Design thinking is a process that uses design principles and techniques to solve complex problems, create new ideas, and develop innovative solutions. It involves using empathy and a deep understanding of users to create designs that meet their needs and exceed their expectations. Design thinking draws on a range of design disciplines, including urban design, architecture, product design, visual design, and software design, to provide a holistic approach to problem-solving and innovation. By using design thinking, individuals and organizations can develop creative and effective solutions to a wide range of challenges.

The process is not strictly linear; teams might go back and forth between stages as they learn and iterate towards a solution. Through this process, Design Thinking encourages exploring many possible solutions, learning from failures, and continuously improving. Design Thinking is a human-centered, iterative problem-solving process that seeks to understand users, challenge assumptions, and redefine problems to identify innovative solutions. The process has five stages: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test.

  1. Empathize: Understand users’ needs and problems by engaging with them to gain insights into their experiences and perspectives.
  2. Define: Articulate the problem by synthesizing information gathered during the empathy stage to create a clear problem statement.
  3. Ideate: Generate a wide variety of possible solutions by brainstorming and exploring different approaches to solving the defined problem.
  4. Prototype: Create low-fidelity representations of solutions to explore potential implementations and gather feedback.
  5. Test: Validate the solutions with users to refine concepts and learn more about the problem and the users.

Design Thinking fosters creativity, innovation, and promotes a user-centric mindset, which can lead to more effective and sustainable solutions. It is widely used in various fields including product design, service design, business, education, healthcare, and social innovation. In a business context, Design Thinking can help organizations become more innovative and better at solving complex problems. It promotes a culture of continuous learning and iteration.

For Business Development

Design Thinking can be significantly beneficial in business development by fostering innovation, improving customer satisfaction, and driving growth. Here’s how it can be employed:

Identifying Opportunities:

By engaging deeply with customers and understanding their needs and pain points, businesses can identify new opportunities for products, services, or market segments.


The iterative nature of Design Thinking—comprising empathy, defining problems, ideation, prototyping, and testing—enables businesses to solve complex problems more effectively.

Customer-Centric Innovation:

By focusing on user experience and needs, businesses can develop innovative solutions that meet or exceed customer expectations, thereby achieving a competitive advantage.

Enhancing Collaboration:

Encouraging interdisciplinary collaboration and bringing diverse perspectives into the problem-solving process can lead to more innovative solutions and better decision-making.

Reducing Risk:

The prototyping and testing phases allow for low-cost experimentation and feedback gathering before full-scale implementation, thus reducing the risks associated with new ventures.

Accelerating Time to Market:

By quickly generating, testing, and iterating on ideas, businesses can accelerate the development process and bring new products or services to market faster.

Improving Business Processes:

Applying Design Thinking to internal processes can lead to streamlined operations, enhanced employee satisfaction, and ultimately, improved business performance.

Building a Culture of Continuous Learning and Improvement:

Encouraging a mindset of experimentation, learning, and iteration can foster a culture of continuous improvement and innovation.

Strategic Planning:

Design Thinking can also be applied to strategic planning by facilitating a deeper understanding of market dynamics, customer needs, and the competitive landscape.

Market Positioning and Brand Development:

Understanding customers’ perceptions and experiences can help in positioning the brand effectively in the market and developing strategies that resonate with target audiences.

Sustainability and Social Responsibility:

By considering the broader impact of business decisions, Design Thinking can help companies align their strategies with sustainability and social responsibility goals.

By integrating Design Thinking into business development strategies, companies can better align their offerings with customer needs, foster a culture of innovation, and enhance their competitiveness in the market. Through iterative cycles and a deep focus on understanding and meeting human needs, Design Thinking provides a structured approach to generating and evolving business ideas and strategies.

Real World Examples

Design Thinking has been adopted by various companies to innovate and solve problems in a user-centric manner. Below are some real-world examples illustrating how Design Thinking has been applied in business development:

IBM: IBM invested $100 million in implementing Design Thinking principles within their organization. This was notably utilized in 2014 when creating Bluemix (now IBM Cloud), a cloud platform for application development​1​.

IDEO: A global design and innovation consulting firm, IDEO, is a prime example of a business that has effectively implemented Design Thinking across a broad range of projects, thereby showcasing the vast potential of this methodology in business development​2​.

Willow: Willow designed a breast pump based on women’s desires for a product that felt more like an accessory, was easy to use and clean, and enabled pumping anywhere. The final design significantly improved the user experience for breast pumping​3​.

Uber: Utilizing a user-focused approach through Design Thinking, Uber resolved issues that had previously plagued users, like the introduction of cashless payments, which simplified transactions and enhanced the user experience​4​.

GE Healthcare: Observing that pediatric patients were distressed during imaging procedures, GE Healthcare employed Design Thinking to develop the “Adventure Series.” This initiative transformed MRI machines into child-friendly scenarios, like pirate adventures, significantly enhancing patient satisfaction and unexpectedly improving scan quality​5​.

Oral B: When aiming to upgrade its electric toothbrush, Oral B engaged designers to explore adding new functionalities. However, through the Design Thinking process, it was realized that users preferred simplicity and ease of use over additional features. Consequently, solutions like easier charging and convenient ordering of replacement heads were implemented, which were aligned with what users actually wanted​5​.

These examples showcase how Design Thinking can lead to innovative solutions that cater to user needs, improve customer satisfaction, and ultimately contribute to business development and growth.