Emerging Trends in Design Thinking Innovation

Emerging Trends in Design Thinking Innovation

Emerging Trends in Design Thinking Innovation

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According to Tim Brown, Executive Chair of IDEO, “Design Thinking is a human-centered 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.”

Design Thinking was started as a process to create new technology and products. Today it is used worldwide, in all business sectors; private, public, business projects or personal. The Design Thinking methodology has been applied, practiced, and popularized by the design consulting firm IDEO.

If you ask any modern Design Thinking practitioner, they will tell you that it’s not about products, technology, or even design… it is a methodology that informs on how to serve the needs of people more effectively.

I equate Design Thinking to the application of emotional intelligence in solving problems that impact people, and the key cornerstone of it is empathy.

Why is Design Thinking Important?

Design Thinking assists organization in creating value for people. It aims to solve concrete problems that impact people and delivers solutions that align with people’s needs. 

As designers unveil or identify issues, they can bring about innovative solutions.

In addition, it enables designers to tackle problems that people find difficult to define or verbalize. Furthermore, Design Thinking assists organizations to lead with innovation. 

For example, a human can’t imagine things that cannot be believed. Therefore, it creates difficulty for the designers to land on a solution that does not exist. Using an iterative approach more often leads to innovative solutions. 

It makes any organization run more efficiently and faster because it focuses on creating prototypes and testing to check their effectiveness, after a lot of listening to people and defining the problems.

Which Industries Can Benefit from Design Thinking?

Even if Design Thinking originated with designers, it is now used by people of all disciplines.

WeWork® has proved that applying this method by technologists delivered value to engineers, and business strategists. It helped them deliver value to the business owners and stakeholders.

Kaiser Permanente uses Design Thinking to bring about necessary changes among nursing staff.

The Singapore government used Design Thinking to secure work passes in simpler and more humane way.

Design Thinking helps tackle issues at companies like IBM, SAP, Toyota, and Intuit.

Design Thinking can be used by any complex systems such as government, business, or social organizations to break down problems and explore questions such as how it can respond to the growth of technology and globalization.

It is used to analyze rapid changes and how to address them and support individuals while understanding and providing solutions to larger organizations.

“Design Thinking helps businesses, government, and society be more creative, innovative and humane in dealing with people’s needs.”

Design Thinking Emerging Trends

Like any methodology, we are seeing Design Thinking evolving with new groundbreaking trends. Here are a few of them for your consideration:

Systems Thinking

Today’s world is interlinked and connected. Information flows instantaneously. This interconnection and quick flow of information can significantly impact the whole system as everything in today’s generation are so tightly connected.

This is where systems thinking comes in. Systems thinking is a discipline that enables the identification of the interests and needs of each stakeholder in the system. It allows them to examine the products or services to design the most influential ones.

In systems thinking, primary stakeholders’ consideration, interaction, and influence are required on the other stakeholders. While Design Thinking is human-centric, system thinking is stakeholder-centric. It also focuses on understanding the elements needed within the business system, services, and products.

Resilience Thinking

Design Thinking seeks to achieve excellence and near perfection, but what is perfection? On the other hand, thinking resilience is a solution designed to withstand changing circumstances that are bound to occur. Therefore, it becomes crucial to think beyond the boundaries of the issues at hand.

While Design Thinking focuses on solving problems for people, resilience thinking focuses on solving relevant problems that may arises, likened to contingency planning. Therefore, it is essential to understand the broader problem while adding resilience to Design Thinking.

Human-Centered Design

The concept of Design Thinking is based on two crucial foundations, human-centered design, and aggressive prototyping. The human-centric approach is the fundamental reason design-focused services and products have become successful. 

However, as we are advancing toward our future, nothing is certain. We know there are more significant problems that require our attention and preparation. The bigger issues are international tension, climate change, political instability, and other issues.

There comes the concept of human-centric design that solely focuses on environmentally friendly approaches by proposing sustainable solutions. 

Moreover, it readily embraces the thought that anything harmful to an individual can also cause drastic results to the community. Therefore, it is crucial to think of a solution that provides a stellar experience while also leading to a sustainable future.

Inclusive Thinking

During the research phases of Design Thinking we need to also emphasize diversity as we strive for innovation. Designers need to ask if they have involved the right people in defining problems, and who should voice the issues. They need to ask themselves if they are neglecting any community, and if they are doing what the solution can fix.

Therefore, since innovation is deeply rooted in creativity, having a broader knowledge of various backgrounds and sources is critically important.

So, inclusive thinking needs to have two sides to it. Being inclusive for the collaborators and the users. As a result, being an inclusive collaborator will leverage different perspectives and backgrounds. 

While being user inclusive would bring a set of users who will reduce every chance of neglecting any community. 

“The practice of inclusive designs truly focuses on all-people-centric innovative solutions.”

Master Framing the Problem

Design Thinking is a process that makes designers focus more on identifying problems and problem-framing rather than shifting full attention towards problem-solving. 

That is why Design Thinking is the most sought-after process because it diverts the focus on the crucial aspect of innovation: listening to people and focusing on the needs of people. This requires emotional intelligence. Specifically empathy.

The concept of Design Thinking emerges as a significant way to innovate and be creative in framing how we look at problems and how we go about framing challenges before we develop solutions. 

The closer we get to understanding what needs attention, what is broken, what is failing us as people, the closer we move towards delivering innovation.

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Design Thinking for Social Innovation

Design Thinking for Social Innovation

Design Thinking for Social Innovation

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Social innovation is a means to develop and implement innovative and effective solutions to solve environmental or social issues. 

It is a new perspective that provides systematic and practical solutions that can be applied to ongoing social issues. The needs of society are given priority in order to improve things like infrastructures, housing, and healthcare.

Design Thinking has evolved over the years for social innovation focused on bettering society with a more human-centered approach to solving problems. 

Stanford Center for Social Innovation defines Design Thinking as “the ultimate solution that is more effective, efficient, sustainable, or just — than current approaches to resolve current challenges”

The Four Phases of Design Thinking for Social Innovation

There are four phases to Design Thinking for social innovation. They are as follows:

1) Discovery Phase

The discovery of social problems is the primary phase research. It enables researchers to deeply understand problems and identify people, their needs, and the barriers they face. 

This phase builds on the foundation of empathy by helping teams empathize with each other and gain new insights. In addition, questioning gives members a more profound perception of necessary solutions to pursue out of all the research.

2) Defining Phase

Defining the problem is the second phase of the Design Thinking methodology for social innovation. This is where the problem is determined and focused around bringing out a human-centered, valuable, and actionable question that aims to bring focus and clarity to the design space. 

This is where we ask the question that defines the problem and the impact on people. We are not defining solutions in this phase, we are exploding the exploration of the problem in a deeper more meaningful way, with the focus on the impact the problem has on people.

3) Development Phase

Development is the third phase of the Design Thinking methodology for social innovation. In this stage, the participants develop an idea based on the results generated in the earlier steps. 

In this phase we begin to inform the problem within the main idea with all the best views in mind. This can be done with a few tools or using a simple storyboard as the medium. The goal is to begin to explore the how to solve what has been learned.

4) Delivery Phase

Delivery is the final stage in the methodology. It starts with communicating the ideas within the team and to the people involved. Be it a community, a region, or even a country.

The delivery phase requires that we maintain openness in order to revisit where appropriate the prior phases. While the goal is to deliver a solution, you want to stay open to the possibility that something may have been missed, or that reality isn’t matching the design on paper.

A very effective way to apply Design Thinking social innovation is by establishing social innovation labs.

Social Innovation Labs

A social Innovation Lab refers to the place or incubator where members across different fields, sectors, and socio-economic organizations collaborate to bring out solutions based on design thinking and innovation processes.

Social Innovation Laboratory (SIL), as an example began as an idea to fuse innovative, research-driven practices and the non-profit format, with the end goal being to improve social programs that benefit the disempowered, disenfranchised, and at-risk populations.

Innovation Is Important

In our modern world, environments and/or nations are hyperconnected. Therefore, what happens in one country can concern other countries as well. 

Today, nations face political, economic growth, financial stability, poverty, hunger, disease, and many more challenges all happening at the same time.

These ongoing issues require attention that can be solved using Design Thinking social innovation by the private sector. 

Solving societal problems can also generate business opportunities. Applying new knowledge and innovation can generate as much as 80% economic growth.

Yesterday, countries were considered prosperous if they were economically and socially prosperous. It was assessed through its GDP. However, in today’s time, a country must have peace, happiness, freedom, and financial well-being to be considered prosperous.

When we assess prosperity from these lenses, we perceive that a prosperous society needs an innovative approach to resolving complex problems with new and relevant solutions.

How Design Thinking Can Help Society

A well-known example from Wyatt and Brown can be cited to display how Design Thinking can bring social innovation.

A young woman, Shanti, who lives on the outskirts of Hyderabad India, fetches water from the local borehole that is about 300 feet away from her dwelling. She can easily carry 3 gallons of water even though she knows drinking the water has made her family sick multiple times.

She could not use safe water from the Naandi Foundation run community treatment plant. Opting for the local borehole over safe water is due to only one reason. 

The plant requires her to use a 5-gallon rectangular jerrican. This is simply too heavy and bulky to carry, even if it is a walking distance from the plant. In addition, she is forced to buy 5 gallons every day even though she does not need it and for which she needs to pay more. 

In this situation, Design Thinking has not been applied as they failed to understand the issue of the dwellers and fix it according to their needs. It has resulted in Shanti forcing herself to use the dirty water even if they had the facility of using safe drinking water nearby.

The treatment center was able to produce safe and potable water but failed to address the community’s water transport challenges. Thus, the traditional problem-solving method could not find systematic solutions needed by the consumer.

Design Thinking now allows us to investigate people’s insights in-depth. It aims to assume practical and relevant solutions by closely examining the product and services and the infrastructure that enables it to deliver the required product and services.

Businesses are taking in Design Thinking to provide products and services by going into the depth of problems and allowing high-impact solutions to bubble up rather than just imposing them from the top, which does not necessarily help the community in the case of Shanti.


Design Thinking has progressed over the years in such a way that now it can be used in addressing social issues, such as improving infrastructure to provide required services, in a way that meets people needs on their terms.

This methodology has proved effective for profit and non-profit organizations as they could understand social problems, unlock innovative ideas, and create better outcomes for people by leveraging the most important pillar of Design Thinking: empathy.

“Empathy in Design Thinking informs us to better understand issues by asking the question why in a deeper and more meaningful way.”

Five levels deep of asking why, will reveal the truth of what the real challenge and possible solution can be. This approach requires being willing to go deeper, and having the patience to gain the necessary insights, to develop appropriate solutions to the challenges we face in society.

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Design Thinking the People-centric Modern Organization

Design Thinking the People-centric Modern Organization

Design Thinking the People-centric Modern Organization

Business Innovation Brief Best Article

Designed thinking can be leveraged to create better and more empathy-based organizations. 

Empathy, along with self-awareness are the most important cornerstones of emotional intelligence, and foundational to design thinking. 

Through empathy, we can design products, and services for people. Ultimately creating systems that are user-centric and humane.

The essential elements of design thinking are defining issues, ideation, prototyping, testing, and iterating. However, it may vary as to how one is applying them.

Researching and defining issues: It is user-centric research that includes techniques like ethnographic analysis to understand people’s needs and desires. It aims to empathize with people for which all the designing is intended to serve.

Ideating: In this phase, we aim to generate several ideas to represent potential solutions. Ideation is done using tools like mind-mapping, sketching, and brainstorming to create possible concepts.

Prototyping, Testing, and Iterating: The iteration process tests and refines the ideas generated during the ideation phase, while prototyping helps push the process of delivering a tangible outcome forward. Through prototypes, the designs are demonstrated and validated from the ideation phase. To evaluate the design concept correctly, it is crucial to prototype it in the environment in which it is designed to function. The prototype aims to convey the experience flow.

The key to properly unlock all these steps is to focus on people with deep empathy. The old saying “put yourself in the shoes of others” really comes to life and is the only true way to develop people-centric designs.

Implementing Design Thinking in Organizations

Examining consumer’s need before beginning to create services or product is the foundational research piece of design thinking that informs us on what problems or issues we are seeking to solve. This allows you to not waste your time consumed in solving things that are otherwise irrelevant in value. As you understand people and the problem that need to be resolved you naturally follow actionable steps to design a modern people-centric organization.

Focus on the Issues

As an organization you might fail to solve problems effectively if you do not initially identify the issues impacting the people that make up the organization. You can specify issues with the following steps:

Understand: You must identify and understand people’s needs by putting yourself in their shoes. You might also visualize and think through their way of seeing things to develop an effective solution.

“Feeling and seeing things from other people’s perspectives, is applying empathy to design thinking.”

Ask Questions: Why do the issues exist? How did they arise in the first place? Who is impacted? Why and how did the past attempts to solve the issues lack in results?

Collaborate: It is vital to collaborate with everyone to develop practical solutions to ongoing problems. This engagement must not be confine to just your team. The more you expand your perspective, the greater your ability to understand the complexities and importance for resolutions.

Stay Unbiased: It is crucial to remain open-minded and accept ideas that others have to offer. This is because the ideas you may come across might be something that you weren’t expecting. You cannot rely on assumption, experience, gut feelings, or intuition.

“Design Thinking requires you to collect information as data that needs to be analyzed and studied, before making it actionable.”

Develop Design Thinking Skills on Your Team

Generally, the ideation phase is handled by project managers or engineers. However, design thinking is the process of asking questions, understanding, validating, testing, and iterating which is best done with more people in your organization.

You can follow the following steps to develop design thinking skills in your team:

Practice the Mindset: You can start implementing the design thinking mindset across many roles whenever possible. For instance, if you have a new employee or client, you can test a new approach to understand them by getting feedback from a survey. At the same time, you must be open to new outcomes. In otherwards don’t do surveys with a narrative bult in, rather develop your narrative from the learnings.

Encourage Interests in Design Thinking: You might have members of your organization who want to expand their skills in design thinking; ensure you take care to nurture their interests and foster experimentation. You might reimburse the costs for design thinking classes, to encourage expanded interest as well.

Embrace Constant Feedback

Perfection is not the goal of design thinking, instead it is about finding the best answer. Finding the best answer isn’t easy. Continuous feedback is essential to establish the best solution. Implementing design thinking is a constant process, and it is important to continuously iterate on completed missions and strive to better the outcomes or services.

“Without ongoing feedback, there is no successful implementation of design thinking.”

Here are the tips for implementing a feedback loop:

Test and Iterate: To bring out the best solution, you might have to test your assumptions and iterate as much as possible, and you might come up with something that you might have never thought of otherwise.

Feedback Sessions: Feedback prevents the same mistakes from occurring again while providing a safe space to innovate. Embracing continuous feedback will help you develop the best solution for the consumers.

Accept Failure: It is important to accept failure by viewing it as a learning process. Failure is part of design thinking. You must discuss why it failed and the reasons for the failure. Discussing collaboratively with your team will bring closure to the approach, and you will come to find the best solution.

“Empathy isn’t just a tool, it is your partner in designing organizations that openly discuss challenges and seek to solve them through mutual understanding, and collaboration.”

Design thinking an open-minded culture based on exploration and experimentation is designing an empathy-based organization. This kind of organization will help employees heighten their curiosity, enthusiasm, need to explore, to think big and leverage collective strengths.

An organization that sets design thinking as the core element for driving progress, is setting up for a culture of innovation, happy and enthusiastic employees, longevity, and success.

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Design Thinking Human-centered Approach to Innovation

Design Thinking Human-centered Approach to Innovation

Design Thinking Human-centered Approach to Innovation

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As today’s world advances, modern society brings a new set of complexities that the same thought processes of yesterday cannot solve. Long established solutions may not effectively cope with the changing environment.

This is where Design Thinking steps in to create better solutions, services, and experiences to solve our current problems. 

“Design Thinking enables organizations, and people to solve problems with a human-centered approach intertwined with scientific methods.”

At the root of effective Design Thinking methodologies is empathy and emotional intelligence. When leveraged correctly, Design Thinking can bring about innovations through the following:

● Providing a new definition of value

● Approaching human-centered innovation

● Improving quality of life

● Addressing problems affecting diversity of people

● Issues related to corporate culture and new technology

● Redesigning markets and behaviors

● Manage social and market changes

● Recreating business models for our times

● Addressing the changes and complexity in society and resolving them

● Giving priority to teamwork to solve problems

● Advancing towards entrepreneurial initiatives in the educational and medical sectors

● Examining and solving the issues left unresolved by data

Tackle Challenges

Design Thinking is the best approach to issues at the intersection of multiple sectors like society and business, emotions and logic, creative and rational thinking, addressing economic demands and needs, and systems and individuals.

However, we would not need Design Thinking to handle fundamental problems with fixed and known solutions. Instead, we need Design Thinking for an innovative approach to issues with different aims where traditional methods have failed.

Human-Centered Approach Innovation

Design Thinking is adapted to work on human needs irrespective of the authority or the scale of the challenge. A controlled, technical, or conventional approach cannot deal with or resolve modern society’s complex and sensitive needs.

Therefore, Design Thinking can spark a sense of innovation that only occurs with the intention, need, or desire for a better situation or state. We can move from just dream of a feasible path to solving problems to executing sustainable innovation.

“Design Thinking equips us with the tools that undoubtedly lead us to explore what could be.”

Society Disruptions

The Industrial Revolution has disrupted human development, as a result analysts have been searching for ways to help business production, and economic sectors cope. They aim to extract the most benefit from the least number of resources and time.

However, even though their processes have brought out successes in productivity and efficiency, they could not bring out the needed innovation throughout the required sectors.

Design Thinking breaks us free from the older mold of doing things and gives us a fresh outlook. As a human-centered approach to change how we explore and find solutions, it provides us new insights to tackle issues.

In addition to the ongoing struggles between the creative and analytical worlds, other aspects have impacted the lens through which we see, perceive, experience, and interpret the things around us.

With the advancement of technology, consumers’ demands are constantly evolving, requiring updated information and the constant pursuit of novel innovation.

Focus on Humans Not Users

People are looking for products that connect with them in a meaningful way or directly match their needs and experiences. This is where Design Thinking approach to business and social innovations offer the best solutions.

“Design Thinking enables us to look for alternatives values, solely focusing on solutions based on human needs and experience.”

Innovative solutions require solving a plethora of complex challenges like massive disruptions that affect human resources, sustainability, economic constraints, education, and energy that cannot be resolved with existing method.

Design Thinking for Innovation

Forming the right mindset, creating the right team, and setting up an environment for innovation are the three factors to foster successful innovation for society. 

These are the primary factors that must occur within organizations and companies to achieve successful innovation. 

Let us discuss these aspects in detail:

Forming the Right Mind for Innovation

To initiate innovation, forming the right kind of mind is a crucial aspect of Design Thinking. These days, it is perceived that creativity and lateral thinking can be learned by implementing the processes and taking the proper steps to forming the necessary mindset.

This can help resolve the ongoing, most tricky, and complex problems. 

The challenge is that most modern organizational and corporate settings tend to kill creativity. Therefore, it is crucial to incorporate Design Thinking to help us develop collaborative, open, and explorative mindsets and cultures that readily combines imagination, logic, and creativity to bring out innovations.

Forming the Right Team

Design Thinking promotes cross-disciplinary collaboration where creativity, logic, and talent are not boxed. Different disciplines such as business analysts, designers, marketers, and ethnographers form a team to bring out revolutionary ideas based on complex problems. 

Therefore, it is crucial to facilitate Design Thinking by collaborating with different departments to achieve novel innovation.

Set up Environments Conducive to Innovation

The inhabited environment plays a vital role in shaping our thought processes, perceiving things, and the ability to innovate. Innovative companies like Google create workspaces with equipment and toys to develop the creative thinking of team members. 

It helps to develop workspaces where the members can embrace change, develop the ability to think creatively, work together, and develop innovative solutions.

It’s About People

Design Thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that integrates the needs of people, the possibilities of converging technologies, and the intentionality for measurable success.

To be effective you must invest in observing how people interact with their environments to create innovative solutions. Organizations need to focus on the human-centric approach where evidence is collected and prioritized into the thought process that empathically informs all decisions based on people’s needs and desire for memorable experiences.

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