How design thinking can help your organization

In today’s rapidly changing world, organizations are challenged to work collaboratively to accelerate innovation more than ever before. The COVID-19 pandemic has also forced many organizations to adapt how they operate. Design thinking is an approach to creativity and problem solving that is utilized by some of the most innovative organizations in the world, including corporations, non-profits, universities, schools, and healthcare organizations. 

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Design thinking is a non-linear human-centered approach to creative problem solving. It can help us better understand the experiences of others, define complex problems, and develop innovative solutions. As we prototype and test solutions, design thinking can be an iterative process to build on and modify solutions. In addition, it can help redefine problems as we empathize with people. Design thinking can help us solve problems that users need and want us to solve. 

I will apply the five steps of the design thinking process as taught by the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University (the d.school). More information about design thinking can be found at the d.school.


Empathy helps us understand the problem of the user by setting aside our own assumptions. Users are those we are trying to better understand. In a sense, we walk in the shoes of an individual or group of people to better understand their experiences. We can practice empathy through observation, interviewing, and empathizing with the needs of others. 


Once we have spent time empathizing with the user, we begin to define the user’s problem. It is important to ask, “What problem of the user am I trying to solve?” Einstein is quoted as saying, “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about solutions.” I recommend divergently exploring problem statements and then begin to narrow them down. Min Basadur recommends using the phrase “How might we…?” to define the problem as described in this Harvard Business Review article


We can begin to ideate on possible solutions after defining the problem. During the ideation step, we want to “think outside the box” and divergently explore solutions before we begin evaluating them or narrowing them down. Most of us are familiar with brainstorming which can be used during this step. At the end of this step, we will have a solution ready for prototyping. 


For those who do not have experience with prototyping, this step can seem intimidating. Prototyping is the process of developing a quick and inexpensive representation of the solution. The prototype might be a physical object made out of inexpensive materials, a drawing, or an experience map. Maps can detail the steps of a customer experience when receiving a service, an employee’s journey from looking for a job to getting hired and promoted, or the experience of a student looking for a college to enrolling. This process brings the solution to life that the user can see and experience.


After a prototype has been developed, we test the prototype by gathering feedback to determine its effectiveness. It is important to show the prototype to users and allow them to share whether the prototype solves their problem. This step can be an iterative process with improvements to the prototype. 

We provide workshops that allow hands-on opportunities for participants to apply the design thinking approach in their professional and personal lives. Participants will learn how empathy, ideation, and experimentation are foundational steps of the innovation process. Prototyping will be introduced and practiced as a way to experiment developing physical objects and mapping experiences and services. Participants will walk away with an enhanced understanding of design thinking and how these skills can be applied within their organization to improve products and services. If you want to learn more, please contact us.

T.A. Dickel Group, LLC is located in Evansville, Indiana, and we focus on enhancing organizational leadership, strategy, and creativity in the surrounding region.

Dr. Tad Dickel is a leadership, strategy, and creativity consultant who works with businesses, nonprofits, colleges, schools, and churches. He received a Certificate in Family Business Advising from the Family Firm Institute, a Certificate in Nonprofit Board Consulting from BoardSource, a Certificate in Fundraising Management from The Fund Raising School, a Certificate in Foundations of Design Thinking from IDEO U, and holds a Ph.D. in educational leadership from Indiana State University. Tad is a Certified Basadur Simplexity Thinking Facilitator and Trainer, Certified Basadur Profile Administrator, and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Certified Practitioner.

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