What is design thinking


We meet in our private and business life different types of problems or as I prefer to say – challenges. Many of them can be managed with analytical thinking as to solve them we can use date, experience from the past. Much bigger issue we have with more complex issues which touches different people and different perspectives. When you can not even define what really is a problem then we have to use different tools to solve them. This tool would be Design Thinking.

Complex problem

When you face really complex issue problemy your perception of its solution looks like that:

complex problem

Design Thinking is a strategy to solve problems using a guided, yet unstructured approach. DT gives you opportunity to think about possible solutions and implement them fast with very low risk. This is the problem for many managers who do not solve problems using DT. They use a lot of data to analyze the problem, make a lot of predictions and finally find idea that they think its good. What worse they think that if idea is good , then the money will follow. You can not be more wrong. The truth about ideas is that we do not know if they are good, only customers know that. DT gives opportunity to launch a lot of ideas so customers can decide which of them are good.

Structure of Design Thinking

First we need to remember that the whole process is around our customers. We need to make deep research about them and their needs to start thinking creatively. The first question we have to ask when starting Design Thinking is WHAT IS? This question describes current reality and current situation. This helps us to identify what our customers are up to, what are their needs and identify our opportunity. Only after that stage we can go further and think about pursuing that possibilities. Then we need to ask second question WHAT IF? At this stage, we are staring the future in the face. And we are tempted to ask, “Where did I put that crystal ball?” The only way to generate truly valuable ideas is to start thinking about all possibilities. We have to ignore all obstacles because only then the real creativity kicks in. If you are creative with your team you should create not less than 100 new ideas to hit. Of course its not possible to launch all of them so we need to make some prioritization. It’s the next stage called WHAT WOWS? It’s all about finding the sweet spot among all your ideas and finding the ream „WOW” zone for your customers. In this stage you can use some analytical thinking and work with number. Check which ideas needs much more investment and what would be potential ROI knowing your target and some basic calculations. Remember not to favorite any of ideas. We still do not know which of them are really good. Finally we can go to WHAT WORKS?stage. Here we will launch our first ideas as a prototypes for small group of customers. We will check in real life if customers want to invest in our idea.

Tools you can use

As in every creation there are many tools you can or even should use on different stages of Design Thinking. First and fundamental tool is VISUALIZATION. We are describing problem which we can no measure and future that do not exist. This tool allows you to envision possibilities and bring them to life. Other tools vary depending on the stare you are on so I’ll try to categorize them.

WHAT IStools:

Journey mapping– here we are focusing on customer we hope to serve. We describe our potential customers their habits, motivations and experience using our products or our competition products. Then you can think which of those experiences you would like to change and what should be new result.

Value chain analysis– we need to do a deep research about who are the powerful players in our segment, what are their incentives and will they want to help us?

Mind mapping– this is one of many tools you can use to structure your ideas and data you have gathered. This is great tool to find patterns and connect ideas which were before totally separated.

WHAT IFtools:

Brainstorming– this is one of most common tools to generate new ideas. It is very important to process it in structured way, use trigger question to encourage participants to generate new ideas and at the end to convert them to something valuable.

Concept development– this tool converts simple ideas to real life concepts that which we can bring to life. If you would like to compare ideas created during brainstorming to concept development it would lie comparing a napkin to poster.

WHAT WOWS tools:

Assumption testing– we should test all concepts we have just created. Remember that we still do not know if they are good we just think that it is likely to be a good idea. To test means to ask ourselves „what would need to be true for my concept to be a good one?”

Rapid prototyping– we should use this tool to learn about our idea and not to test it as probably a lot of you think. It gives us possibility to make mistakes but also to identify potential threats. Prototypes in this stage shouldn’t be detailed. They should be good enough to share only with those whose opinion we value.


Customer co-creation– there is no better way to avoid mistakes and risks than inviting customers into the conversation during designing process.

Learning launch– having ready your designed prototype you can go to market and make controlled launch of your product. During this time learn and search information that disproves your hypotheses that your idea is good. This is very important stage as we are most likely to look for data confirming that our ideas are just brilliant!


Desing Thinking is very powerful but also very difficult tool. As it touches complex problems you have to face a lot of new internal and external partners, new data and new tools. I believe that in big bureaucracies, fast changing environment and other kinds of obstacles which are thrown our way only Desing Thinking can help and generate the real grow of new businesses.