Design Thinking for Uncertainty

The greatest learning that I got from the Design Thinking course was about uncertainty. Design Thinking as a concept and process was not new to me, but what really struck me during the course, was how Design Thinking can be used in a business context to manage uncertainty.

The future is getting less and less predictable by past data. For many in the traditional business environment the way to create new has been by careful analysis and research of the past and currents markets. In the modern ever so competitive business environment to really succeed this is not enough. New innovative solutions must be created. When you cannot trust the previous data and development methods you need something else to rely on. This uncertainty and need for innovation has given the rise of Design Thinking in the business world. It has brought the design process and mentality to the business context.

For managers Design Thinking is a way to solve problems in the modern world. Design Thinking also enables the innovation team to deal with the uncertainty during the development process. It creates structure to the development of the new product, service or business innovation. Thus, enabling the development team to truly pursue the most innovative solution. Trusting the process even if you do not know what will come out in the end creates resilience towards uncertainty.

Managers often rely on the data to make decision and to be comfortable with their decisions. The Design Thinking process also creates data but it is different from what many managers are used to. The research phase in the beginning of the process enables the gathering of deep more empathic insight of the customers of the company and thus truly catering to the needs of the markets.

Design Thinking as a process also relieves the development team of the pressure of getting it right the first time. Failing is a part of Design Thinking. Failing fast and doing fast iterations of the concepts enables the team to truly find solutions that work. Testing and experimenting before full launch of the concept diminishes the uncertainty of the successfulness of the concept.

Finally, the process of Design Thinking is real. It creates action. It focuses on researching, creating and testing. Design Thinking is about doing, not just creating fine looking spreadsheets. Doing creates results. You might create great successes and most likely you will find out many ways on how not to do things. This is also important. So, when you do not yet know where you are going, trust the process. You will come out at the end of it and probably with cool new things.


Liedtka, Jeanne & Ogilvie, Tim 2011. Designing for growth: a design thinking tool kit for managers, New York: Columbia University Press.
Tschimmel, K. (2012). Design Thinking as an effective Toolkit for Innovation. In: Proceedings of the XXIII ISPIM Conference: Action for Innovation: Innovating from Experience. Barcelona.

3 thoughts on “Design Thinking for Uncertainty

  1. I also took the tackling of uncertainty as an interesting view. As a science design thinking and service design are trying to create cohesion and structure to the world. It is much more easier (even prerequisite) to act in the world when there is certain presumptions on what will your action bring about. However, I think it is equally thrilling idea that design thinking also helps one to bear the grey shades and chaos in the world even though one would be just a by stander or a spectator.

  2. I was also inspired by the idea of using design thinking as a way to mitigate the uncertainty that is pretty much the only certain thing in today’s world. In addition to being able to read global trends, economic prediction and big data, it will be increasingly important to factor in the “human factor”. This is where design thinking tools can come handy. They can be used to scope out the uncertainty stemming from different human actions, belifs and culture systems. Further more, it seems design thinking tools may be the way to process that human data into a form that is also understandable to the business world.

  3. Dealing with uncertainty using Design Thinking is an interesting angle and it is easy to see how this is crucial in the business context, especially when it comes to failing early and fast. Often failure is seen as a negative thing, but the ability to fail fast really gives innovation teams the faith in knowing that they are doing the right thing. Failing often and early (and knowing why you failed e.g. no real need in the market, not what people want or believe) can really only provide better results in the long run.

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