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Unlocking Workplace Innovation Through Design Thinking

Elan S
Elan S
  • Updated

To stay competitive and ahead of the curve in today’s market, individuals must tap into their innovation potential. According to the World Economic Forum, 73% of organizations listed creative thinking skills as a top priority for talent, recognizing its potential to catalyze innovation. In response to this imperative, design thinking has emerged as a powerful innovation tool used for tackling challenges, bringing forth new ideas, and promoting sustainable career growth.

What is design thinking?

Design thinking is a human-centred approach to complex problem-solving that is rooted in empathy and an understanding of the customer/client. Rather than jumping into a solution mindset from the get-go, design thinking requires you to understand the individuals who will benefit from your solutions. It prompts questions such as: Who are the customers/clients? What are their needs and values? How do they think, feel and behave? What challenges do they frequently encounter?

The goal of the design thinking process is to come up with a solution, product or service that is:

  1. Desirable - something your target customer/client wants;
  2. Viable - something your business model will be able to support; and
  3. Feasible - something that can be technically built in an appropriate timeline. 

The design thinking methodology

The design process typically consists of five core stages: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test. However, you shouldn’t think of these stages as linear - design thinking is an iterative exchange between problem-solvers and customers/clients - so some stages may need to be repeated based on the information that is gathered, and some stages may run in parallel to each other. 

  1. Empathize: In this stage, you will engage with customers/clients to gain insights into their experiences in order to infer meaning and uncover patterns. Interviews, environmental observations and surveys are useful information-gathering tools during the empathizing stage. 
  2. Define: Once you’ve uncovered enough insights from your customers/clients to understand and empathize with them, it's time to synthesize the information gathered in order to make sense of it. The problem statement that you seek to address should be achievable and actionable, and narrowly focused on your target customers/clients.
  3. Ideate: Now is the fun part. Once you’ve clearly articulated your problem statement, you can start to brainstorm solutions. At this stage, you should let yourself ideate freely without restricting or judging the creative thinking process. 
  4. Prototype: Prototyping involves transforming your concepts and ideas into something tangible in order to get them into the hands of your customers/clients and glean new insights. A prototype does not need to be a fully formed product - it just needs to be something that the customer/client can interact with, such as a storyboard. 
  5. Test: Finally, it's time to test your prototype with real customers/clients in order to solicit their feedback. The goal is to use their input to iterate upon the designs in an effort to ensure that the final product truly meets their needs.

Some teams choose to go through these steps through a dedicated workshop or sprint, but you can also apply the design thinking methodology as a framework for thinking through problems and solutions in a more general sense.

Capitalizing on design thinking in the workplace

The design thinking framework can contribute to innovation and sustainable career growth by promoting the following skills:

  1. Human-centred design: An approach that is rooted in empathy will be more likely to gain market traction because it will create solutions that address problems that your target customer/client truly experiences. By including customers/clients at all stages of the design process, teams will be more likely to develop a product or service that meets real needs. 
  2. Cross-team collaboration: Because design thinking is such a creative process it encourages collaboration and integration of diverse perspectives and skill sets across teams. Through cross-team collaboration, design thinking harnesses collective intelligence to tackle complex challenges and yield innovative solutions.
  3. Adaptation and iteration: Experimentation and curiosity lie at the heart of the design thinking process, enabling teams to swiftly develop prototypes and gather feedback from the customer/client. This iterative approach to solution development empowers teams to refine their concepts before committing resources to a solution that may not align with market needs.
  4. Fostering an innovation culture: By embracing design thinking, organizations cultivate a workplace culture that values creativity and open-mindedness. Through the lens of design thinking, individuals are encouraged to challenge the status quo, explore new ways of thinking, and fearlessly pursue innovation.

Innovation at work

Design thinking offers a powerful framework for unlocking creativity, and promoting a culture of collaboration and innovation within teams. By embracing design thinking principles, methodologies, and mindsets, employees can develop innovative solutions that address real-world problems, position themselves for sustainable career growth, and better adapt to challenges in an ever-changing world.

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