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What is Design Thinking?
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Design thinking is a system that uses the designer's sensibility and methods to match people's needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business can convert into consumer value and market opportunity.

Tim Brown, IDEO

Design management has traditionally used a Design Thinking approach to develop compelling products and services that resonate with customers, consistently producing financial rewards, and building brand loyalty. But beyond customer-centric empathy, beyond creative iteration, beyond the bias to a maker mentality, design thinking has more to offer the modern organization as a means to cultivate creativity and innovation in an organization.

Design Thinking is Non-Denominational
Some of its concepts – teamwork, visualization and an emphasis on more creative research tools – are not the sole domain of the designer or design manager. Practiced throughout the organization, the collaborative pursuits between design and business create a powerful platform to both support incremental improvements (reduction in time to market, increased margin, better product/market mix) and to drive innovation.

Design Thinking is a Means to Align
Business succeeds best by optimizing the internal structure, governance, communication, tools and technologies they employ. But it doesn’t end there. When the internal culture aligns with the external brand offer, the enterprise is optimized for creativity, agility and efficacy.

Design Thinking is a Means to Deliver Creativity

The process of Design Thinking provides a common, customer-centric language to discuss the opportunities available to the organization. Problem framing, and the emergent thinking used during the exploration of the problem, allows design and business to develop a common understanding of both the challenge and possible solutions– together.

Design Thinking is a Predictive Mechanism
With a deep understanding of the external competitive and cultural landscape that is the fundamental ‘starting point’ of design thinking, the process itself can be a ‘hedge’ against the interruptive nature of technology and cultural shifts that foster game-changing start-ups like Airbnb, Twitter and Zipcar.

Design Thinking is Experiential
The Design Thinking philosophy creates solutions from a user-need perspective rather than through the conventional approach of defining a potential market, and force-fitting solutions.


The Potential Value of Design Thinking is Indisputable: it continues to be a useful tool tohelp understand and face complex challenges in which analytical approaches have proved insufficient. Yet design thinking can be viewed as a risky propositon for some commercial organizations.

Ironically, the VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) nature of the 21st century is exactly the right time for organizations to embrace design thinking.

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Kevin BethuneKevin Bethune is the Founder and Chief Creative Officer of dreams • design + life

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