Design thinking is gaining popularity, and for a good reason—it is claimed to position humans at the center of the design process. The following article will help you find an answer to the question, “Is design thinking a mindset?” as well as explore vital concepts related to design thinking.

What is Design Thinking?

Design thinking is a mindset. It is an iterative process wherein you attempt to comprehend your users, question assumptions, redefine challenges and develop novel solutions which you can prototype and test. The main objective is to find alternative approaches and solutions that take time to be evident, given your current level of understanding.

Taking action and knowing the correct questions are the first steps in the design thinking process. It involves embracing little mindset changes and approaching issues differently.

Design thinking allows multidisciplinary teams to collect and organize themselves by formulating questions before attempting to answer them.

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Basic Concepts and Principles

While it is beneficial and straightforward to think of design thinking as a process involving design activities, most people who practice Design Thinking do not require or benefit greatly from it. The basic concepts and principles which are considered for design thinking are as follows:

  1. Empathy - When designers have an empathic mindset, they understand that they cannot just assume that others share their experiences. Such designers are conscious of the biases they bring to the table and want to reduce the impact of those biases by adopting a newcomer approach. 
  2. Collaborative - Design thinking requires teamwork among numerous individuals, each of whom contributes significant knowledge and experience to the design process.
  3. Experimentation - The effective application of design thinking recognises that not all relevant phenomena can be modeled quantitatively or simultaneously considered in mind. Physical prototyping is a useful method for evaluating the quality of a design.

Design Thinking as a Step-by-Step Process

The step-by-step approach of design thinking serves as a road map that clarifies what you're doing and why. The actions and methods are specific, non-abstract steps you can take to move through the process successfully. 

  • Step 1: Empathize with those who are having the issue in order to get an understanding.
  • Step 2: Define the issue from a human perspective.
  • Step 3: Create human-centered solutions.
  • Step 4: To learn quickly and obtain new understanding, viable prototype solutions often.
  • Step 5: Test solutions with actual users/customers to learn fresh information about the problem and the solution.

Design Thinking as a Way of Thinking

The essential thing is to know that the design thinking concept isn't a straightforward, linear process and that there isn't a secret formula that can be discovered, used, and then proved useful. No design process is, in reality, intended to be linear. It should be iterative. Design thinking is a mindset. Here are some key principles of design thinking - 

  • Innovations are created by people for other people. The method of "Design Thinking" is incredibly human-centered. 
  • Fusion of divergent and convergent thought. Design thinkers expand the range of potential solutions by taking unconventional routes or divergent thinking. 
  • Design thinking creates tangible prototypes. The creation of prototypes is important to the innovation process. The more quickly a novel concept can be tested with people, the sooner one can determine whether components of the concept are appropriate.

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Framing and Reframing Design Problems

In the popular design thinking industry, Frame and Reframe, which stands at the crossroads of reflective observation and abstract conception, is sometimes overlooked. The tools for framing and reframing in many design thinking offerings are simplified versions of affinity diagramming, mind-mapping, and customer journey mapping. However, there are more sophisticated approaches that allow for a more thorough investigation of a situation and the unpacking of the messy data gathered in Observe and Notice. 

Problem framing needs strong engagement in sensemaking to develop a deep understanding of the issue to be solved or the problem to be addressed. Analyzing current mental models and creating new ones is essential for framing. Businesses fail with framing and reframing when restricted resources constrain focus, and routines get established in companies as core rigidities.  

The foundation of Frame and Reframe activities is critical thinking. To develop critical thinking skills, one must remove unconscious biases that have been acquired via significant life experiences in order to understand their own thinking patterns and "take charge of the ideas that run their lives."

Design Thinking Tips and Anecdotes

  • Look for empathy: It's essential to know the target audience when designing something innovative. You must acknowledge their mental images and how they perceive the world. Direct interaction with people is the most effective way to develop empathy.
  • Focus on the values, not the product: It is very natural to be absorbed in the details of what we are creating, forgetting why we are creating it in the first place and blindly adding new features. By focusing on the value, you can produce products that clients will want to buy, share, and use again.
  • Embrace curiosity: Being curious is key to design thinking. When you're curious, you relax, let go of judgment, and try to learn more about everything around you. Curiosity will help you connect with others, strengthen connections, and understand issues from new perspectives. It will also help you develop empathy for the systems and people in place.
  • Challenge the assumptions: We make assumptions every day that are based on prior experiences, many of which are based on a large number of experiences, are somewhat accurate and reduce our cognitive load. A designer must, however, challenge assumptions and limits that are frequently unconscious in order to find novel and creative solutions to challenges.
  • Look for the underlying problem: What we refer to as a "problem" is frequently more of an underlying symptom. Look for the details of the problem you are having, the reasons it is developing, and any potential underlying causes. It involves repeatedly asking "why?" to connect the personal experience to the underlying cause.
  • Be playful: Innovation is the result of repeated trial and error. And to do that, you must have the ability to take risks where you could lose. You must develop the ability to accept making mistakes and attempt again after learning from them. Being playful allows you to break free from limitations and think bigger, braver, and more creatively.
  • Accept the unknown: Being ok with not knowing where you'll wind up or what kind of solution you'll have to come up with is another aspect of all this. It involves having faith in your abilities and the process. Understanding challenges is the first step in the design thinking process; the best solution is then discovered.
  • Focus on the bigger picture: Design is as much about acknowledging the peculiar little details of the people we are designing for as it is about the large picture. Realizing that products are used by individuals in a wide range of situations and for a variety of purposes.
  • Maintain your integrity: You must possess the highest level of integrity as a designer. As a designer, you have a set of abilities and knowledge that you must respect in order to produce excellent products. This means that you need to help customers in understanding their needs before producing what they ask for.

Design Thinking is a mindset that serves all kinds of human activity. Following the tips of design thinking, here are a few examples listed which show the benefit of design thinking as a mindset.

Technology: Samsung

The Special Projects team helped Samsung in understanding why older people refuse to use smartphones. They carried out extensive research and discovered that neither their inexperience nor age was the cause. Due to the terrible UX of the phone manuals, users were unable to use smartphones.

The authors provided a guidebook in the form of a book by applying the ideas of design thinking. The book had a huge typeface, unlike the typical small print manual. Additionally, it provided instructions in little bits. There was only one action per page.

The book's interactivity was by far its greatest asset. It made it possible to literally put a phone inside a book. Following that, the user could configure a device without leaving the text.

Tourism: Airbnb

In 2009, a crisis for Airbnb appeared inevitable. As a result, the creators aimed to improve their product design methods. They started looking into the cause of not using the service. They discovered that all of the pictures of the residences in the landlords' advertisements were quite identical. The tenant's understanding of the home was limited by these images. When the owners discovered it, they visited a random client's home and shot professional-level pictures. They noticed a benefit as soon as they posted them on the website.

Healthcare: Pittsburgh Hospital

In the MRI machine, patients should lie without motion. They remain in a small, noisy area for up to an hour. Even an adult may find it frightening, let alone a young child. Pittsburgh hospitals used gamification, a novel approach to problem-solving, to calm young patients. Through this method, they were able to transform each MRI unit into a spaceship, a pirate ship, or the realm of the mermaids.

The medical procedure is viewed as an entertaining game by children. Innovation also decreased the use of sedatives. According to doctors, they administer medications to children 19% less frequently. They accomplished this without having to repair a costly piece of equipment.

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Design Thinking is a Mindset (Human-Centered)

Learn from your failures

This way of thinking is all about having the capacity to grow from failure and use it to sharpen your skills. Design starts without having the answer to a problem. Utilize every opportunity to explore and learn from your mistakes rather than being afraid of failure.

Make it

Experimentation is a key component of design thinking. Making a concept real will help you understand it and consider the issue more thoroughly. You won't be able to tell if a product or service is functioning as intended unless you construct and test it.

Creative Confidence

This kind of thinking entails approaching the world as a designer would. It involves realizing that you are capable of coming up with original ideas and having the means to make them a reality.

Empathy

In addition to being an excellent tool for better understanding your clients, empathy can also be used to solve issues from their point of view and gain an understanding of the design process. Never lose sight of an empathic perspective on the world since ultimately, your product or service should be developed to help better other people's lives and experiences.

Optimism

You need to think about advancement as an option in order to take on a design challenge. Embracing possibilities and knowing there is a better solution to the issue at hand is what optimism is all about.

Embrace Ambiguity

Designers that use design thinking begin by not having the solution to the issue. Although this ambiguity may initially feel unsettling, by accepting it, you will be able to be more attentive to original thought and discover surprising solutions.

Iterate

You need early and frequent client feedback if you want to find the best solution. You will be able to come up with better ideas and find the ideal answer more rapidly if you are always enhancing and perfecting your work.

Stanford D.School Design Thinking Mindsets

Show, Don’t Tell

The "show, don't tell" approach emphasizes expressing your perspective through experiences, pictures, and stories.

Focus on Human Values

You can discover fresh ideas by concentrating on the users you are creating for that you would not have considered otherwise.

Create Clarity

Remove all the unnecessary details, then simply and clearly state your point. Possess a vision that motivates action and is easy for others to comprehend.

Embrace Experimentation

You can think and learn more by prototyping. It's not always only about supporting an argument or finding proof of the best course of action. Simply acting on a concept can aid in understanding it better.

Be Mindful of the Process

Always keep in mind where you are in the design process, your goals, and what needs to be done next. From beginning to end, let the design thinking process direct your actions.

Bias Toward Action

This mindset indicates that you are more concerned with action than with thought. You will take an idea and make it a reality rather than just discuss it. Doing so teaches us a tonne about the procedure and how to make it better in the future.

Radical Collaboration

Amazing designers are aware that developing a solution requires input from many people with various backgrounds and expertise.

Design Thinking Mindsets from PDMA’s Design Thinking Book

People-Centric

Designing and building for people is at the core of the design thinking mindset. When brainstorming ideas, it's tremendously helpful to keep your audience in mind to come up with the best answer to an issue or challenge.

Cross-Disciplinary and Collaborative

Collaboration is a necessity in the innovation process. In order to find fresh approaches to challenges with a challenge-based nature, it should also cut across disciplines and domains.

Holistic and Integrative

You can be trying to combine two disparate ideas or concepts throughout the design thinking process. You can start to study the overall picture and how everything can come together harmoniously as one by looking beyond the individual parts.

Flexibility and Comfort With Ambiguity

Flexibility enables you to examine potential solutions from a variety of perspectives and pick up lessons from research, actual experience, or simulated outcomes as you go.

Multimodal Communication Skills

To communicate a concept or solution, multimodal communication blends textual, aural, and visual modes. This creative thinking mindset includes the capacity to think in novel ways and to utilize all of the resources at your disposal.

Growth Mindset

Being open to change is a sign of a growth attitude. In order to approach an issue in a novel way, innovation necessitates pushing past the limitations of how something has previously been done.

Design Thinking Mindsets from the Design Thinking Toolbox

The beginner's mind asks participants to clear their heads and imagine themselves as someone who has no prior knowledge of the topic at hand. In a sense, we take on the characteristics of "aliens" from another planet who are taking in the scene for the first time.

The book also discusses a number of additional qualities necessary for an innovative and design-oriented attitude, such as:

  • starting with the needs and concerns of people
  • working together with multidisciplinary teams
  • prototyping and experimentation
  • Idea visualization and demonstration
  • embracing complexity and accepting it

Design Thinking Mindsets from Designing Your Life and Work Life

Curiosity

Exploration is the main focus of curiosity. Try something new, divert from your routine, and make connections with things in life you wouldn't otherwise make.

Bias to Action

This represents a commitment to creating a path ahead. Try something out rather than just reading about it. Experimentation and prototyping are crucial steps in the innovation process.

Reframing Your Problems

When you find yourself stuck, reframe the issue to help in your progress. Don't use the "woe me" mentality and keep at it. Not yet, so don't stress about knowing all the answers.

Awareness

Acknowledge that innovation is a messy, difficult, and unexpected process.

Radical Collaboration

The most successful innovators are aware of their interdependence and know when to seek assistance. Your issues in life, business, and design thinking all include collaboration.

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Conclusion

Creating innovative solutions begins with a mindset. Design involves empathy, strategy, logic, rationalization, and creativity, but at its core, design is a process that tries to create logical forms. Learn more about Design Thinking as a mindset with our UI/UX Expert course. Learn skills like UX research, UI styling, User-Centered Design process, wireframes and prototypes, usability testing, and more. Sign-up today! 

About the Author

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Simplilearn is one of the world’s leading providers of online training for Digital Marketing, Cloud Computing, Project Management, Data Science, IT, Software Development, and many other emerging technologies.

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  • PMP, PMI, PMBOK, CAPM, PgMP, PfMP, ACP, PBA, RMP, SP, and OPM3 are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.
  • *According to Simplilearn survey conducted and subject to terms & conditions with Ernst & Young LLP (EY) as Process Advisors