Introduction to Design Thinking

How does a company find out what makes its customers tick? The best method is to simply ask them questions. One method that has been gaining popularity for some time now is so-called design thinking. In many companies, from the group to the startup, this method is used today to plan process and product innovations in a customer-oriented and efficient manner.


Design Thinking was developed by the innovation agency IDEO to make the processes of its customers more creative. The inventors of the principle sought a way to make the dry process of product development and strategy more creative.


“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.”. Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO


Similar to user-centric design, the design thinking process focuses on innovations with an explicit customer focus. To this end, users are not only observed and questioned, but integrated directly into the development process. In this way, their needs can be better met and companies can look beyond their own horizons.

Design Thinking encourages and demands creativity between companies and customers. The method often follows unconventional paths and draws on approaches from the design field.

How It Works: Design Thinking (Source: IBM Think Academy)

Advantages of Design Thinking

The process of design thinking offers some advantages. The Design Thinking Teams always move directly into the customer’s hands in all steps. It is therefore an extremely needs-oriented process that makes innovations particularly clear, also through the use of prototyping.

Prototyping is a procedure for testing the desired results with the help of low-cost and low-cost variants of the later product. Tools can be anything, from pencil and paper to history. The prototypes make later solutions more tangible for the customer and show the company the advantages and disadvantages of development more quickly.
During the design thinking process, however, many classic creativity techniques can also be integrated into the process and allow the teams plenty of scope to test their own abilities to the full.

Design Thinking Steps

Design Thinking Prozess.

Design thinking is all about getting to know the customer better. The Stanford D-School and IDEO have defined the following steps as the basis for design thinking:

  • Empathy: The customer group needs to be better known in this step. You have to understand how the people you want to address with the product tick.
  • Define: If you know who your customer group is, you need to better understand their problems, here it helps you to ask the right questions and to define problems based on your experience with the customer group.
  • Ideate: With the new information it goes into brainstorming, here all problems and information are presented collected and from them first ideas will generate.
  • Prototype: Whether an idea is good or not can be identified by the user concerned. Therefore, the best brainstorming ideas should be visualized as prototypes.
  • Test: The different prototypes should be tested here with the potential customer groups from the first step. Your feedback flows into the optimization of the process and product.


Design Thinking is a process that can be integrated in most companies. Flexible rooms are helpful, which give the employees the opportunity to develop their creativity and to work undisturbed with the customers.

The most important thing during the process is not only the environment, but also the composition of the team. The more different the members, the more creative and diverse the process.

In all creativity, however, the goal must not be lost sight of. It does not have to be a question of budget and feasibility in the first step, but a balance between creative working methods and the next process steps has to become part of the innovation process at some point.

Today, Design Thinking is used in research, business and politics – they are all looking for the right people.

Alexander Pinker
Alexander Pinker
Alexander Pinker is an innovation profiler, future strategist and media expert who helps companies understand the opportunities behind technologies such as artificial intelligence for the next five to ten years. He is the founder of the consulting firm "Alexander Pinker - Innovation Profiling", the innovation marketing agency "innovate! communication" and the news platform "Medialist Innovation". He is also the author of three books and a lecturer at the Technical University of Würzburg-Schweinfurt.

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