16 OCTOBER, 2023


With an ever-changing business landscape and a heavy reliance on technology, companies need a system that prioritises functional creativity. To achieve this, they have started thinking like designers — creating valuable, out-of-the-box, and feasible ideas that produce inspiring results.

This approach is known as design thinking and it is a proven way to foster innovation, productivity and purpose among employees. It’s a fact that today’s organisations use design thinking to solve business problems.

Why design thinking is important for your organization

Design thinking is the behind-the-scenes thought process of a designer’s problem-solving method. To create a culture of design thinking in an organisation, the problem should not revolve around the issue but the solution. The end goal is to not only find a solution but to also keep measuring the outcome and improving.

Design thinking can never occur in silos. It is a process of co-creation including prototyping, innovative thinking, and multiple iterations until the ideal solution is brought to life. Used for both products and services, design thinking in learning and development is gaining momentum as well.

So how to apply design thinking in your organisation? The process starts with trying to understand the end user and then working backwards. The solution should be technically and financially feasible while bringing the desirable outcome for users.

It is an incredibly important tool to sustain continuous business improvement and create a universal yet practical thinking process for employees.

What is Design Thinking in Business: The Five Stages

The design thinking process includes five stages, each co-dependant, with an important role to play.

Empathizing: The very first stage is all about the human element. Before coming up with a solution it is imperative to place yourself in a user’s shoes. Therefore, it involves understanding the bespoke needs of your end users and creating emotionally intelligent teams to achieve their goals.

Defining: Up next is defining. It isn’t enough to simply understand user needs but to also categorise said needs into issues that need solutions.

Ideating: Once the problems are defined, it’s time to get those creative juices flowing. Brainstorming and sharing ideas, no matter how bizarre, is encouraged at this stage.

Prototyping: Prototyping is all about creating solutions that consider all factors, and are feasible both technically and financially. You may choose to go with various routes for testing.

Testing: Finally, there is testing to measure how your solutions perform and if they achieve the desired outcome with your end user.

How to apply design thinking in your organization

Improve design thinking skills through training

Creating any culture in an organisation requires work, and design thinking is no exception. Training and development, to explain and practically implement the various stages of design think, is vital. This can be in several forms such as interactive workshops, seminars with design thinking experts, online courses available to all employees and solving case studies in teams.

Integrate it into daily work

It’s not enough for top managers or executives to take part in the ideation process. Typically, ground-level employees that are closer to customers understand their needs better. Every part of the organisation should be a part of the design thinking process, and this will only happen if it seeps into their daily work process. It could begin with the onboarding procedure where asking questions and innovating, no matter what a person’s role might be, is encouraged. If an employee is keen to share ideas, this should be nurtured and enabled.

Use design thinking tools

Everything becomes easier if it’s laid out visually. Design thinking tools can help you with implementing the process in your organisation. Some of them include the following:

Mindmaps: Design thinking is far from linear and mindmaps are the perfect companion. They use visual and verbal stimulation to lay out all thoughts on a topic and can be helpful during brainstorming and finding connections between ideas.

Visualisation: Such tools are incredibly useful because they outline the core pillars of design, which are listening, thinking, and drawing. Once you listen to your end-user’s needs, you can visualise a solution for every step of the process.

Empathy Maps: Used in collaboration, an empathy map is helpful to deep dive into customer personas and truly understand their needs. Laying everything out visually helps structure the entire process.

Storyboards: Storyboarding represents a visual journey of the user and stages of the design thinking process, from understanding the user’s needs and conceptual solutions to how the user will get their desired results and measuring success.

Creating an open culture

As mentioned, design thinking can never happen in silos. So if you’re still thinking about how to improve design thinking skills, always note that it’s a collaborative effort. To foster a culture that encourages innovation, you will need to encourage risk-taking. A major reason why employees don’t take risks is their fear of failure. To counter this, make failure a part of learning instead of a catastrophic event.

By being open to experimentation and letting employees know that they can and will go wrong at some stage, the fear of failure gets eradicated and innovation stems through. If there are failures, be transparent and logically deduce what went wrong instead of berating the employee, so that next time the process and outcome can improve.

Implementing performance evaluations

Each stage of the design thinking process can have KPIs. For example, to understand user needs, you could set a KPI of the number of interviews conducted. During the defining and ideation stage your KPI could be the number of ideas collaboratively generated, and similarly, the number of prototypes generated. Then to judge the effectiveness of the solution, you could have KPIs of success on a case-to-case basis, along with a functional feedback loop to constantly improve.

Use design thinking to solve business problems

DeakinCo. creates actionable solutions that leverage design thinking to overcome recurring issues and improve organisational performance. Our experts will collaborate with you on crafting bespoke solutions with proven results. For more information, discover our success stories or contact us.