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What Is Design Thinking?

17.03.2015

“Design thinking starts with divergence, the deliberate attempt to expand the range of options rather than narrow them.”- Tim Brown

Design thinking is an ever-changing process that helps to solve problems creatively. But where did design thinking come from and how does it differ from other kinds of problem solving?

Design thinking in the business world originates from theories in computer science, engineering, architecture, and design. They started developing methodologies to help solve scientific or design problems from a human centered approach. As design thinking started to become more popular, people started to apply it’s methodologies to different subjects like business and education.

Principles Of Design Thinking

There are a few different methodolgies behind design thinking, but the principles behind them are the same:

1. Human centered Using a humanistic approach is an important part of design thinking. Gathering information from customers and community members to shape the solutions you find.

2. Ambiguous problems Part of the process of design thinking is defining the problem. Design thinking works well with problems that are not straightforward and may require complex and innovative solutions.

3. Test, test, test and quickly Beta-testing ideas, and then either selecting them to move forward, or sending it back to a different phase is essential in design thinking. If you are not able to gather much information from your community before forming ideas, the testing phase let’s you get feedback quickly, and improve on your ideas.

4. Non-linear process Depending on which methodology you use, there can be between 4 and 7 stages in design thinking. Of course, you are able to model your own stages as well keeping in mind the principles and theories of design thinking. Whichever methodology you are using, the phases are flexible. This means that a project can repeat and move through various stages freely, without having to follow each stage in order.

Methods Of Design Thinking

When asking ‘what is design thinking’, understanding the process of design thinking is important. I talk more about the methodology of design thinking that we use at WE THINQ here, but there are a few different methodologies out there that you can adapt to your project. All of the methodologies use the same approach: find solutions people want, build from the ground up, and test quickly. One of the earliest models of design thinking by Simon Herbert included seven stages:

1. Define 2. Research 3. Ideation 4. Protototype 5. Choose 6. Implement 7. Learn

Other methodologies are based off of this today but often lessened to 4 or 5 stages to simplify the process.

So what is design thinking?

There is a lot of research and methodology currently being developed in the design thinking world. Using design thinking for business, government, and education is a fairly new phenomenon and one that continues to grow and change with great innovators.

Here are a few resources on the subject to help you get a better understanding of what design thinking is:

Design Thinking in Policymaking: Opportunities and Challenges - A guide on what design thinking is and how it can be used in policy making.

What is your definition of design thinking? What methodology do you use?

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