What Is Design Thinking?

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Recognizing the Humanness Within Our Innovation

Connecting Our Professional & Personal Selves

Remember when we used to try to separate our professional selves and lives from our personal ones? We were meant to leave our personal lives at home and turn into professional machines at the office. Much of our professional training followed this model of separation as well, focusing on developing only skills and capacity.

Fortunately, in the professional world, we are returning to seeing ourselves as full humans. As we have seen with Regenerative Leadership, the goal is less separation and more connection. 

After all, we are not separate. The beings we show up as in our professional lives are not ever separate from who we truly are. In fact, deeper connection is critical for our continued flourishment, in business and in life. 

This is why Design Thinking is a great approach to problem-solving and innovation. This creative approach fuses empathy, curiosity, and teamwork. Design Thinking is now commonly used in business, international development, the nonprofit sector, education, and more.

But what is it exactly?

There isn’t a single definition of Design Thinking. It’s an idea, a strategy, a method, and a way of seeing the world that has evolved beyond the structure of any individual or organization.

Design Thinking is both an ideology and a process, an approach used for practical and creative problem-solving. The process is based heavily on the methods that designers use (hence the name), but it has actually evolved from a range of different fields—including architecture, engineering and business. Design Thinking is adaptable and useful to any field or process that requires problem-solving. 

The problems we face are dynamic and multifaceted–just like we are. In fact, our problems are inherently human. As such, Design Thinking is extremely user-centric. It focuses first and foremost on humans, in a solution-based approach to problem-solving. The goal is to find effective solutions and this begins with asking questions. This is the opposite of problem-based thinking, which tends to fixate on obstacles and limitations. By asking interesting and creative questions, we often come up with constructive and flexible solutions.

Design Thinking Is Not Only Design-Specific


The mindset of Design Thinking can be used to address any problem, not only design-specific ones.

The needs of the end user are at the heart of the problem-solving process. And who are these end users but humans, with their full range of human needs and ideas. 

Design Thinking is an iterative process which favors ongoing experimentation until the right solution is found. It uses creative activities and fosters collaboration. As part of the process, we adopt a “beginner’s mind,” with the intent to remain open and curious. We assume nothing and see ambiguity as an opportunity.

The 4 Principles of Design Thinking:

  • The Human Rule–All design activity is social in nature
  • The Ambiguity Rule–Ambiguity is inevitable, experiment at the limits of your knowledge
  • All Design is Redesign-While technology and social circumstances may change, basic human needs remain unchanged
  • The Tangibility Rule–Prototypes help make ideas tangible, enabling designers to communicate them effectively



The 5 Phases of the Process


Designing From A Place of Empathy

The foundation is empathy.

And why is this? As a designer, it’s crucial to build empathy at every opportunity. You must get to know your users to make smart design decisions for their needs.

From there, you take what’s desirable from a human point of view and meld it with what is technologically and economically feasible. It also allows those who aren’t trained as designers to use the same creative tools to address a vast range of challenges. It’s about embracing simple mindset shifts and tackling problems from a new direction.

At the Centre, we offer intensive courses in Design Thinking, both online or onsite. It will guide you through the methodology, combining theory with a lot of hands-on practical application. By the end of the course you will have practiced with a real challenge you are facing at your workplace or in your personal life.

We have seen over and over with our participants how it works to unleash people’s full creative energies, win their commitment, and radically improve processes.

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