Design Thinking – approaching problems from your users’ point of view

Design thinking - the crowning discipline of solving problems. How to apply it, about the double diamond and why it is all about perspective.
Post-it notes

Design thinking is a human-centered approach, that helps innovators identify and understand customers’ needs to then derive the right solutions in a creative way. It can be applied for innovation projects, but also to solve problems in general or optimize processes. To get a better understanding of the mindset and the aim of this groundbreaking strategy for problem generating and problem solving, let’s start with a short story.

6 blind men and an elephant

Once upon a time there were six men living in a village far away. They had heard of legendary creatures roaming the lands of Africa, called elephants, and they wanted to know what they looked like. That’s why they decided to go on an expedition and get an accurate description of this mysterious animal. The catch? All of them were blind! So, they got a young boy to guide them and when they finally found an elephant, the blind men went up to the animal and started touching to feel its shape and form.

“Elephants are equipped with giant ears”, said the one, that was touching the elephant’s head.

“No, they are just a tail with hair at the end”, explained the one that had angered the animal by pulling its tail.

“On the contrary”, the third one exclaimed, “they are just one big fat mass!”

“You are all absolutely right. An elephant is all of this”, the young boy calmed down the men.

So, what’s the lesson?

It is all about perspective

Would only one of the blind men alone have gotten the right picture? Absolutely not. They were all approaching their task, their problem, from a different perspective and just by combining each individual solution they managed to fulfil what they came for. That is the premise of Design Thinking. You can never perfectly solve an (innovation) problem without some extra insights.

Here’s what’s important: Before tackling a problem, you need to change your perspective and take your users’ point of view. This is called the “Double Diamond” approach. First you broaden your spectrum to get to know your customers and explore their needs, then narrow it down to a concrete problem. Next, you let your mind roam freely again to find a creative solution and finally you take a focused action on it and test it. However, this process is not linear and sometimes you need to go back and forth the different stages multiple times. Here are some guidelines to help you get an overview of the steps.


Find out what your audience’s problems and pain points are. Conduct interviews, send out surveys, ask for feedback. Just listen to them! You can only solve problems you are aware of, and you only have to solve problems that actually exist.


Gain a deeper understanding of why this is a problem. What exactly are your users’ expectations? What do they want? What pains do they have? Really understand and feel with them. This will make you eager to find a solution.


Combine your empathic feelings and compelling motivations with rational thinking and scope a specific challenge. This often requires reframing your previous thoughts and looking at them through a more objective lens – but it will enable you to narrow your focus and finally get to work.


Brainstorm. There are no limitations to how far your imagination can go, just don’t forget to document everything that comes to mind – as crazy as it might seem. That’s actually the goal: Think outside the box, drop the focus and go wild. You may or may not catch a gem.


Time to get your hands dirty, figuratively, or literally. Bring your idea into the physical world, be it with post-it notes, Lego, forming it with clay or doing an interpretive dance. Discuss. Don’t forget, this is a team activity. Resolve discussion, start a conversation, get rid of bad ideas quickly.


Feedback time! Talk to other people, be it your users, other problem-solvers, your boss or your mom (careful not to fail the mom test, though). Is there anything you overlooked when building your prototype? Anything missing? This phase helps you with refining your point of view and gathering more information. But most importantly it stays true to our mantra:


Interested in learning more about Design Thinking and its possibilities?

Knowing the user and identifying the problem is one thing. If you also want to understand how to build a viable business around your insights, contact us and we will get in touch!


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