Is Design Thinking a magical cure-all?

Change as a Challenge

The internet and with it the digitization and growing technological achievements are changing our world. Of course, change is nothing new; industries and companies have to face change every day through competition and innovation. Mootee describes, all companies must endure change to survive or grow (Mootee, 2013, p.124), but the change we’ve been experiencing for a while now, is particularly fast and influential. We are living in an age where change is reshaping industries and categories (Mootee, 2013, p.124) with great impact, bringing opportunities that we can exploit for growth, but also risks that can lead to an existential threat if we are not sensing it early enough and respond to it properly.

Change brings chances by Bento Orlando

Change is not the problem, but the challenge businesses have to overcome. The problem or danger, like Mootee describes it, lies in applying theories and practices based on outdated models of two or three decades ago (Mootee, 2013, p.99). As these practices and theories are outdated, they often cannot provide an adequate response to today’s challenges. More than 80 percent of our management tools, systems, and techniques are for value-capture efforts, not for value creation; (Mootee, 2013, p.75). This is a problem if a business wants to compete with other companies who can create and offer new values, which are requested by customers in this new landscape.

Design Thinking as a Solution

Design thinking is an approach everybody can use, to find a proper response with new alternatives and ideas we need (Brown, 2009) to create new values. Because design thinking is promising, some business leaders gazing hopefully towards design thinking as the next management “wonder drug” (Mootee, 2013, p.35). The hope of helping one’s own business to new heights with this seemingly playful approach is tempting. But the hype surrounding design thinking makes some people overlook the fact that this approach is not just hanging sticky notes to fancy walls in colorful spaces. Design thinking’s association with or applications in business is often way oversimplified (Mootee, 2013, p.54) and that can raise false hopes. Business leaders must understand the context before designing and implementing any change program (Mootee, 2013, p.124) and this is an important part of design thinking.

Essential parts of Design Thinking in E.62 design by Mindshake

To learn design thinking properly it is useful to participate in a design thinking workshop as I did during my design thinking class at Laurea University. Katja Tschimmel, who is a design thinking coach taught us various models and tools, which we were able to put into practice together in groups. Using the methods with divergent and convergent phases was important because a big part of design thinking is design doing (Mootee, 2013, p.80). It is a process where you learn in collaboration with the others and like Katja Tschimmel said you copy and adapt and adaption is necessary in times of change.

Katja Tschimmels Design Thinking class

My Experience with Design Thinking

As a designer who has been working in this field for almost 4 years, design thinking is not something new. I know the advantages of including customers in the process or methods like prototyping. I didn’t expect to hear much new, but as a designer, you still can have eye-opening moments while learning about design thinking. The course broadened my perspective, reminded me of things that had already faded into my subconscious and sharpened my terminology and methodology.

A Valuable Practice

Design thinking is far from a magical cure-all (Mootee, 2013, p.35), but a valuable practice to sense change, to find opposing ideas and constraints who lead to new solutions (Brown, 2009, 4:00)redefined values up to new business models. It is an approach that can replace outdated practices and theories to face today’s challenges properly.

Author: Bento Orlando Haridas – September 2019


  • Mootee, I. 2013. Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation: What They Can’t Teach You at Business or Design School: Wiley.
  • Brown, T. 2008. Design Thinking: Thinking like a designer can transform the way you develop products, services, processes – and even strategy.: Harvard Business Review
  • Tim Brown. 2009. Design Thinking: TED Talk.

3 thoughts on “Is Design Thinking a magical cure-all?

  1. Thanks Bento for this! It was interesting to read thoughts by someone who already has such a vast experience in design field. Based on your experience, what are the best ways to make sure that company clients are ready and willing to actively take part in the service design process?

    Also as a tip based on your recap on Mootee’s ideas: reverse mentoring as a way to bring empathic understanding and new insight to corporate leaders might be something that you would be interested to look into. Personally I’m part of this reverse mentoring network working with corporate executives:

    PS. Gorgeous pictures! 🙂

  2. Thank you, Bento, for a concise overview of what design thinking is and how it can be applied! I was interesting to read that you also found some new insights throughout the learning process even though you had plenty of experience of doing design-related work beforehand. I think it shows that design thinking is more of a craft that exact knowledge of how things and the world works, and it is a good reminder for us all to remember to keep on honing that craft and not getting too complacent about the skills we already have.

    I found this thought from Mootee especially interesting: “The problem or danger, like Mootee describes it, lies in applying theories and practices based on outdated models of two or three decades ago (Mootee, 2013, p.99)”. I think this also connect to our evolving understanding of design thinking: if we have learned some methods five years ago and used them at work in our bubble of the world that we live in, it is possible that if we don’t look outside our usual circle of things, we will end getting stuck in those mental models about design that we learned originally, and then end up applying those “outdated” models to new challenges that might require new kind of an approach. Of course, constantly having to update your understanding of the design thinking method might be viewed as an arduous way of working, but I feel like it also give a lot of joy in giving you the chances of learning new things continuously.

  3. I really like the way you have visualized how anyone or any organization can approach changes as chances. It is something in Design Thinking’s core – what is one’s perspective towards the changing world. You say “Change is not the problem, but the challenge businesses have to overcome.” The management practices and methods are definitely not supporting solving today’s and future’s challenges. There is lot of potential with Design Thinking to offer new way of thinking and methods for management of organizations.

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