Design thinking is an alternative way of thinking about problem solving and idea generation. It could well be one of the most important new ways of structuring new business teams and creating environments for future workers that has been put forward in recent years. The concept is not really anything new, and certainly many historical figures like Edison, Leonardo Da Vinci, and Tesla, would be in my mind classed as design thinkers. Really the newest step forward is the more formal acceptance of the process of design thinking as promoted by companies such as IDEO that produces reproducible successful results. Most people in the realm of invention and idea creation really have been practicing design thinking for centuries.
Design thinking is a really a process in approaching a problem. The basic four steps of design thinking are:
Define the problem
Create and consider possibilities
Refine and dissect results
Execute most successful outcome
Within each of these steps are tools and methods that help get the most out of the process.
Defining the problem, involves a discovery phase with analysis of the problem space. At this point in the process it is critical to immerse oneself in the problem, existing solutions (if any), and the all the available resources and literature. It may also require observation of people and processes already in place. Only after a full discovery would it be worth moving onto a creation phase. At this point in the process it is worth considering tools like brainstorming on smaller parts of the problem, grouping and ideating ideas together to be evaluated as worth pursuing. Which leads nicely into to a complimentary part of the phase of creating prototypes of various levels of fidelity. To test out concepts and encourage team engagement at the early production stage. This is when things begin to really stand out as feasible and worthwhile solutions or not. Then, comes the refine and dissection of those ideas that seem most worthy. Further prototyping, and maybe some usability tests can help refine the results. repeating earlier stages may also prove advantageous. After things seem to funneling into a particular result it then becomes time to execute the most successful outcome into the final product or service.
That in a nutshell is design thinking. Again nothing completely new but really people's acceptance and corporate push for innovation has brought these now more well defined steps into new consideration. They are effective and powerful ways to generate ideas and produce prototypes that lead to more successful end products and services, when done correctly.
Other breakdowns of the steps include.
Discover, Analysis, Ideation, Prototype and Evaluate.
Define, Research, Ideate, Prototype, Choose, Implement, Learn.
In each instance you can see the common form of four basic steps.
I have some further reading here for design thinking.
You can read some more of my thoughts on prototyping here.
And some ideas on idea generation here.