Design thinking is a universal problem-solving methodology that is not exclusive to designers. It can be applied by individuals from various backgrounds and professions to address a wide range of challenges. Today I wanted to simply explain to you what design thinking really is and how you can use it to solve your daily problems at work or even at home.

Design thinking itself focuses on understanding the needs of the end-users, challenging assumptions, and iterating on ideas to create innovative solutions. It typically involves the following key stages: emphasize, define, ideate, prototype, test and iterate. 


In the empathy stage, the goal is to understand the needs and experiences of the end-users deeply. This often involves engaging with users through interviews, observations, and other methods to gain insights into their perspectives and challenges.


In the define stage, the information gathered during the empathy stage is analyzed and synthesized to define the core problem or challenge. It should be specific, actionable, and focused on the needs of the users.


Ideation is a creative process where diverse ideas are generated to solve the defined problem. Brainstorming sessions, mind maps, and other ideation techniques are used to encourage a wide range of potential solutions without immediate evaluation or judgment.


Prototyping involves creating low-fidelity representations of the ideas generated during the ideation phase. Prototypes can take various forms, such as sketches, wireframes, or even physical models.


In the testing phase, prototypes are presented to the end-users for feedback. This feedback is crucial for understanding how well the proposed solutions meet the users’ needs and for identifying areas that require improvement. Testing allows for the validation or the refinement of ideas.


The design thinking process is iterative, meaning that it often involves cycling back through the stages based on the feedback received. Iteration allows for continuous improvement and refinement of ideas, leading to a more effective and user-centered solutions.

Now let’s solve your work problem – you are a business owner looking to validate and improve processes within their company. Emphasize. Begin by understanding the experiences of the employees involved in the processes. Talk with them to gather insights from their perspective, and collect suggestions for improvement. Define. Identify the specific goals and imagine how success looks like. Ideate. Facilitate brainstorming sessions with relevant stakeholders to generate a variety of ideas for improving the processes. Encourage creativity and explore both incremental and radical changes. Consider the input of employees who are directly involved in the processes, as they often have valuable insights. Prototype proposed process changes. These could be even in the form of process maps of new procedures. Prototyping allows for a tangible representation of the proposed changes, making it easier to communicate. Test by implementing the prototype in a controlled environment or as a pilot project. Monitor the results and gather feedback from employees involved in the process. Assess whether the changes have positively impacted efficiency, communication, or any other relevant metrics. Testing allows for a realistic evaluation of the proposed improvements.  Based on the feedback and results, iterate on the processes. If certain aspects of the prototype were successful, consider scaling them up. If improvements are needed, make adjustments and go through another iteration. The iterative nature of design thinking ensures that changes are continuously refined based on real-world feedback. Measure their impact by establishing key performance indicators (KPIs). Having measurable metrics helps in objectively evaluating the success of the changes. Throughout the design thinking process, document the gained insights. This documentation is valuable for future reference, and it helps in creating a culture of continuous improvement within the organization.

You are also a house owner, where in the kitchen the tap is leaking. You are the user – the resident experiencing the leak. Probably you don’t need to consider how much it affects your daily life and  what inconveniences it causes. Additionally, think about the potential impact on others in your household. You are convinced that the problem with your tap needs to be fixed. Can you evaluate if the issue is related to a worn-out washer, a loose connection, or another factor? Brainstorm possible solutions. Are you able to fix this tap yourself? Consider also short-term fixes and long-term improvements. If you decide to fix it by yourself, create simple prototypes of your ideas. For example, if you suspect a worn-out washer, try replacing it. If you believe there’s a loose connection, experiment with tightening it. Does the leaking stop or reduce? What worked well, and what needs improvement? Test different solutions to identify the most effective one. Based on your testing and observations, iterate on your solution. If the leak persists, consider alternative approaches. The iterative process allows you to refine your solution until the problem is fully addressed.

Remember, design thinking isn’t limited to large-scale projects or professional designers. It’s a mindset and a problem-solving approach that can be applied to everyday challenges, like fixing a leaking tap, to come up with effective and user-friendly solutions.

Probably the example with the tap in the kitchen is not the brightest. Nowadays most people will call a plumber. But I hope that you will remember it 🙂

I also invite you to read my article: “What is worth more – usability or design?”.