Design Thinking Demystified: a Manual for Innovation

Having seen how we can use design thinking to come up with innovative business models, let’s now see how we can use it to come up with new products and services. It all comes down to the following five steps:


In this step, the goal is to show empathy or to get into somebody else’s shoes to develop a fresh or new outlook of things through their eyes. To make use of this process fully, you can use three steps:

1 . Interviews
This involves having interactions with the customers, getting an idea of their workflow, the environment in which they are in, their challenges as well as what they hope to gain from a product or service.

When conducting interviews, ensure you establish a rapport- a strong connection with your interviewee. Try not to influence their answers. Also, seek stories from them as stories are a gold mine for valuable information. Another tip is to give the user time to think after you ask a question. Even if it leads to silence and it’s awkward, ensure you don’t cut them short or try to influence them.

Finally, opt for quality over quantity. This means dealing with fewer interviewees but handpicking people that will represent various audiences that will use your product or service.

2. Observation
Another way of getting into the shoes of the user is by observing. It involves giving the user a task and then sitting back to watch. This greatly complements interviews.

For example, you might ask a user,’ Do you find it hard buying books on our online bookstore?’ And they will probably answer,’ No, it’s a piece of cake.’ However, if you observe the person purchasing from behind them, you might identify struggles they encounter along the way.

3. Experience
This entails using the product your customer uses, be it your product or your competitor’s. This will give you a front row seat to get to see their challenges or what they cherish.


Once you are through with the empathy phase, you should go back to the whiteboard and take a fresh look at the initial design and try re-defining the problem.

When re-designing, take into consideration the needs and insight of the user. The needs include their emotions and the depth to which they interact with your product or service. Insights, on the other hand, are the surprises you encounter in the first phase, the findings from the interviews, observations as well as information that may have contradicted what you formally knew. All these should offer to the solution.


After going through the first two stages, the third stage involves putting brains to work. It narrows down to two sections:

1. Observation
In this stage, your team gets together to generate ideas without judging one another. Focus on quantity. This is because it will prevent you from settling on the obvious solutions and cause you to venture into the unknown which harbours innovation.

Some of the rules that you might want to abide by are having only one person speak at a time, being visual, staying on topic, encouraging crazy ideas and building on other people’s ideas.

2. Converge
In this stage, choose from the wide array of ideas, the ones you would like to work on. The ideas that can get voted on the most are the ideas that you go with.


A prototype translates the idea into something visible or something that can be experimented on. A prototype provides the opportunity to fall down and get back on your feet. It is, in fact, less costly to fail in the initial stages as opposed to failing later after much resources have been rolled out. Prototypes are also an opportunity to learn, settle conflicting ideas and to manage the process.


The final stage involves testing the prototypes on real people. Through testing, we get to refine the prototypes as well as the solutions. We also learn more about the user-their needs and insights.

When testing, give the users time to tinker with the prototypes while you watch and listen. If you can manage to make the small tweaks, do so and then test again. Lastly, don’t hold on to your ideas.

That’s all you need to know about design thinking. Incorporate it into your business and you will reap benefits.