Business / Strategy

What is Design Thinking and Why is it Important?


What is design thinking?

Design thinking is a ‘way of thinking’ which, although defined and systemised by designers, can be applied to any situation.

Design thinking involves developing a deep understanding of the user, challenging assumptions, and redefining problems. The result is a solution based, iterative process which helps identify alternative solutions or strategies that aren’t immediately obvious. It provides a framework for the process of creative problem solving that should optimise the outcome.

Like red wine and dark chocolate, design thinking is often enhanced when accompanied with Human Centered Design. While design thinking is a process, human-centered design is amindset that focuses on creating long term positive outcomes for users.

Design thinking could, for example, be used to create a popular web series. With a human-centered design mindset overlaying the design thinking, that web series might also make a point of including diverse characters and educating viewers in an attempt to dissipate racism or homophobia.

Design thinking principles

  1. Empathy: Crucial to creating a solution that works and is wanted.
  2. Expansive Thinking: Brainstorming multiple ways to approach or solve an issue allows for creativity and innovation.
  3. Experimenting: There’s only one way to find out if an idea translates well to the real world. Test it.

Design thinking process

Empathise (with the user)

Understand the challenges, frustrations, desires, and motivations of the user. A product designed to address all of those is more likely to succeed.

A common activity to help businesses get inside the head of consumers is empathy mapping. An empathy map is an asset which prompts designers (and business people) to step deeper into the psyche of their users and helps them develop deeper understanding of users’ needs. Wondering what an empathy map looks like? Here’s a basic empathy map template you can refer to.

Define (the problem)

This isn’t just what you think the problem is. This stage involves looking at all the data you collected from interacting with people in the Empathise stage and looking for patterns that will help your designer come up with specific functions and features that will be important for the product.

Define a problem that your target audience has (for which you have the solution), then look for ways to encourage people to take action that will benefit them – with your solution.


After observing and analysing, your designers can get to work looking for unique, ‘outside the box’ solutions for the problem that’s been identified. It’s important to come up with as many possible ideas in this stage – even ‘bad’ ones. You never know what will trigger the solution that sticks!


A prototype is a simpler (and cheaper) version of the final product which allows features to be tested.

A prototype should be shared around people outside the immediate team as well to get a better perspective on what’s working and what isn’t.

Each solution that was ideated is systematically tested and approved or improved, re-attempted, or rejected. This phase provides better insight into potential problems and constraints, as well as a real life trial on how people would respond to and interact with your product.


Once the best solutions have been identified in the Prototyping phase, the final versions are thoroughly tested. In an ideal world, this would leave you with a viable, working product. In the real world, this stage usually results in some of the original issues being redefined, and so the whole process goes again, inching closer and closer to the complete, optimised solution.

How does design thinking apply to business?

Consumers these days are flooded with options. No matter what solution you’re offering, it needs to be as good as it can possibly be. As user friendly as possible. As tailored to the target audience as possible.

If you want to stand out in a crowded market, it also needs to be unique. If you want all of those things for your business, you need to be able to approach your problem solving differently.

Design thinking provides a perfect framework for businesses to become truly customer-centric, no matter their product or service offering.

Design thinking is a systematic approach to creative problem solving which is centered around solutions tailored to the users. Or, in a business setting, your clients. It’s a commitment to creating the best possible user experience which is a valuable mindset for any business.

If you’d like some guidance on how to bring design thinking into your own business, contact the Pounce team today.

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