What is Design Thinking And Why is it Important?


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Praise Iwuh

October 30, 2023


Design thinking is a way to solve problems focusing on understanding, creativity, and collaboration. In this article, we'll talk about the basic ideas behind design thinking, its importance in solving problems today, the five steps that make up the process, and real-world examples that show how it works. We'll also explore how design thinking compares to other approaches, like Agile and Lean, to see when and where each works best. After reading this article, you'll have a better understanding of how design thinking can be used to solve complex problems in many different fields.

Understanding Design Thinking?

Design thinking is based on the idea that the best solutions are made by understanding the user's wants and then iterating on ideas until a solution is found that is both effective and desirable.

Below are basic components of design thinking:


First, it starts with understanding the needs, wants, and pain points of the user. This is done through study methods like surveys, interviews, observations, and empathy mapping. The goal is to learn as much as possible about the user's experience and figure out what problems they're having.


Design thinking is an iterative process, which means which means that ideas are always being made, tested, and improved. This is done through a number of cycles, each of which focuses on a different part of the problem. The goal is to come up with a strategy that works well and is appealing to the user.


It is a collaborative process that involves people from different disciplines working together. This gives people different points of view and helps to ensure that the best possible solution is developed.

Why is Design Thinking Important?

Find below the importance of design thinking:

  • You are able to develop ideas that are easier to use and more appealing. When we start with the user in mind, we are more likely to make solutions that are easy to use and meet their goals.
  • It finds and solves problems that we might not even have known about. By knowing how the user feels, we can find problems that the user might not even be aware of.
  • It helps to come up with new and fresh ways to solve problems. Design thinking encourages you to think outside the box and come up with new ideas that aren't the same as the ones we've always used.
  • With design thinking, you can be more iterative and learn from our mistakes. Design thought is an iterative process, which means that we are always putting our ideas to the test and making them better. This lets us learn from our mistakes and make the ideas we come up with better over time.

The Five Stages of Design Thinking

Design thinking entails a five-step process that may require you to go back and forth between stages as you learn more about the problem and come up with answers.


The first step of design thought is to put yourself in the user's shoes. This means you have to know what they need, what they want, and what hurts them. You can do this with research tools like surveys, interviews, observations, and empathy mapping. At this time, the goal is to learn a lot about the user's experience and figure out what problems they are having.


After knowing a lot about the user, you need to describe the problem in a way that is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and has a deadline (SMART). This will help you focus your efforts and come up with likely-to-work ideas.


When you know what the problem is, you need to think of as many creative ways to solve it as you can. This can be done by coming up with ideas through brainstorming, drawing, and other methods. At this stage, the goal is to come up with as many possible answers as possible, even if some of them seem impossible.


Once you have generated some ideas, you need to build low-fidelity prototypes of your solutions to test them with users. This will help you to get feedback on your ideas and to refine them before you invest too much time and resources in them. Prototypes can be as simple as paper sketches or wireframes, or they can be more complex, such as working models or mockups.


The last step of design thought is to get feedback from users on your prototypes. This will help you figure out what's wrong with your ideas and fix what needs to be fixed. You can test your prototypes in different ways, such as by doing usability tests or talking to users.

How Design Thinking Enhances Software Development

Design thinking has several characteristics that help improve the software development process. They include:

User-Centric Approach

Design thinking emphasizes empathizing with end-users, understanding their needs, and involving them throughout the development process. This leads to software that genuinely meets user expectations, resulting in higher user satisfaction and engagement.

Creativity and Innovation

Design thinking encourages creative problem-solving and brainstorming. It prompts software developers to explore unconventional solutions and think outside the box, fostering innovation in the development process.

Cross-Functional Collaboration

It promotes collaboration among multidisciplinary teams, including designers, developers, and end-users. This cross-functional approach ensures that different perspectives are considered, leading to well-rounded software solutions.

Iterative Prototyping

Design thinking advocates building and testing prototypes at various stages of development. This iterative process allows for early identification of issues and continuous improvement, resulting in more robust and user-friendly software.

User Feedback Integration

Regular feedback loops with end-users help in refining the software continually. Design thinking encourages the incorporation of user feedback, ensuring that the software remains aligned with evolving user needs.

Reduced Risk

By validating ideas and concepts through prototypes and user feedback, design thinking reduces the risk of investing in a software solution that may not meet user requirements or market demands.

Case Study of Design Thinking Methodology in Action

Below are case studies of how companies used the design thinking methodology:


  • Empathy: Google conducted interviews with busy professionals to understand their needs and challenges with email. They learned that professionals wanted an email service that was easy to use, efficient, and could help them to stay organised.
  • Define: Google defined the problem as "developing an email service that is easy to use, efficient, and helps professionals to stay organized."
  • Ideate: Google came up with a list of potential solutions, such as a new email interface, new features, and new ways to organize email.
  • Prototype: Google built simple models of their solutions and tested them with professionals.
  • Test: Google received feedback from professionals and used it to make their prototypes better.


  • Empathy: NASA conducted interviews with astronauts to understand their needs and challenges on a long-duration mission to Mars. They learned that astronauts needed a spacecraft that was reliable, comfortable, and had enough supplies for the duration of the mission.
  • Define: NASA defined the problem as "developing a spacecraft that is reliable, comfortable, and has enough supplies for a long-duration mission to Mars."
  • Ideate: NASA brainstormed a list of potential solutions, such as new materials, new designs, and new ways to store and transport supplies.
  • Prototype: NASA built low-fidelity prototypes of their solutions and tested them with astronauts.
  • Test: NASA received feedback from astronauts and used it to refine their prototypes.

World Health Organisation

  • Empathy: The WHO did interviews with people who are at risk of malaria and people who have malaria to understand their needs and challenges. They learned that people who are at risk of malaria often live in poverty and have limited access to healthcare. People who have malaria often experience severe symptoms and can be hospitalized.
  • Define: The WHO defined the problem as "developing a new vaccine for malaria that is affordable and easy to administer."
  • Ideate: The WHO highlighted a list of potential solutions, such as new vaccine formulations, new delivery methods, and new ways to distribute vaccines.
  • Prototype: The WHO came up with low-fidelity prototypes of their solutions and tested them with people who are at risk of malaria and people who have malaria.
  • Test: The WHO got feedback from people who participated in the testing and used it to refine their prototypes.

Agile vs Lean vs Design Thinking

Agile and lean are both iterative development methodologies that can be used to solve problems. However, they differ in their focus and approach. Let’s look at what they entail:


Agile is a methodology that is often used in software development. It is focused on delivering working software to users quickly and frequently. Agile teams work in short sprints, typically two weeks long, and deliver working software at the end of each sprint. This allows users to get feedback on the software early and often, and helps to ensure that the software is meeting their needs.


Lean is a methodology that is focused on eliminating waste and improving efficiency. Lean teams focus on identifying and eliminating waste in the development process, such as unnecessary tasks, rework, and delays. Lean teams also focus on continuous improvement and are constantly looking for ways to make the development process more efficient.

Design Thinking

Design thinking is a human-centered approach to problem-solving. It is focused on understanding the needs of the user and creating solutions that are both effective and desirable. Design thinking teams go through a series of iterative steps, including empathy, define, ideate, prototype, and test, to develop solutions that meet the needs of the user.

Read: What is Datafication?

Comparison of Agile, Lean, and Design Thinking

Agile, lean, and design thinking can be used together to create even more effective solutions. For example, a design thinking team could use agile to develop prototypes of their solutions and then use lean to test these prototypes with users and iterate on them until they find a solution that works.


Design thinking is especially useful for solving complex problems. Complex problems are often ill-defined or unknown, and they require a creative and iterative approach. Design thinking provides a framework for solving complex problems by focusing on the user, generating ideas, and testing prototypes. If you are facing a complex problem, design thinking may be the right approach for you.



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