Skip to Main Content

Design Thinking: Research and Observations (September 2019): Major Themes

by Gundars Kaupins

Major Themes

Tim Brown, an early advocate of design thinking, is the CEO of IDEO, a global design company that has partnered with many corporations, universities, and experts in a wide variety of fields to provide significant innovations. IDEO has greatly contributed to the popularity and success of design thinking. His book Change by Design: How Design Thinking Transforms Organizations and Inspires Innovation introduces the reader to design thinking and shows key IDEO-related principles and procedures. Lead concepts in the book include a focus on intuition, being people-centered, and testing inexpensive prototypes. The design process flexibly adapts to new revelations coming from the prototypes in ways that would not have been predictive.

Those IDEO themes continue with two of the cofounders of IDEO, Tom Kelley and Jonathan Littman. In their The Art of Innovation, they discuss a wide variety of people such as architects, marketers, artists, and managers who support the creative design process. It is not the domain of only the “creative types.” This is one of the hallmarks of IDEO, which brings together a wide variety of people to create new products and services. What allows for some of the creativity is the focus on seeing what is in the customers’ eyes. Tom Kelley and David Kelly’s Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential within Us All goes into more detail on the design thinking-related processes of synthesis of information from customers, ideation of new methods and strategies for meeting unmet needs, experimentation and prototyping, and implementation of products or services, with the emphasis on consistently monitoring and making changes as appropriate to enhance customer satisfaction.

Jeanne Liedtka and Tim Ogilvie’s Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Tool Kit for Managers covers major themes within design thinking, such as focusing on subjective rather than rational experiences, iterations rather than finding the one best answer, and emotions rather than logic. This is also a great general summary of design thinking.

Red ocean business strategies focus on overcoming the competition within existing industries and markets. In contrast, blue ocean strategies focus on customers who do not currently exist, thereby making the existing competition irrelevant. This may require developing new products and services. The authors discuss the following processes to apply blue ocean: valuing innovation, building confidence, and describing several types of noncustomers, and creating appropriate marketing tools.

Empathy is a major theme in design thinking. Jon Kolko’s Well-Designed: How to Use Empathy to Create Products People Love focuses on how to really understand consumers, especially potential ones. Observing the customers and understanding the market will help companies be successful in using design thinking.

Works Cited