Design Thinking

Design Thinking has its roots in the design area and was introduced by the founders of the design and innovation agency IDEO. The research work done in relation to this concept and its implementation are sponsored by SAP founder Hasso Plattner. Since 2005, Design Thinking has been a subject at the D-School at Hasso Plattner Institute of the University of Potsdam, Germany.

The method combines the creativity of cross-functional teams to generate specific solutions to overarching issues. The user-centric approach in each phase of the innovation process is a trademark for this method.


The Design Thinking process is characterized by divergent and convergent thinking stages.

Divergent thinking stages are important to account for the complexity of the original question.

Convergent thinking stages are necessary to make decisions in cross-functional teams to enable innovation.

The iterative Design Thinking process consists of six stages; loopbacks into earlier process stages are intended:


  1. Stage 1: Understand (divergent)

  2. Stage 2: Observe (divergent)

  3. Stage 3: Point of View (convergent)

  4. Stage 4: Ideate (divergent)

  5. Stage 5: Prototype – think with your hands (convergent)

  6. Stage 6: Test (convergent)


Stage 1-3: Identify issues and questions

The first three stages exclusively focus on the problem or the issue. Stage 2, in particular, is characterized by interaction with users. Interviews with potential users or, deliberately, with non-users are frequently held at this stage. The goal is to open up your mind as far as possible and to gain as many insights as possible. The team works without any fixed outcome expected.


Stage 4: Ideation

It is only in stage 4 that the team enters the solution room which has a very high priority for all of us.

Thus, it becomes obvious that the exploration of the problem to be solved in connection with the user needs is given an importance under the Design Thinking method that is unparalleled compared to other methods. Therefore, Design Thinking is employed above all for complex issues or in situations with unclear or unexplored user needs. However, to be honest, user needs are more often unclear than we would want to admit...


Stage 4 is the ideation phase where creativity comes into play. This stage probably is that which is most commonly associated with Design Thinking. This is where the strength of a diverse team has an impact. People with various backgrounds and experience benefit from each other. Diverse teams are always more creative than homogeneous teams.


Stage 5 and 6: Testing

The goal of stages 5 and 6 is to test solution ideas generated in stage 4 immediately whether they are accepted by the users.

In each of the six stages, the team is willing to loopback one or even more stages.

By strongly involving the user, the team can identify at an early stage whether assumptions regarding user needs or the user’s acceptance of the solution were correct or incorrect. Design Thinking is a strongly user-focused method.


First of all, the method provides ‘only’ the possibility to design a suitable solution for a problem. But it doesn’t tell us whether this solution can be marketed efficiently or can generate sufficient revenue for the company. To find an answer to these questions, the methods Lean Startup and Business Canvas can be applied subsequently.


Andrea SchmittInnovationstrainerinAm Mittelpfad 24aD 65520 Bad Camberg+49 6434 905997+49 175 5196446
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