What is design thinking and why is it important to your business?


Building a prototype.


Design thinking is a creative problem solving and innovation process that makes change possible. Instead of FOR users, this human centered approach designs services and products WITH users.

The systematic process of using design thinking tools for innovation creates competitive advantage –  a good reason to every business manager to adopt it to their working processes.

How does design thinking differ from other innovation processes

Design thinking turns the traditional innovation process upside down. Whereas before the innovators had a certain goal for their process, in design thinking it is unknown where the process will take you – thus pure innovations can be born.

Genuine search for a solution for your business problem requires learning. Design thinking is applied in an iterative circle that uses co-creation and testing, for example prototyping. Learning and finding a solution by iteration need an atmosphere where it is okay to fail – instead of trying to prove to be right and avoid mistakes.

Why is design thinking a must for every business manager


Visualisation is a key in communicating a new product.


Do you want to have brave, creative people in your team? Do you want to create products and services that your clients love? Do you want to do things in a different way and win the competition in your market? If your answer is yes, you are ready to apply design thinking in your work.

Design thinking helps you to start acting, instead of just planning your new product. With design thinking you communicate your ideas concretely, which is a great tool to make your team understand what you actually mean. You will learn to turn failures to possibilities. And finally, you will know how to make products that people fall in love with.

How to apply design thinking in your innovation process

The systematic design thinking process for innovation has following stages:

1. Build empathy

Observe the users and the current reality of the business. Make sure the team shares the same vision of the project at hand.

2. Generate ideas and sketches

Brainstorm what could be in the future. Let the ideas flow free and go crazy. Draw a sketch of your idea to make it concrete.

3. Build a test product

Choose the queens and kings of your ideas. Materialise them in concepts or prototypes ready for some testing.

4. Deliver and get feedback

Finally launch your (beta)product to the market and learn from the experiences of your clients. Now you are ready to develop the product rapidly – or fail fast.

There are about 40 design thinking tools presented in the readings listed below. I’m sure there is even more. Choose the ones that fit you the best!

After testing couple of the tools, I am convinced about the power of them to speed up the innovation process. I like the interaction between the divergent and convergent thinking in each stage, that is first expanding the horizon of possibilities and then narrowing it down to the best possible solution.

Further readings

  1. Download design thinking tools and canvases by Mindshake. Mindshake is a Portuguese design company that has developed Design Thinking Model Evolution 6².

2. Tschimmel, Katja (2012). Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation. In: Proceedings of the XXIII ISPIM Conference: Action for Innovation: Innovating from Experience. Barcelona.

Read if you want to know more about design thinking models and their evolution.

3. Ogilvie, Tim, and Jeanne Liedtka (2011). Designing for Growth : A Design Thinking Toolkit for Managers, Columbia University Press.

Read if you want to learn how to turn ideas into products and services for growth of your business.


The author Hanna Heikkonen participated in the study unit Design Thinking of the MBA programme for Service Innovation and Design by Laurea.

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