Design Thinking – A Human-Centered Approach To Innovation


Design Thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that integrates the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success. It can be applied to addressing challenges from product and service design to organizational strategy and social innovation. It involves understanding user needs, redefining problems and opportunities, and creating innovative solutions through collaborative and iterative processes.


Design Thinking is useful in situations where traditional problem-solving methods have failed or when there is a need for fresh perspectives and new solutions. It is often used in:
  • Product Design: Enhancing the functionality and aesthetics of products.
  • Social Innovation: Addressing complex social issues like healthcare, education, and poverty.
  • Business Strategy: Developing customer-centric business models and strategies.
  • Organizational Culture: Fostering a culture of innovation and empathy within organizations.


Design Thinking applies a non-linear, iterative process that seeks to understand users, challenge assumptions, redefine problems, and create innovative solutions through rapid prototyping and iteration based on user testing and feedback. It embraces experimentation and a willingness to learn from failures. The classic Design Thinking five-step process unfolds as follows:
  1. Empathize: Gain an empathetic understanding of the problem you are trying to solve by observing, engaging, and immersing yourself in the experiences of the end-users.
  2. Define: Synthesize the information gathered during the Empathize phase and define the core problems that need to be addressed.
  3. Ideate: Generate a range of potential solutions through creative and divergent thinking exercises, such as brainstorming and prototyping.
  4. Prototype: Transform ideas into tangible, low-cost prototypes that can be tested and refined.
  5. Test: Evaluate the prototypes with end-users, gather feedback, and iterate on the designs based on the insights gained.

Sample Activity

To facilitate a Design Thinking workshop, you can follow these steps:
  1. Frame the Challenge: Introduce the problem or opportunity that needs to be addressed, and provide context and background information.
  2. Empathize: Conduct user research activities, such as interviews, observations, or immersive experiences, to gain insights into the needs, behaviors, and motivations of the target users.
  3. Define: Analyze the research data and synthesize the key insights into a clear problem statement or design challenge. This is done with tools such as empathy maps, journey maps, persona creation, and affinity mapping to organize insights. 
  4. Ideate: Use brainstorming, mind mapping, sketching, or SCAMPER prompts (Substitute, Combine, Adapt, Modify, Put to another use, Eliminate, Reverse) to generate a diverse range of ideas and potential solutions.
  5. Prototype: Create low-fidelity prototypes using materials like paper, cardboard, or simple digital tools. Encourage participants to build and iterate on their prototypes rapidly.
  6. Test: Conduct user testing sessions with the prototypes, gather feedback, and identify areas for improvement.
  7. Iterate: Based on the feedback, refine the prototypes or generate new ideas, and repeat the prototyping and testing phases as needed.
  8. Reflect and Share: Facilitate a discussion to reflect on the learnings, insights, and potential next steps.


Design Thinking was advanced by IDEO and the Stanford

Target Audience:

  • Designers
  • Innovators
  • Entrepreneurs
  • Business Leaders
  • Educators
  • Social Entrepreneurs

Got feedback or input? Please share!