative thinking

The third element, typical for design thinking, is the space, including the mobile furnishings and the variety of materials. We know from learning theory that there are different types of thinking and learning.

Creative people know that: you never know when the muse will kiss you. Many creatives have developed quirks or quirks in the course of their creative processes that take place at certain points in the process, the meaning of which is not visible at first glance, but which is important for the ideas to flow.

There is no point in trying to decide whether it is better to work standing, walking, sitting, or lying down. It also doesn't matter whether you prefer to work with Excel tables, mind maps or walls full of lines, arrows and post-its. Some swear by graphic recording or have to talk while thinking.

Design Thinking wants give space to creativity. That is why the rooms are designed in such a way that you can create retreats with mobile walls, let off steam on boards or move around the room.

Which methods are used in design thining?

We have seen: Design Thinking is not a single method, but rather a framework, a framework in which you can work creatively and develop new things. It owns a specific group structurethat in one special room one defined process passes through. In the individual steps, all the methods can be used that are otherwise used for lateral thinking and creative processes. The hat method, brainwriting or brainstorming, to name three examples.

Why is there such a hype about Design Thinking?

The hype about Design Thinking arises from the economic and social situation in which we find ourselves: Large processes of change are driving companies and people. Digitization, globalization, climate change and demographic change are challenging old economic forms, thought patterns and habits. “Keep it up” doesn't work. But how then? The management language even has its own word for this world situation, VUCA (short for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity, detailed in this blog post).

At the same time we live in an information overload. With big data, companies today have more information about their potential customers than could have been dreamed of even a generation ago. But it has also become more difficult to be noticed in the numerous bubbles and milieus, let alone to build trust. We are all so bombarded with too many texts, images and sounds that many people turn away, build neural protective mechanisms and block out informational stimuli.

On the other hand, attention is paid to who really picks up people with their needs. Because then the brain switches to looking, listening, paying attention. And Design Thinking attaches great importance to the precise identification of these needs.

I think these two factors - the high pressure to innovate coupled with the need to understand the stakeholders - are why design thinking is so hyped.

Is design thinking really new?

It's a philosophical question. Similar to WOL, known methods and findings about the human being are combined to form a framework or a process. Is this new? Yes and no.

Ultimately, it does not matter whether it is new or just brought together anew. Nobody has to keep reinventing the wheel. Of course, it would be nice if people didn't pretend that a new concept equates to the invention of electricity. On the other hand: If old methods were not sold in a new bundle as a new product, they would hardly find that many buyers.

Ultimately, it is important: Design Thinking promotes interdisciplinary and collaborative work and uses its method to set the small gray cells vibrating so that our brain can leave old patterns and develop new thoughts and solutions. It's good.

I'll close with Albert Einstein, who must have already worked in the design thinking manner, even if the term did not exist in his time. But he said the essential point: "Problems can never be solved with the same way of thinking that created them."

Design Thinking - I want to try it out.

Where are you in the development of your company?

  • Are you agile and looking for a moderator for design thinking?
  • Are you on the way to a collaborative corporate culture, but there are still some issues?
  • Do you need support with the communicative skills of those involved so that the interdisciplinary appreciative communication works?
  • Are you looking for good and authentic topics for your content?

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Credit: The glossary image in the title is mine.