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Design Thinking Basics for Non-Designers


All of us have either heard of design thinking, or seen it being used in our organizations. At most times, people who use design thinking or head these internal projects are either designers, or techies. However, the truth is that designing isn’t an essential requirement to be a design thinker. Well, perhaps it is, if you’re developing a product. However, designing is only a part of the design thinking in the larger picture of things. This article is an attempt to break down and simplify design thinking, for those who do not use design actively in their current roles or life.


“Design thinking is a human-centred approach to innovation that draws from the designer's toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” — Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO[1]

Based on what Tim Brown has to say above, it is important to realize that design thinking is a collaborative effort. While there’s certainly a process to it, it is about bringing all stakeholders together and then figuring out what needs to be done. As a result, design thinking is messy. It leads to a lot of to and fro, especially since there are no fixed, well-defined paths from point A to B.


Stages of Design Thinking

Typically, there are five stages to design thinking:

1. Empathize

2. Define

3. Ideate

4. Prototype

5. Test


While there is a lot of content on the process of design thinking on the internet, some of the best ones talk, not just of the process and the steps; but also of the behaviours and attitudes related to these steps in the design thinking.


For instance, Erwin de Beuckelaer has written this nice piece on his blog on Medium[2], where he explains how each of these 5 stages of design thinking relates with a certain design attitude. He explains some very profound observations in very simple words. According to him, to be able to empathize with all stakeholders, one would need to be unbiased.


Erwin says, empathy needs one to be unbiased. To see things from multiple perspectives. However, defining needs focus. The problem statement, needs to be defined as simply and clearly as possible. One has to be optimistic in order to ideate. It helps in experimenting with all sorts of ideas and hope that one of them will work. This hope once ideated in detail enough need confidence before one decides to prototype. And last but not the least, testing is all about an adventure.


However, more than anything, he insists that one needs to be resilient and to iterate in order to succeed. Once a product is developed and rolled out to the end user, there will always be feedback, input. This will need the design thinker to go back to one of the previous steps. In order to do this successfully, one needs to be resilient and bounce off as soon as one realizes that it doesn’t work.


Not just Erwin, or Tim Brown, but pretty much everyone into design thinking agrees that it can be messy, frustrating and not so easy for non-design thinkers. Hence, the need to identify the behaviours and attitudes that need to be developed through regular practice. After all, the impact caused by design thinking across industries is huge and leads to more empowerment than it is credited for.

[1] https://www.ideou.com/pages/design-thinking


[2] https://blog.prototypr.io/5-essential-attitudes-for-design-thinkers-3f1edeeb762f

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