What is design thinking?

Design thinking, a human-centered approach to innovation, works on merging user needs, technological possibilities, and the requirements for enterprise sensation. When correlated with the invention, it can be a potent competitive advantage for any business – big and small. It’s no wonder that design thinking and innovation capability have become significant differentiators in today’s marketplace.

Design thinking, an organized process, is popularized by Tim Brown, CEO and the president of IDEO, a design company. The main motto of this process is to learn, unlearn, and relearn.

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The 4 Principles of Design Thinking 

  1. Human Rule: The context doesn’t matter, but every invention circles back to the ‘human-centric viewpoint.’
  2. The Ambiguity Rule: In the process of design thinking, ambiguity is unavoidable. Experimenting with all possibilities is crucial and essential in exploring the boundaries of one’s knowledge.
  3. The Redesign Rule: Redesign is necessary. As for evolved outcomes, the design needs updating. 
  4. The Tangibility Rule: Making ideas palpable through prototypes helps in effective communication. 
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Five phases of Design Thinking 

Based on the 4 principles, design thinking divides into five phases, namely: Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test.  

  1. EMPATHIZE: Empathy is the most crucial design thinking process. It helps in understanding clients, their needs, wants, and objectives. It means observing and engaging with people to understand them on a psychological and emotional level. In this process, the designer can keep aside their hypotheses and get real wisdom about the user. 
  2. DEFINE: After gathering all the information from the first phase, designers should define the problems. The problems include difficulties and barriers faced by the users. At the end of this process, a designer will have a clear problem statement. The next step is to frame the problem in a user-centric way rather than a self-point of view. After formulating the problem, one can start jotting down solutions and ideas. 
  3. IDEATE: After understanding the user’s concerns and defining a clear problem statement, The third phase is the creativity epicenter and a stage known as the Judgment-free zone. Designers hold ideation sessions to derive new angles, ideas, and solutions. The diverse techniques include brainstorming, mind mapping, bodystorming, and provocation. At the end of the ideation process, the designers narrow it down to a few ideas.  
  4. PROTOTYPE: A prototype is a scaled-down version of a product that assimilates the possible solutions jotted down in the previous stages. It is a critical stage that highlights any flaws or constraints. The solutions obtained are either approved, improved, redesigned, or rejected.  
  5. TESTING: The user testing phase might not end the design thinking process. The results of this phase will often lead to a swing back and forth through the previous stages. 
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Purpose of Design Thinking

The objective of design thinking is to stimulate creativity and innovation. Living beings experiment a lot to rely on their knowledge and experiences. In the process of living life, humans form a routine, physically and mentally, creating various habits that tend to limit one’s view during problem-solving. 

Instead of repeating the same tried-and-tested methods, Design thinking encourages one to ‘think out of the box ‘ and regard other considerable solutions. The process lends itself to contesting hypotheses and exploring new paths and beliefs. 

Design thinking is a process that doesn’t depend entirely on intuition and emotion, nor does it depend on analytics and scientific data as it strikes the right balance between them. 

Looking back at the phases, the principal concept of design thinking is catering to the user’s point of view and empathy, encouraging various businesses and organizations to consider their clients. That means they are more likely to hit the mark when creating meaningful experiences and services.  

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Ways to future proof your career 

When it comes to future-proofing one’s career, design thinking is highly effective in the following ways:

  1. Adaptive: With the growing technology, and fast-track world, being adaptive will help one keep up with tech advances, bridge knowledge gaps, and remain relevant in one’s career field. 
  2. Lifelong learner: Once a person is passionate about their career and has built-in enthusiasm, it follows that one will love to learn everything new coming their way, which leads to refinement in each stage. 
  3. Having a Vision: Design thinking is the concept that incorporates one’s vision that one can articulate, own, and drive to completion. Having a notion is the most critical strategy to future-proof a person’s career. Questions to ask to complete your vision:
  • Where do you see yourself?
  • Have you defined your vision? (rate 1-10)
  • How can you leap the gaps to get there?
  • Who are the people that you need to network with
  1. Testing and Experimenting: Testing and experimenting in the design process gives more insight into the outcome and provides a chance for improvement. 
  2. Empathizing: Empathizing is the core of the design thinking process, as designing for others would need you to cater to their needs and understand how they think. To do this authentically, you have to put aside your preconceived ideas and sharpen your skills of observation and compassion. 
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Leveraging design thinking at work can help shift your mindset, lead teams toward innovation, and create products with tangible value that increase your organization’s revenue. Here is an overview of design thinking and how you can use it to accelerate your career.

Works Cited

“Applying the Principles of Design Thinking to Career Development.” Harvard Extension School, 18 Sept. 2020, extension.harvard.edu/blog/blog-applying-the-principles-of-design-thinking-to-career-development/.

askmsq. “How to Future Proof Your Career with Design Thinking.” Ask Ms Q, 29 Apr. 2020, askmsq.com/blog-home/how-to-future-proof-your-career-with-design-thinking-2. Accessed 20 June 2022.

Dam, Rikke Friis, and Teo Yu Siang. “What Is Design Thinking and Why Is It so Popular?” The Interaction Design Foundation, 19 Mar. 2019, www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/what-is-design-thinking-and-why-is-it-so-popular.

“Design Thinking & Innovation in Collaboration with the Design Museum.” RCA Website, www.rca.ac.uk/study/programme-finder/design-thinking-innovation-collaboration-design-museum/. Accessed 20 June 2022.

Parton, Will. “5 Ways Design Thinking Can Future Proof Your Career.” Medium, 20 Dec. 2021, bootcamp.uxdesign.cc/5-ways-design-thinking-can-future-proof-your-career-9dde72a70be6. Accessed 20 June 2022.

Sunandita. “How to Future-Proof Your Design Career : Expert Insights from Kevin Bethune.” The Interaction Design Foundation, www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/how-to-future-proof-your-design-career-expert-insights-from-kevin-bethune. Accessed 20 June 2022.


Sanvitti Shetty, an aspirant in the architecture field, has a keen interest in reading, writing, and researching. She is strongly opinionated and headstrong with her beliefs. She believes words can bring about a revolution in the field of architecture.