What is design thinking? and how can it help your business?

We delve into design thinking and why it can be an essential method for driving results in your business.
Written by
Nichola Hudson
Published on
April 30, 2024
What is design thinking? and how can it help your business?

Design thinking is a user-centred approach to problem-solving that encourages creativity and innovation.

According to Parsons New School research 69% of design-led firms perceive the innovation process to be more efficient with design thinking.

In this article, we’ll explore what design thinking is and why it can be an essential method for driving results in your business.

What is Design Thinking?

Design thinking prioritises human-centric solutions and puts you in the shoes of the customer enabling you to develop solutions that not only meet their needs but truly delight them.

Design thinking isn’t just for designers; it’s an approach for solving problems that can be used by anyone in business.

Design Thinking Approach

The design thinking approach involves five key stages: Empathise, Define, Ideate, Prototype, and Test.

Design thinking approach (Source: Interation Design Foundation)

Let’s break down each step:

1. Empathise

This initial stage is about understanding the needs, desires, and objectives of those who are experiencing a problem. This involves observing, engaging, and empathising with people to understand their experiences and motivations, as well as immersing oneself in the physical environment so you can gain a deeper personal understanding of the issues involved.

2. Define

In this stage, you put together the information you have created and gathered during the Empathise stage. You analyse your observations and synthesise them in order to define the core problems you and your team have identified up to this point. This helps to shape a human-centred problem statement.

3. Ideate

Now, you're ready to start generating ideas. With the knowledge you’ve built up, you can start to "think outside the box," look for alternative ways of viewing the problem and identify innovative solutions to the problem statement you've created. This is where you can get creative without the constraints of being right or wrong.

4. Prototype

This stage is experimental. The aim is to identify the best possible solution for each of the problems identified during the first three stages. The solutions are implemented within the prototypes, and, one by one, they are investigated and either accepted, improved and re-examined, or rejected based on the users’ experiences.

5. Test

Rigorously testing the completed prototypes not only helps to understand how effective they are but also highlights new ways to refine and improve the solution. This stage is often iterative, where you make refinements and create variations of the product or solution to find the best possible version.

Benefits of Design Thinking

1. Promotes Innovation

Design thinking encourages out-of-the-box thinking that helps to drive innovation. It’s not restricted to designers or creative roles; anyone can use it.

2. Increases Speed and Efficiency

The iterative process of design thinking helps you find flaws sooner and adapt quickly, saving both time and resources in the long run. Testing a prototype can go a long way to ensuring a final product delivers on its intended goals by ironing out issues along the way.

3. Enhances Customer Satisfaction

Since design thinking involves a deep understanding of users’ needs through the empathise stage, the final product is more likely to meet the real needs of the customers, leading to higher satisfaction and better user experiences.

4. Encourages Collaboration and Teamwork

The design thinking process is inherently collaborative. It brings together people from different backgrounds and disciplines to explore solutions together.

This not only enhances the ideas generated but also helps in building a culture of teamwork.

How Can You Use Design Thinking?

At Distinction we lean on design thinking principles to deliver our three phased Diagnose, Define, Deliver approach. Here are some of the areas of your business a design thinking approach could help you:

Strategy Creation

Both problem based strategy and nested strategy creation can benefit from the ideation a design thinking approach utilises. It is also important in the testing phase of a strategy to evaluate the potential barriers that could stop your strategy being successful.

Solving Business Challenges

Techniques such as a lightning decision jam can rapidly generate multiple solutions, making them ideal for addressing large problems quickly. These tools not only foster swift decision-making but also enhance teamwork by encouraging effective collaboration.

At Distinction we have used design thinking inspired processes to deliver increases in business enquires, increases in site visitors and event registrations for companies in the professional services, education and healthcare sectors.

User Research

The user-centric approach of design thinking is essential for gathering quick feedback from customers.

Whether it’s during a design sprint or just regular interaction, understanding customer pain points through rapid feedback is invaluable for refining products and services.


Design thinking is more than just a buzzword; it’s a systematic approach to problem-solving that emphasises understanding the user, challenging assumptions, redefining problems, and creating innovative solutions to prototype and test.

Integrating design thinking into your work can lead to more innovative, efficient, and user-centred products and services.

Ready to transform your approach and achieve remarkable results? Contact us today to explore how design thinking can elevate your projects and strategies.

No items found.
No items found.
No items found.


Regular newsletter
Our latest thoughts, tips and exclusive interviews in your inbox every month.