Art of Design Thinking

A practical guide to have a successful Design Thinking Workshop

Photographer:Startup Stock Photos


We have heard several times the principle of “Failing fast and often” and many entrepreneurs associate it with Eric Rise’s Lean Startup methodology or the teachings of Steve Blank, however, the pioneer in this was Thomas Alba Edison, who made 1,000 unsuccessful attempts at inventing the light bulb. When a reporter asked, “How did it feel to fail 1,000 times?”Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.” By that moment it wasn’t called Design Thinking.

Design Thinking is about to connect ideas and methods from different areas of thinking, with the goal to create new models, new connections, new patterns, and new combinations. As an enterprise application, it born in 1991 in IDEO and Stanford University, although we might take us back to the work of Alex Osborn and other great thinkers who found creative ways of solving problems based on design experiences. It should be noted that the most important momentum is not only to have built a design program at Stanford University but the founder of SAP, Hasso Plattner, to see what D-School was achieving, decided to donate large amounts of money and creates a second D-School in Germany. From there, large companies have trusted for years in Design Thinking.

Design Thinking is about to connect ideas and methods from different areas of thought, in order to create new structures, new associations, new combinations.

Although design is more used to describe an object or result, in its most effective form is a process, an action, a verb. A protocol to solve problems and discover new possibilities. We are not talking about design in the aesthetic approach but in a strategic one. Design Thinking as a key strategic factor to differentiation in the new markets based on the creation of value for the users.

“There’s no longer any real distinction between business strategy and the design of the user experience”
 — Bridget van Kralingen, Senior VP of IBM Global Business Services

Hasso Plattner, Christoph Meinel, and Larry Leifer, of the Stanford D-School, laid out four principles for the successful implementation of design thinking*:

  • The human rule, which states that all design activity is ultimately social in nature, and any social innovation will bring us back to the ‘human-centric point of view’.
  • The ambiguity rule, in which design thinkers must preserve ambiguity by experimenting at the limits of their knowledge and ability, enabling the freedom to see things differently.
  • The redesign rule, where all design is redesign; this comes as a result of changing technology and social circumstances but previously solved, unchanged human needs.
  • The tangibility rule; the concept that making ideas tangible always facilitates communication and allows designers to treat prototypes as ‘communication media’.

The intrinsic nature of human-centered Design Thinking takes us to the next step: to use our observation, empathy, and understanding of the audience to design experiences that create opportunities that engage the audience.

What I mean by design is doing things with intention, trying to decide what’s important to somebody, building a bunch of prototypes and showing them around, developing a point of view and getting it out so that it has impact in the world. So design is really a process of making impact on the world by doing this kind of creation of something new to the world and then getting it out there.
– David Kelly, Founder IDEO

Learn more

This story is an excerpt from the book The Art of Design Thinking. You can buy it in kindle right here.

The Art of Design Thinking

* Design Thinking: Understand — Improve — Apply (Understanding Innovation), Plattner, Hasso; Meinel, Christoph; Leifer, Larry J., eds. (2011).