Design thinking for you


Dear readers and colleagues,


To continue my previous discussion about design in business, today I will write about another aspect of design, which I find very interesting – design thinking. You may hear about it somewhere but might not be entirely sure of what it really means. In this short blog text, I will explain very simply what design thinking within my comprehension means and how we can adopt it in our everyday life.


Design thinking or thinking as a designer is a term which has been used the past few decades. Surprisingly, it is stemmed from the design world but used mostly in business and engineering world. It arose from practitioners’ activity but has now been looked closer in several studies (Shapira et al., 2017).


Stanford university has introduced an Executive Education Initiative to influence business leaders and their organizations’ capacity for using design thinking in the workplace. IDEO, a global design firm, has aggregated it as a tool kit named “human-centered design tool kit” to introduce design thinking to business and it has reached over 100,000 downloads.


So, why has design thinking become so popular and why does it need to be studied? To explain shortly, design thinking emphasizes accessibility of creative, strategic and innovative problem solving in various disciplines, especially when addressing multi-faceted and complex problems (Shapira et al., 2017).


Why do we need to think as designers do, in order to solve problems better? As we know, the fundamental element of a designer’s work is creativity and problem solving. Imagine you gave to a designer a task, for instance “please design for me a kitchenware that helps me to hold the cooking spoon better”.

dao_blog_visual_1118.jpgWhat a designer will do is not to straight away draw anything on paper but they may ask you several questions to learn why you need to have such kitchenware, what characteristics you want the object to have, what is the story behind your wish to have such a thing, and ultimately, if it is the right thing you need to solve your problem or could the solution be something completely different. The difference between designers and ordinary human beings is that we amateurs jump straight to think about the task and try to find out the best possible solution, even before we know what the actual problem is and why we need to solve it.

Another story is that as ordinary human beings, we would always like to make the best possible solutions. For a designer, they would just be any first things that may have come up to solve the problem. Why so? Because for a designer, there is no such thing as a “perfect solution”, but there can be a better solution to solve that problem at some certain point. Furthermore, for a designer, every solution is a prototype, and the activity of launching and testing the prototype is a learning experience to improve the solution to reach perfection. Now you can see the second difference.


What is more, have you ever felt uncomfortable when working with people outside of your work zone? By this I mean working with a historian, a nurse, a musician, a game developer, and so on. As ordinary people, we are used to our own environment and feel afraid of stepping outside our comfort zone. For a designer, it is different; multidisciplinary work is a part of their job. And multidisciplinarity is in the essence of practicing design thinking because multifaceted complex problems cannot be solved within one discipline, but they require several kinds of expertise.


All in all, you can learn today to think like a designer with only three small practices: think about the problem better, do not afraid to present your solution in the early stage, and always work in a team.


Phuong Dao

Doctoral Student





Shapira H., Ketchie A., Nehe M. (2017) “The integration of Design Thinking and Strategic Sustainable Development”, Journal of Cleaner Production 140, p 277-287.


Photo: Iittala