What is Design Thinking and why is it better?

Design Thinking for Business Innovation

Before I give examples of use of Design Thinking for Business Innovation, it is important to give a quick overview of Design Thinking.


In traditional approach, for evaluating any business proposition, the two most important aspects that are taken into account by business executives are (1) Viability, and (2) Feasibility. This approach looks at the business benefits of a proposal (viability) and then evaluate whether it is doable in a practical manner (with through own resources or partnering with some) in a timely fashion or not (feasibility). The initiative which ranks the highest on these two metrics, is blessed with funding and kicked off. It seems like a very reasonable way of solving problems. Then why do more than 95 % of these initiatives do not live up to their expectations? There are several reasons:

  1. Both viability and feasibility projections are based on assumptions about the future.
  2. The approach follows

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Design Thinking – Human Centred Design

“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, president & CEO

The three “Design Thinking” forces (people, business, and technology) are then translated into the three lenses of Human Centred Design (HCD):

  • Desirability (people): What do people want, need, desire?
  • Feasibility (technology): What is technically feasible.
  • Viability (business): What is financially viable.
IDEO human-centred design (HCD) lenses
IDEO human-centred design (HCD) lenses

HCD is a process and a set of techniques used to create innovations. It starts with the people we are designing for, and examines their needs, dreams and behaviours through the “desirability lense”. We seek to listen to and to understand what they want. Once we have identified what is desirable, we then view our solutions through the lenses of “feasibility” and “viability”. (IDEO, p. 5)

“The solutions that emerge at the end of the Human-Centred Design should hit the overlap of these three lenses.” (IDEO. p. 6)


The HCD process goes through three main phases:

  • Hear: Collect stories and inspiration from the people you are designing for (ethnographic research: observation, interviews, etc.). Determine who to talk to, how to gather stories, and how to document your observations.
  • Create: Work to translate what you heard from the people into the reality of today. This includes moving from concrete to more abstract thinking in identifying themes and opportunities, then back to the concrete with solutions and prototypes.
  • Deliver: Begin to realise your solutions by taking your top solutions, making them better, and move them towards implementation by, revenue and cost modelling, capability assessment and implementation planning.
IDEO human-centred design (HCD) process
IDEO human-centred design (HCD) process

“In the process you will move from concrete observation about people and their needs and desire, to abstract thinking as you uncover insights and themes, then back to the concrete with tangible solutions.” (HCD Connect Website, n.d.)

IDEO (n.d. b). HCD. Human Centred Design. An Introduction. 2nd Edition. Retrieved 1 June, 2014 from http://www.ideo.com/images/uploads/hcd_toolkit/HCD_INTRO_PDF_WEB_opt.pdf

HCD Connect Website. (n.d.). Human-centered design allows us to create and deliver solutions based on people’s needs. Retrieved 14 June, 2014 from http://www.hcdconnect.org/toolkit/en