What is Design Thinking?

A meeting in a conference room with stickies on the board

Ever wonder how major brands like Apple and Google can churn out unique products that fulfill the needs of their customers, and create new ones in the process? Much of this can be attributed to design thinking. Regardless of which industry you work in, design-thinking is used to develop innovative products and services that resonate with customers and build brand loyalty.

What is Design Thinking?

Design thinking is a way of working that helps businesses and organizations better understand their users, challenge preconceived assumptions in their industry or sector, and to redefine problems. This fresh approach to working helps deliver innovative solutions that can be tested and reviewed.

Design thinking has many benefits and outcomes, but is more than just a way of working; it’s an opportunity to change how people and companies work and think entirely. The process enables all employees to play a role in moving the organization forward.

Some critical components of design thinking are:

  • The desire to fully know the end-user and the needs of the people who use an organization’s services and products
  • Creating better ways to engage and observe users and develop a greater degree of empathy with an audience
  • Creating a platform to ask questions and rethink the way things have always been done
  • Developing an effective way of dealing with issues that are currently unknown or unquantifiable at this time
  • Allowing for experimentation in different ways of working, such as sketching, prototyping or trials, which might let some employees be more engaged in the process

With so many benefits associated with design thinking, it’s easy to see why many companies and organizations are keen to use this way of working. Of course, ushering in change brings challenges, and many businesses find the prospect of developing design thinking a daunting prospect.

This is why working with an experienced external partner makes sense, and at Lone Rock Point, we are more than happy to assist you.

Is Design Thinking for my industry?

One of the best things about design thinking is its applicability across industries. Design thinking is also suitable for public and private sectors; and you don’t need to be a designer to use this way of working.

Design thinking is applicable at all levels of a business or organization, from C-suite professionals to new employees at a beginner level.

What are the five phases of design thinking?

It is helpful to consider the five phases of design thinking, which are:

1.       Empathize

2.       Define

3.       Ideate/Collaborate

4.       Prototype

5.       Test


In business, too many organizations act on what they think their customers want and need instead of truly understanding their audience. When a company talks to itself instead of the people looking for products and solutions, there is a greater chance of delivering something no one wants.

To empathize with your audience, you need to research their needs and engage them. You must speak with potential customers to find out what matters to them or holds them back. This will not only require more customer engagement; it will likely require you to approach your audience in new ways.


Research is crucial in business planning, but data or information is of little value. Organizations must collate insight and attempt to make sense of it. By reviewing data, you can spot habits, patterns, opportunities or items of note to analyze in greater detail.

Creating a design brief based on your findings and outlining workplace activities that help people is crucial in achieving success with less effort and pain.

Ideate and Collaborate

With research, analysis and insight, you have a platform to solve problems and create solutions. This is likely the most creative part of the process and where every employee or partner can play a role.

This is the stage where there are no wrong answers or bad ideas, and your work process can involve sticky notes, mind-mapping, “brainstorming,” and any form of creative interaction that sparks ideas and solutions.


Ideas are crucial, but you must turn them into tangible elements at some point. Creating physical products or developing actionable solutions and reviewing them from the user’s viewpoint is essential.

Don’t be afraid to reject ideas; equally, take the time to work through everything and see if there are other or better ways to use something. Don’t be afraid to take inspiration from existing solutions, but consider if there are ways to enhance its use or performance.


The prototype stage involves testing, but it’s usually in house. During the test phase, involve end-users, and gain their thoughts on what you’ve created. As much as firms try to see things from a customer’s point of view, it is often best to go to the source.

Ensure you obtain feedback and insight from users, asking what they liked and disliked. If you receive information about what prevents a customer from using a product the way they’d like, ask for suggestions on how your company can improve on it. In this stage, asking open-ended questions aimed at finding solutions is helpful.

Don’t forget you can return to previous stages of the design thinking process at any point. Something you learn at the prototype or test stage might allow you to return to the empathize or define stage with a clearer idea of what you need to achieve.

A positive factor for many users is that design thinking isn’t solely an academic pursuit. It encourages hands-on interaction, and many steps focus on sparking creativity and ensuring professionals consider a more comprehensive vision or the overall impact of this work.

It’s fair to say design thinking incorporates art and scientific elements, making it a far more balanced approach than any method which has a singular focus to problem solving.

Research in design thinking must focus on the past, present and the future

Although this is the case in virtually everything a business does, the research process of design thinking must feature extensive studies into these areas:


It’s imperative organizations recognize the work they have done and can pinpoint what has worked and why. The same can be said for failures or challenging processes, meaning businesses must record their activities while detailing the outcomes.


While it’s essential to look back and forward in determining what a company does next, a business that ignores its current challenges and circumstances is more likely to fail or face significant issues.

An organization must know their audience, what people want from them, and what other options consumers have in the market.


The pace of change in the modern world means new opportunities and challenges arise constantly. Organizations cannot solely focus on meeting today’s consumer’s needs; they must consider what problems their audience of tomorrow will have and how to resolve these problems.

How to move forward?

One of the most critical ways for organizations to harness the capabilities of design thinking is to have more conversations, ask questions and find new answers or ways of working.

Design thinking is excellent for increasing the number of employees actively involved with a project and encouraging new solutions to existing challenges.

How Lone Rock Point Can Help

At Lone Rock Point, we’re pleased to say we employ design thinking internally, exploring problems and developing new solutions. Our experience with these processes means we can confidently assist firms of all sizes and from all sectors to harness the potential of design thinking, including workshop solutions to help kickstart design thinking for businesses.

We’re delighted to say we assist many public bodies and government organizations to implement design thinking. Contact Lone Rock Point today if you are keen to better understand your user and ensure everyone in your organization has a role to play in your progress.

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