A beginner’s guide to Design Thinking

by Jenny Kurjenniemi

Simply put, Design Thinking is a process for creative problem-solving.

This means solving any kind of problem, from how to secure clean water supply in developing countries, to how to create the kind of service that people will be interested in and gain financial value for the innovation.

It’s good to understand from the beginning that there is no design thinking without design doing. Super artistic skills are not required but sketching, visualizing, and prototyping are an integral part of it. We all need creative problem-solving and yes – we can all do the creative hands on part with some practice.


I will take you through the design thinking process and the text is divided into four chapters.

#1 Design Thinking requires a design thinker

A natural question for a beginner is whether you need to be a trained designer to practice design thinking? The answer is no. However, what it does take, is that you start thinking like a designer; become a design thinker. So open your mind and explore the world and the challenges!

Tim Brown, one of the leading design thinkers and the CEO of IDEO, a pioneering Dsign Thinking agency, has listed characteristics that make a good design thinker.

Design thinkerEmpathy: Is interested in the surrounding world and has a people-centric approach – that’s how people’s explicit and latent needs are identified to create a winning offering.

Integrative thinking: Has the ability to see the problem from different angles and levels, and combine contradictory aspects to find novel solutions.

Optimism: Believes that there is always a new solution regardless of the constraints.

Experimentalism and collaboration: Goes for true innovation vs. incremental tweaks through the creative design thinking process, which is a collaboration between professionals.

#2 The process –  Diverge to converge: give life to the best ideas

What is the Design Thinking process about? Divergent Convergent

The rule is to first think in quantity and variety (diverge) to have an abundance of ideas to choose from (converge) later on in the process.

There are many different descriptions of the process, but for Tim Brown of IDEO these are phases:

  1. Inspiration/motivation: What is the problem and opportunity?
  2. Ideation: Generate, develop, and test ideas that can lead to workable solutions
  3. Implementation: Find a path to market

The process is an iterative flow of divergent and convergent thinking all the way until the end.

#3 Design doing – the collaborative tools

So let’s take a look at doing. The Design Thinking process has a clear beginning, middle and end. To go through the process in a productive manner, different phases have their own methods and tools. As the process moves between diverging and converging the tools in each phase allow and even force to do this in the best possible way.

See below how this comes together to get the idea:


#4 Innovation – how to move from increment to innovation

So what are the benefits of Design Thinking for innovation?

When the whole problem or opportunity has been approached through a design thinker’s eyes using the creative tools, design is no longer a tactical late aesthetic value add to make something already developed more attractive. Instead design is built into the core of the whole innovation and it links:

  • people’s needs and desires
  • what is technologically feasible
  • what is economically viable as a business

Triad new


This is when the magic happens in the form of substantive innovation! Design becomes strategic and creates new forms of value e.g., as in completely new service ecosystem vs. one service.


The beauty of the Design Thinking approach is the holistic systems approach, which is built into it through the creative process, and that it has a people-centered approach. As a consumer-marketing professional, this is music to my ears. It seems like the tools for better innovation and activation are at our fingertips when following the Design Thinking approach.


Brown, Tim 2009. Change by design: how design thinking can transform organizations and inspire innovation. New York: HarperCollins Publishers.

Brown, Tim 2008. Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review, June, 84-95. http://www.ideo.com/images/uploads/thoughts/IDEO_HBR_Design_Thinking.pdf

Tschimmel, Katja 2018. E.62 Mindshake – Innovation & Design Thinking Model

The author Jenny Kurjenniemi is a MBA student at Laurea’s Service Innovation and Design program with a background in Consumer Marketing and Business.

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