The Concept of Design Thinking

Definition of Design Thinking


Design thinking is a combination of three elements – empathy, creativity and rationality. As such, it deals with the integration of the empathy of issues at hand, generation of solutions through creativity, and analyzing solutions through rationality. From a broad perspective, design thinking is a form of confidence that spurs a person to working towards creating a better future. Design thinking is a procedural activity that involves promptly facing challenges (IDEO, 2014).


Design thinking is a crucial tool that people can use in handling different challenges in life. This article looks at the different definition of this subject as well as the other aspects related to it. In addition, the paper includes some case studies that outlines application of design thinking in various life aspects. There are also critiques and analysis of this topic in line with conducting a research on its application in business of the modern era (IDEO, 2014).

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The Concept of Design Thinking

Just like designing follows specific steps, design thinking assumes procedural criteria of handling problems. A person should view a problem in light of the other aspects related to it before arriving to an answer. It is this approach that designers adopt when working. As such, it is imperative to note that design thinking comprises of five processes: approaching the challenge, interpreting the challenge, exploring the alternative courses of action, selecting the best alternative, and solving the challenge (IDEO, 2014).

Approaching the Challenge

The success of finding a proper solution to any problem depends on how the person approaches. Design thinking adopts this factor too. A design thinker should have a simple, direct approach to a challenge in order to avoid further challenges that may crop.

Interpreting the challenge

Failing to find a proper solution to problem that the person does not understand is almost inevitable. A design thinker must interpret the problem in order to identify some intriguing aspects that are not open for general understanding. As such, he/she will find the best way to go about the challenge in the most appropriate manner.

Exploring the alternative courses of action

In most cases, a problem has more than one solution. A design thinker must try to explore all the available courses of action before settling the best appropriate one for the problem at hand. He/she must weigh both pros and cons of each alternative before settling on one.

Selecting the best alternative

Whilst a problem might have several alternative courses of action only one provides the best solution. In design thinking, selecting the best alternative is crucial in finding the best way to handle the challenge. The selection should only happen after exploring the other courses of action.

Solving the challenge

Design thinking ends at the point, when the thinker arrives to the solution. He or she has to identify other factors related to the problem before solving it. For example, a design thinker must ensure the solution suggested is not biased. Additionally, the solution should be precise and relevant to the matter while also give room for further analysis.


Colloquially, design thinking relates to the optimism that would help both professors and learners in dealing with the design aspects of education. They view it as the process of designing practical solutions at the school, in classroom, and in the community. The globe is facing various design issues in both schools and classrooms on a daily basis.

The best example of these shortcomings is evident from the fact that the feedback systems of teachers to the daily programs face a lot of challenges. The ultimate process of phasing out those challenges involves the use of now tool, approaches, and perspectives. One of these requirements is design thinking itself (IDEO, 2014).

Design Thinking: ‘Personal’ Definition

The term “design thinking” is a combination of two words – “design” and “thinking” – which have different meanings. The first word (design) means developing a plan for construction, while the second word (thinking) means producing ideas and conceptions from the mind. Therefore, design thinking would loosely mean a ‘planned production of ideas from the mind.

Whilst this definition would still give a rough idea of design thinking, it is narrow in terms of scope. The narrowness is evident in that it leaves several components of both design and thinking. Design also involves creativity, procedural steps and outcomes.

Similarly, thinking involves strategy and target for which a person is producing ideas from the mind.

As such, combining the other aspects of both design and thinking would make the definition of design elaborative. The definition of design thinking would be a creative process of using the mind to generate comprehensive ideas for handling different problems.

Unlike the previous one, this definition incorporates other thinking and design elements that give the reader a clear insight of what design thinking is and its relevance to solving various issues.

Design Thinking Example

According to the historical documents, design is seen in the light of a downstream phase of the development process. At this stage designers without experience in the substantive task of innovation join forces to put a beautiful disguise around the idea. Fortunately, that approach has triggered market growth in many sectors, making new technologies and products aesthetically attractive. As a result, they appear more desirable to clients.

Designers can also achieve the same goal by enhancing the perception of any brand through smart, aesthetic advertising and communication skills. Towards the end the 20th Century, design became a growing crucial industrial tool for use in packing of consumer products, automotive and consumer electronic gadgets. For the other industries, it arrived at the later stages of production. The modern world has now transformed the architecture and scope of design. Designers have shifted from beatifying the existing structures to creating company designs that suit the needs of customers.

This new approach highlights the difference in roles, which have evolved with time. In the past, their roles underlined tactical aspects of designing with limited creation of value, while the modern roles highlight strategic features that deal with the creation of new value forms. The modern transformations of world economies have also contributed to the evolvement of design.

For example, they are moving from manufacturing to delivery service, which is expanding the scope of innovation. Its goal has also shifted from production of physical items to processing technologies, IT-related interactions, collaborating and communication techniques, and entertainment. In a nutshell, the modern trends of production revolve human activities, which are highly dependent on design thinking in terms of making decisions.

Design Thinking Critique

According to the author of Creative Intelligence, Nussbaum Bruce, the Design Thinking era is over and a new there is a need for change. Nussbaum believes that borrowing ideas from combining ideas from Fast Company and HarperCollins will help him oust design thinking with CQ, which he believes is a better tool for solving problems. He reckons that DT has provided benefits to both the society and design profession. Now, however, it has resorted to ossifying and harming them instead. For example, the framing and construction of design thinking is a starling matter.

At first, it glittered the world of business by improvising different platforms for delivery of innovation and creativity. The designers could expand their sales, impacts and involvement with the world of corporation by incorporating creativity with the format of processing. Nussbaum points out that the world embraced the chance of using DT because it was a packaged process (Nussbaum, 2011).

Whilst the successes were embraced, the people ignored the glaring failures that came with it. The companies were absorbed in the innovations and changes supplied by design thinking. He believes that they hoped for design thinking to produce significant organizational and cultural changes. From the onset, the Design Thinking process was the leading provider of the ideal deliverable – creativity. However, in order to remain appealing to the business process culture, people decided to disguise the emotions, conflicts messes, looping circularity, and failures that were also apparent to the creative process.

In some companies, managers and CEOs alike embraced that mess as well as the process in efforts to ensure that real innovation progressed. For the others, such an approach did not look viable. In amnesty, many practitioners and experts of design thinking in consultancies can readily acknowledge that the success chance of design thinking is extremely slim (Nussbaum, 2011).

Research about Design Thinking

One of the largest healthcare providers, Kaiser Permanente, sought to upgrade the overall standard of one of the largest both medical practitioners and patients. Kaiser aimed at inspiring the practitioners to contribute new opinions by teaching design thinking skills to doctors, nurses, and administrators. In the middle of several months, Kaiser participated in workshops under the stewardship of the Brown Tim’s organization, IDEO, and a team of coaches forms Kaiser. The workshops led to the creation of a portfolio of innovations, which were then rolled out across the firm.

One of portfolios (to reengineer nursing-staff shift project is used in four Kaiser Hospitals) perfectly illustrated the broader scope of innovation “good” and the value of a comprehensive approach to design. The primary project group included a strategist (former nurse), a specialist of organizational development, process technology specialist designer, representative of the union, and designers from IDEO. This team worked with innovation groups of frontline trainees in all the four hospitals (Brown, 2008; IDEO, 2014).

In the first phase of the practice, the core group worked in hand with nurses to determine the number of issues in the manner shifts takes place. Nurses spent the first 45 minutes of their shifts at the nurses’ station informing the departing shift about the conditions of patients. Their information exchange methods used in the each hospital were different from the rest, ranging from dictation records to face-to-face talks. The compilation of the information needed to cater for patients took different measures.

The team members scribbled quick notes on the pieces of papers or the scrubs they had. Despite spending much time in the research, nurses still failed to master the basic concepts of handling patients. They could not narrate how their previous shift fared, which family members accompanied the patients, and whether certain therapies or tests were administered. Whilst the nurses went on learning, the patients felt horrible about the outcomes of the exercise. With the help of insights from observing the transition times, the innovation groups explored various solutions through random prototyping and brainstorming (Brown, 2008).

The team used a simple and cheap prototyping. In a different project, IDEO helped a team of surgeons in developing new equipment for conducting sinus surgery. In the process of describing the ultimate physical structures of the device, one member of the team grabbed a film a canister, whiteboard marker, and clothespin before taping them together.

After which the surgeons gave a description of the instrument for sinus surgery. One designer grabbed a film canister, clothespin and marker before taping them together to give a practical demonstration of the same. Prototyping process consumes much investment, time, and effort in order to generate proper feedback as well as evolving ideas. A complete prototype does not require much time to create, but they command much profit from feedbacks. Prototyping allows designers to learn about the weaknesses and strengths of the ideology as well as identifying new platforms for further movement of the prototypes (Brown, 2008).

The design that was used for changing the shifts required nurses to pass on information in the presence of the patient rather than their station. In a week’s time, the team created a working prototype, in which the new procedures and certain simple software which the nurses could use for calling up past shift-change notes as well as update them. They could enter patient data in the course of the shift rather than doing it at the last moment. With the help of the software, the researchers collated data into a simple format customized for all nurses at the beginning of every shift. Besides its suitability to transfer of higher-quality knowledge, the results also helped them in reducing prep time, allowing them to stay in contact with patients.

As Kaiser gauged the impact of the change after a certain time, it enabled the researchers to learn that the average intervals of the arrival time for a nurse and first interaction with a patient reduced. As such, the nurses found additional time moving in the four hospitals. Additionally, the quality of their work experience also improved. (Brown, 2008)

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