What is Design Thinking and how to “design think”?

Modern world possesses bigger challenges and more complex problems with people in the centre. To tackle these and come up with a creative solution, we need to use an explorative approach such as Design Thinking to innovate and solve these problems.

I was familiarized to Design Thinking when I attended a course led by Katja Tschimmel, the founder of Mindshake. Katja introduced us to the Design Thinking process and mindset by leading up through the Innovation and Design Thinking model called Evolution 6² (E.6²). The E.6² model includes steps with questions and tools that help design thinker or innovator to find out what the problem is, who is the solution intended for, what is the best solution, and how to implement it.

According to Katja the principles of Design Thinking are 1) Human-centered approach: Products and services should be experienced from the user’s perspective. 2) Collaboration: As many stakeholders as possible should be included throughout the phases of the process. 3) Experimentation: Playful thinking, making mistakes and learning by doing are an important part of every creative process. 4) Visualization: Quick prototyping helps the learning process and improves the initial ideas by visualization. 5) Holistic perspective: The big picture (environment and context) behind the product or service that is being developed needs to be understood (Tschimmel 2019, p.10).

To have an even deeper understanding what design thinking is and how to “design think”, I read an article written by Tim Brown (2008) called “Design Thinking” and studied a book called “Design Thinking: understanding how designers think and work” written by Nigel Gross (2011). 

There is myth about designers that they are creative geniuses and lone inventors. But in fact designing, development and innovation is result of hard work augmented by a creative human-centered discovery process followed by iterative cycles of prototyping, testing, and refinement (Brown, 2008, p. 88). From Brown’s article it also stands out that innovations are done with teamwork by people that have different knowledge and backgrounds instead of individual persons by themselves.

Nigel Gross did case studies about designers and how they work and think during the design process (2011). Same as Brown, Gross also discovered that to innovate, intense work is needed to develop, evaluate and refine a solution, and that the process includes 99% perspiration and only 1% of creativity (Gross 2011, p.74). According to Gross, innovative designers are not afraid of failure and they like, or even need, to work in a small team of committed co-workers (2011, p. 73-74). Gross’ findings also emphasise the fact that innovation and Design Thinking are iterative, experimental and social processes.

To visualize how collaborative experimentation happens in development and innovation, I found this great illustration by Linda Saukko-Rauta:


To summarize my learnings: Design Thinking is the best approach to innovation, because it is a social process that actively engages diverse people with different backgrounds and knowledges in the process, and because it is an iterative process that encourages to fail fast with early testing and prototyping. As the Design Thinking approach is human-centered, it encourages to focus on the people that the solutions are created for, which leads to better products, services, and processes. Design Thinking creates new ideas that has not been thought before by imagining, doing, and visualizing. With the help of Design Thinking approach and mindset, everyone can be design thinkers and innovators.

Posted by Reija H.


  • Brown, Tim 2008. Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review, June, 84-95.
  • Cross, Nigel 2011. Design thinking: understanding how designers think and work. Oxford: Berg Publishers.
  • Saukko-Rauta, Linda (RedanRedan Oy). Experimenter´s Posters, http://www.kokeilevasuomi.fi.
  • Tschimmel, Katja 2018. Evolution 6² Toolkit: An E-handbook for Practical Design Thinking for Innovation. Mindshake.
  • Tschimmel, Katja 2019. Master Class on Practical Design Thinking, Laurea University of Applied Sciences, SID, Espoo, Finland. 6.-7.10.2019.


3 thoughts on “What is Design Thinking and how to “design think”?

  1. Hello Reijahellman, it is a great article about design thinking. I agree when you say that design thinking is human centered, which improves products, services and processes. Besides, it is true that design thinking is not just creativity, but also a lot of work.
    Good post!

  2. Design thinking can change the company from top to bottom. Applying design thinking method will completely turn the company’s focus upside down. From process and product centricity to a customer centricity. The biggest challange is to start and get a small group of design passionates that will start demonstrating how the new approach can help. First should will gain the momentum and draw the attention of C-level. From there the way should be wide open…

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