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Design Thinking: Research and Observations (September 2019): Tools

by Gundars Kaupins


There are many tools available to foster design thinking. There is no “one size fits all” set of tools to design new products and services that disrupt markets. Though all of the books discussed in this section contain great summaries of design thinking and provide corporate examples, they emphasize many of the tools that can help with the process.

Robert Curedale’s Design Thinking Processes and Methods is filled with numerous charts, step-by-step processes, exercises, templates, images, and survey research, and many ways to complete design thinking. The most significant characteristic of this 666-page book is the numerous lists on almost every page. The lists cover classic design thinking topics such as storyboards, business model canvas, empathy maps, balanced scorecards, divergent thinking, rules for brainstorming, and journey maps. Some lists come from design thinking practitioners, researchers, and historical figures. Executives can use the lists to come up with examples of considerations to help design a new product or service. If you need to “shop” for lots of tools, this book provides the most detail.

Through numerous drawings and colorful charts, Michael Lewrick, Patrick Link, and Larry Leifer’s The Design Thinking Playbook: Mindful Digital Transformation of Teams, Products, Services, Businesses, and Ecosystems shows how design thinking helps with understanding potential user needs, observing, creating ideas, prototyping, testing, and reflecting. The authors include common features of design thinking such as creativity, empathy, visualization, mind maps, and team building. It is very easy to read its step-by-step processes. It even discusses the roles of the design thinking program facilitators. The book’s drawings and charts make it great for informal, easy reading for anyone considering design thinking.

This Is Service Design Thinking, by Marc Stickdorn and Jacob Schneider, is based on the research of twenty-three authors and covers major principles of design thinking, tools that can be used, and case studies of five companies within the field of service design thinking. It is a very comprehensive look at design thinking covering tools such as journey and stakeholder maps, and many ways to research consumers, do ideation, create prototypes, and finally implement plans.

Editor Natalie Nixon’s Strategic Design Thinking: Innovation in Products, Services, Experiences, and Beyond describes why design thinking should be used, how to apply design thinking concepts, and examples of design thinking that have been successfully applied. Some design thinking methodologies include using imagery to develop strategies, creating journey maps showing steps customers go through when they buy the company’s products or services, emphasizing potential customers, and prototyping products. Some design thinking examples come from Kaiser Permanente, Independence Blue Cross, and Chipotle. A final “big list” book Vijay Kumar’s is 101 Design Methods: A Structured Approach for Driving Innovation in Your Organization, which is designed for anyone who undertakes innovation challenges.

There are many other books that provide methodologies on how to do design thinking. Each book has different twists on the topic. All of these books are an excellent introduction to design thinking with corporate examples, and each has unique aspects. Emrah Yayici’s Design Thinking Methodology Book discusses mind mapping, empathy mapping storyboards, cause-and-effect diagrams, brainstorming, brain dumps, reverse brainstorming, journey maps, benchmarking, and prototyping. Idris Mootee’s Design Thinking for Strategic Innovation: What They Can’t Teach You at Business or Design School discusses storytelling, strategic foresight, sense-making, value redefinition, humanization, rapid prototyping, and business model design. Jon Kolko’s Exposing the Magic of Design: A Practitioner’s Guide to the Methods and Theory of Synthesis covers sense making frames, mental models, visual design, and affinity diagraming. Bernard Roth’s The Achievement Habit: Stop Wishing, Start Doing, and Take Command of Your Life discusses ideating, brainstorming, mind mapping, and feedback methodologies.

Jeanne Liedtka et al.’s The Designing for Growth Field Book: A Step-by-Step Project Guide discusses napkin pitches, prototypes, posters, observation, jobs to be done, 360 empathy, brainstorming, and anchors. Patrick van der Pijl et al.’s Design a Better Business: New Tools, Skills, and Mindset for Strategy and Innovation discusses high-intensity sessions, thinking and working visually, and small experiments.