As I talk to clients and learn what they’re most worried about as we step into 2019, the drive for innovation, creativity, and employee engagement top the list. Using a Design Thinking approach is a great way to address each of these areas of focus, I have outlined a few questions below to give you a head start if you’re thinking about utilizing Design Thinking to solve complex business problems.

  • What is Design Thinking? 
  • How does it work?
    • When using a Design Thinking approach, you work in an iterative way to understand users and redefine problems so you can create an alternative, innovative strategies, and solutions to complex problems where the solution isn’t apparent. It’s both a change in mindset about how to solve for a problem and different process to get to the best and most creative solutions.
  • What is the approach?
    • There are many philosophies and models around Design Thinking, but our team uses the five-phase model from the Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford University, which is also known as In this approach, there are 5 distinct phases :
      • Empathize – with your users
      • Define – your users’ needs, their problem, and your insights
      • Ideate – by challenging assumptions and creating ideas for innovative solutions
      • Prototype – to start creating solutions
      • Test – solutions
  • When should we consider Design Thinking?
    • Any company trying to drive innovation and identify creative, workable solutions would find Design Thinking useful. There are many success stories out there but our team has most successfully used Design Thinking strategies in:
      • Organizational design, structure development
      • Process changes or enhancements
      • Solving complex problems where client input and engagement are critical to developing the best solutions
  • Why does Design Thinking matter?
    • I love this article from the Harvard Business Review, which outlines 3 key outcomes that innovation (with using a Design Thinking approach) should create:
      • Superior solutions – asking better questions helps you discover more original and innovative solutions. When you can incorporate users’ input, perspectives & needs, and bring a diverse group of people into the problem-solving process, you have all the ingredients for a better solution & result.
      • Lower risks and costs of change – Using design thinking gives you an array of options and allows you to weed out the bad ideas that won’t work and would end up increasing risk & cost
      • Employee buy-in – getting your employees bought into a change is no small feat, but engaging them in the process of creating the solutions gives you a momentum shift toward adoption

In summary, Design Thinking is a fantastic way to actually provide some good structure to drive innovation. And – throughout the process – it generates collaboration, alignment, and engagement with a diverse group of employees who have a voice in shaping the final solution.

Sheri Browning is a Partner at PeopleResults. You can reach her at or on Twitter @sbPResults.