Design Thinking in Business

  • 6 min read


Everywhere you turn, people are talking about the importance of design in a modern business environment. From websites, mobile apps, and SaaS, design often plays a vital role in the success or failure of a product.

Steve Jobs was one of the people responsible for a design-focused renaissance.  He encouraged consumers to expect things that not only look great but are also designed to make sense.

It’s true that great design makes things more appealing and useful, making the user more productive, which leads to greater satisfaction.

Some of the world’s leading brands, such as Apple, Google, Samsung, and GE, have rapidly adopted the design thinking approach and design thinking is being taught at leading universities around the world, including, Stanford, Harvard, and MIT.

But what is design thinking and why is it so popular? Due to the remarkable success rate of design-led companies, the design has evolved beyond making objects.

Organizations now want to learn how to think like designers and apply design principles to the workplace itself. 

In this article, I’ll explain what design thinking is and what role it plays in business.

What is design thinking?

According to Interaction Design Foundation, design thinking: is an iterative process in which we seek to understand the user, challenge assumptions, and redefine problems in an attempt to identify alternative strategies and solutions that might not be instantly apparent with our initial level of understanding.

Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO, has defined it as:
“Design thinking can be described as a discipline that uses the designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.“
Both definitions are somewhat complicated, so to put it in plain language.

Design thinking a process, and a set of tools, of coming up with innovative ideas that are both desirable by users, viable for the organization and technically feasible.

A great representation of this definition is this image:

Image source

Design thinking is based on the user’s needs; that’s why it’s so closely related to user experience design (UX). It starts with empathy to gain insights which may reveal new and unexplored ways of seeing.

The perceived problem or challenge at hand is reframed.  It also encourages collaborative, multi-disciplinary teamwork to leverage the skills, personalities and thinking styles of many to solve multifaceted problems.

Finally, it employs a convergent thinking style to come up with several possible solutions. Then it tests those solutions, choosing the best one after getting user feedback.

The defining trait of design thinking is the fact that it’s always user-centric. In other words, it puts the user first, and then comes up with different solutions, and chooses the one which will satisfy the user’s needs the best.

Design thinking phases

There are many variants of the design thinking process in use today, and they have from three to seven phases, stages, or modes.

However, all variants are very similar.

In this article I’ll talk about the six-phase model described by NN Group, which consists of:
  • Empathize: Conduct research to develop knowledge about what your users do, say, think, and feel.
  • Define (the problem): Combine all your research and observe where your users’ problems exist. In pinpointing your users’ needs, begin to highlight opportunities for innovation.
  • Ideate: After you’ve come to understand your users and their needs, and you defined the problem they face, it’s time to brainstorm many innovative ideas on how to solve the problem.
  • Prototype: Build real representations for your ideas and get internal feedback.
  • Test: Ask your users for feedback. Try to determine if your solution solves the problem the users have and does it improve their experience.
  • Implement: Make sure your solution is materialized, and it improves the experience of your users.
Here’s a visual representation of the phases:  

design thinking phases

Image source

Although the phases described above are usually used in web design (for example, when creating a new website), the principles behind them can be used on the organizational level, as an innovative approach to problem-solving.


You don’t have to be a designer to think like one. Design thinking principles can be applied to the whole organization, as a way of tackling business problems.

Organizations are learning how to think like designers. They are applying design principles to the workplace itself.

There are many examples of organizations that have had significant success in applying design thinking methods to their way of doing business.

I hope this article has helped you to understand better what design thinking is. And how it can help organizations reach their business goals. If you have any questions about how to apply these methods to your business, feel free to contact us today, and we’ll help you.

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