There is value in enabling design thinking during your everyday routine, especially if you have contact with potential or current clients in your position. Idea generation is great for coming up with novel ideas, and everyday design thinking can help you understand its usefulness. This combination helps lower the risk that you are creating the ‘right thing’ for your customer.

Embracing design thinking every day increases the understanding of the customer and their needs and enables you to take complex problems and break them down to clear objectives and challenges. This deeper understanding means you are able to develop innovations that resonant emotionally for the users. Depending on the type of innovation, these users could be product or service users, customers or internal employees. I am not saying that design thinking solves all problems, but it ignites a dynamic metacognitive process that helps organizations cut through the complexity of a problem.

What is Design?

Before talking about design thinking, it is interesting to know a little more about where this process originated. According to John Heskett design “stripped down to the essence, can be defined as the human capacity to shape and make our environment in ways without precedent in nature, to serve our needs and give meaning to our lives.“This can be achieved deliberately through design principles or by chance through intuition.

Before solving a problem, a good designer first breaks down complex material into its simplest components: the how, when and why. Once they have a thorough understanding of the problem, they can begin to redefine the problem in a clear way while identifying explicit objectives.

The purpose of design is to make the ordinary extraordinary through connecting form and function in an indistinguishable synthesis that creates emotion and meaning. By including design and focusing on value adding features, products and services become deceptively simple in their usability, while also increasing cost efficiency for the organization.

What is Design Thinking?

Design thinking is not an experiment, but a philosophy that empowers and encourages experimentation. There are multiple methodologies in existence including IDEO’s famous human-centered innovation, Stanford’s D-School mindset or UK Design Council’s double diamond.

All these methods aim at gaining a thorough understanding of the problem before stating clear goals and objectives prior to idea generation. The idea generation phase seeks to embrace many possible solutions. Afterward, prototyping, feedback, and iterations will weed out bad design and include user input throughout the innovation process, increasing the chance of adoption when implemented.

Deeply understanding the problem is difficult using quantitative surveys, which is why design thinking focuses on qualitative and ethnographic research methods and focuses on examining emotional and experiential components including desires, aspirations, engagement, and experience. This depth of understanding enables the generation and expansion of multiple possible solutions. These ideas can then be analyzed, and ideas are selected for prototyping and customer feedback. Final products are created from the prototype iterations and feedback.

This process is popular as it is very action-orientated. However, the organization still needs a tolerance of failure during ideation and prototyping phases to find the most befitting solution.

Everyday Design Thinking

Interacting with customers during your work day gives you opportunities to learn more about them. Embracing these steps for everyday design thinking will increase understanding of the usefulness of potentially innovative ideas.

1) Question everything

When looking at a problem or question on should take a beginner’s mindset. This mindset impels you to ask questions, do research and understand the issue deeper than initially grasped. A deeper understanding will enable you not only to come up with a potential solution but a range of alternatives on how a possible problem can be solved. A list with multiple potential solutions that include the specific purposes and advantages will provide a more effective selection process. This process creates cognitive flexibility that allows the possibility to adopt a process to a particular challenge. If something is frustrating, don’t get annoyed – instead, think critically and break down the problem, gain a deeper understanding and maybe you will see the root cause.

2) Understand the customer

Design thinking is human-centered and focuses on qualitative studies to attain a deeper understanding than one can obtain from quantitative surveys. When you interact with potential or current clients, you have a great opportunity to ask questions and observe behaviors to achieve a deeper understanding of the customer. Focus on experiential and emotive aspects, such as desires, inspirations, relationships, interactions and experiences. It is always good to check back to see if your understanding also fits with the user and if anything could be added. Afterward, you can see the problem and the context from their point of view and generate ideas from it.

3) Never be satisfied

A big part of design thinking is iteration and feedback loops. As problems and customers are continuously developing and changing, it is important not to think that you know enough. The first steps help you enter this mind frame, and this step makes sure that it becomes a lifelong skill. Not only will it become easier and quicker to break down problems the more you practice these steps, but it will also be easier to create associations and connections between different problems.

4) Know when to switch mindsets

Whether it is IDEO’s Human-centered, D-school’s, UK Design School’s Double Diamond methodology of design thinking, they all include different stages of divergent and convergent thinking. Each mindset is beneficial if applied at the right moment but otherwise can be detrimental. Divergent thinking occurs when you are trying to expand on ideas, problems or understanding. It is the quantity stage, where you want to allow everything to put down and explored. Don’t forget to include wild areas and aspects even though they might be considered irrelevant later on. It is also important not to criticize or judge during this phase, as it will hinder flow limit creativity.

Once you are satisfied with the divergent phase, begin converging by analyzing and selecting what was produced by clustering them, considering implications, assessing limitations, and transforming the candidate ideas to a few primary concepts that can be tested through interaction with the users.

5) Embrace experimentation

Just like the processes used in lean startups, testing, prototyping and iteration cycles are significant parts of design thinking. Learning what works and what doesn’t helps separate good and bad design. Including users during these phases makes sure you are not only doing the right thing but doing it right. It will also increase excitement and potential adoption of the final product when released.

Implementing everyday design thinking into your daily routine will help you become a critical thinker, help you learn much more about your customers and make sure you understand the problems that need to be addressed. Incorporating everyday innovation into the culture of your organisation will equip employees for change, encourage them to speak up when something is not working, helping the company to continuously improve operational processes. Innovation’s usefulness will increase and enhance their likelihood of success.