August 20, 2021

How design thinking could help you innovate

Back to overview

Design thinking - what's in a name? It has nothing to do with the narrow design concept but more to do with looking for creative solutions to complex problems. It's a solution-oriented methodology to tackle problems, take on challenges, reach specific goals, or challenge assumptions. 'How,' you ask? According to the design thinking method, the continuous repetition of five steps gets you closer to your desired outcome: empathize, ideate, define, prototype, test and start all over again.


1. Empathize

Empathy is key

Which problem would you like to solve? Identify your challenge by focusing on the people experiencing it. Try to put yourself in their shoes. This way, you can get to the core of the problem without getting distracted by assumptions or your expertise.

The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.
- Albert Einstein

Let's get to it!
Get in touch with your target audience. Observe and look at the problem from all different points of view.

There are several ways to get in touch with your target audience. The goal is to gather as much information and insights as possible and shine a light on every aspect of the problem. In-depth interviews with plenty of open questions are a great starting point. Next, think about discussion groups, reviews, interviews, or questionnaires.

2. Define

A little perspective goes a long way

Now that we've tightened the screws on our target audience and gathered all testimonials and insights, it's time to get to work. In this phase, we will analyze the insights and define the core problem. Then, take all your findings to the table and illustrate different themes. This way, we get a complete overview of the original challenge, allowing us to distill the so-called POV.

Let's get to it!
The POV, short for Point Of View, consists out of 3 elements:

  1. Who are you? Whom are we talking about? Get to know your users.
  2. What’s up? What is the problem? Or the desire you can fulfill?
  3. Why tho? What are their motives? What have you learned about them in the empathize phase?

A good POV is formulated following the specific group of people you are trying to help but without any technological or economic limitations. Don't make your POV too broad. Ensure your goal is both specific and achievable.

Based on your POV, you can start defining 'How Might We'-questions. This way, you open up your problem statement and set the base for your brainstorming session in the next stage. Once again, beware of making your definitions too broad or narrow.

Example: A mother of two is rushing to the bus station to, once arrived, wait for the bus for half an hour. All this time, she has to entertain her kids without annoying her fellow commuters.

  • HMW make waiting time exciting?
  • HMW remove waiting time?
  • HMW use the kid’s energy to entertain fellow passengers?

3. Ideate

I got 99 problems, but finding solutions ain’t one

Based on our POV- and HMW questions, we can brainstorm on possible solutions. Two ground rules: 1) Every idea is a good idea 2) Quality over quantity.

Remember that the brainstorming sessions are not the end goal, nor will they provide ready-made solutions. It Is, however, the best method to develop a common perspective and plant the seeds for further developments.

Let's get to it!

The ingredients for a successful brainstorm:

  1. Preparation
    Make sure your POV and HMW-questions are waterproof and supported by the entire team.
  2. Follow the leader.
    Every brainstorm could use a facilitator. The facilitator has the difficult task of keeping the group on track and scribble down all ideas.
  3. Mission possible.
    Set a clear mission - a goal that you should achieve by the end of the session.
  4. Tick tock on the clock.
    Set a time limit - this will help the creative juices flow even more.
  5. Yes, we can!
    Every idea is a good idea and worth your consideration. Good vibes only.
  6. And the category is.
    At the end of the session, let your team choose their favorite ideas. Work in categories so that the less obvious ideas or ideas that are harder to complete don’t necessarily get signed off.

4. Prototype

Experimenting is a practice

There. We have our problem and plenty of solutions. Now it's time to get to work. You can gain progress, remove discords, and test your ideas with your target audience by building and testing prototypes. Cheap and easy. Visualizing complex processes or decisions with a prototype makes it easier to decide on a solution and get everyone on the same page.

Let’s get to it!
It's time to experiment. The goal is to find the best solution for every problem defined in the previous stages. We try to gather as much feedback as possible and test the prototypes. And we do so until every last possibility has been tested.

5. Test

Reality? Check!
This is the last phase in the design thinking process. But don't worry! It's an iterative problem, an infinite loop where you keep aiming for the ideal solution. You can get the most valuable feedback by testing your prototypes with your users in their natural habitat. This will ensure you can adapt your POV, ask different HMW questions, and create an even better prototype.

Let’s get to it!
Make sure you start on time when testing hypotheses and assumptions. Some guidelines:

  1. Destination known.
    What do you want to test? Specify the questions you’d like to answer.
  2. For real.
    Make the testing environment as realistic as possible. This will result in the most genuine behavior and the most authentic emotions.
  3. Show, don’t tell.
    Always give your testers the time and freedom to find their way.
  4. The more, the merrier.
    If you can test different prototypes, you can compare the alternatives and determine what works and what doesn’t.
  5. We got you on tape.
    Try to record your tests in audio, video, or even machine-made behavior measurements. This way, you get more and more correct test data.
  6. Clueless.
    A test is worthless if you don’t use the data afterwards. Make a thorough analysis of your data so you can back your conclusions.


The design thinking method is not only for designers. It's a method that can be used for every goal to come up with innovative solutions. It's a process that centralizes the user in every step. It allows us to constantly question our own work and make improvements along the way. Improvements and changes, of course, are part of the process. It's a powerful tool to come to 'outside the box' solutions that don't necessarily solve today's problems but might solve those the future brings.

Convinced by the benefits of design thinking, but would you rather leave It to professionals? Then, get in touch, and we will evaluate which methods help you take on your challenge.

Ditte Van Lishout

UI Designer

Back to overview