What is Design Thinking?

By: Marisa White

There is a different level of familiarity around design thinking which I have alluded to in other blog posts, however, I think there still needs to be an emphasis around the idea that beginners do exist and make up a large amount of our networks.

Now you may have heard of design thinking, human-centered design, service design, but how do you utilize and develop this within your organization? What does it really mean?

Many organizations now develop their own methodologies, there are several commonly referred models stemming from IDEO to IBM to Nielsen Norman. However, as a quick guide, the Customer Management practice looks at design thinking centered around five steps:


Design thinking is a mindset for solving complex problems. Originally stemming from the design process, design thinking challenges leaders, individuals, and organizations to think like a designer---with your client at the heart and with a reiterative process of prototyping and testing at the core. In recent years, Design Thinking has grown to become an ambiguous term, particularly relating to its application in modern business.

Relatively speaking you can define the above as:

Empathy—an aspect of understanding your customer, their human nature, in more than a survey!

Ideation—creation of ideas involving collaboration across teams and siloes

Prototype—create something tangible right away

Test—ask your market! Get immediate feedback from your customers

Reiteration—this happens throughout and at every stage, go through again and again until you have it right.

Each of these steps can (and probably will be) it’s own blog-post, however as a starting point, you can begin to see these steps and ideas throughout successful design projects.

What design thinking framework do you use? How do you explain design thinking to beginners?

Learn more in our Design Thinking 101 content piece.