What is the Design Thinking Methodology?

Paige K. Connor
by Paige K. Connor
VP, Strategic Design

Last Updated: November 05, 2019

Part Two of a Multi-part Series on Design Thinking & Innovation

Design Thinking MethodIn Part One of our Design Thinking series, we reviewed our presentation at this year's ASAE annual conference on how Design Sprints enable organizations to turn the Design Thinking Methodology from theory to practice to solve their biggest challenges. Here we will discuss what the Design Thinking Methodology is and what it means for organizations of all kinds.

No matter the organization or the issue, there are two essential things all organizations must gain a full grasp of when resolving challenges. First, a full understanding of the issue. Second, the optimal framework to address the issue. Design thinking achieves better results than traditional approaches because it simplifies and humanizes the challenges that organizations face.

Understanding how people interact with products or concepts and developing solutions around those interactions is at the core of design thinking. By gathering stakeholders from different departments and different levels of an organization, and by focusing on the basic human needs and behaviors of the audience, design thinkers immerse themselves in a singular problem to come to an innovative solution. 

The process of design thinking is generally understood to consist of 5 key stages: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test. 

  • Empathize - Develop a deep understanding of the challenge
  • Define - Clearly articulate the problem you want to solve
  • Ideate - Brainstorm potential solutions, select and develop your solution
  • Prototype - Design a prototype to test your solution
  • Test - Engage in a short-cycle testing process to refine your solution

This is a collaborative, human-centric process that allows for the exploration of multiple solutions to a single problem, quickly and effectively. It empowers an entire workforce - not just designers - to question approaches and ideate on a wide range of possible solutions. 

Read More on Design Thinking

Design thinking is particularly useful for tackling the thorniest problems – getting to the root cause of an issue and applying critical thinking to develop the new solutions. Organizations become aware of a problem and often jump to a solution based on a cursory understanding of where the problem lies, informed by narrow personal experiences and expertise. Even good leaders and subject matter experts don’t always consider that there may be alternative solutions.

As we'll discuss in more detail in Part 3, the value of design thinking is in enabling organizations to break out of their stale patterns and find fresh solutions to their roadblocks. 

Read more on Design Thinking and follow our new blog series on how Design Thinking and Design Sprints enable digital transformation as we prepare for the 2019 ASAE Annual Conference this August.