Defining Design Thinking

So what is design thinking? Why is building our own business included in this module specifically?

According to Tim Brown, CEO and president of IDEO (an innovation and design firm), design thinking is “A methodology that imbues the full spectrum of innovation activities with a human-centered design ethos. By this I mean that innovation is powered by a thorough understanding, through direct observation, of what people want and need in their lives and what they like or dislike about the way particular products are made, packaged, marketed, sold, and supported” (Brown, T. 2008).

We are building our own business in this specific module because design thinking is both a creative behavior and a business behavior that needs to be incorporated into our  team business and for this course, and also any personal future businesses, if we want to have an successful, innovative company.

Design thinking still seems a little abstract for me but I’ve realized that abstractness is actually one of the benefits of design thinking. As a practice, design thinking has no rules; it only has guidelines in order to encourage true innovation. This is how it differs from analytical thinking. To illustrate this comparison,  Dorst uses the equation ‘What’ + ‘How’ = ‘Result’ for analytical thinking and the equation ‘What’ + ‘How’ = ‘Value’ for design thinking (Dorst, K. 2010). There are two main mechanisms in analytical thinking: deduction and induction. Deduction is when you know the ‘What’ and the ‘How’ of a business situation but need to deduce the ‘Result’. Induction is when you know the ‘What’ and the ‘Result’ but need to infer the ‘How’ (the reason). The important thing to note is that both deduction and induction predict/explain situations that already exist in the world (Comi, A. 2018). However, in design thinking we replace ‘Result’ with ‘Value’ because we want to use it to create new value in the world. There are two main reasoning patterns in thinking: problem solving and abduction. Problem solving is when you know the ‘What’ and the ‘Value’ but not the ‘How’. Abduction is when you only know the ‘Value’ that you are trying to achieve. However, with both reasoning patterns you always know the value (or the change you want to create through innovation).

For our course team businesses we are using the abduction reasoning pattern because we know the value we want to create for customers and the problem we want to solve. However, the challenge is figuring out how to achieve that value and figuring out what product or service is the best way to do that. In order to complete this challenge we will be using key design thinking concepts, such as empathy and framing, while operating in the five spaces of the design thinking process (used by Stanford’s empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. We will constantly be asking ourselves questions like “How might we…” (Brown, T. 2008).

Let’s see what design thinking helps us to accomplish!


Brown, T. (2008). ‘Design Thinking.’ Harvard Business Review. (June)

Dorst, K (2010). ‘The Nature of Design Thinking.’ DTRS8 Interpreting Design Thinking: Design Thinking Research Symposium Proceedings. pp. 131 – 139.

Comi, A. (2018) ‘Design Thinking for Startups’ [Powerpoint presentation]. BS7708: Design Thinking for Startups. Available at (Accessed: 19 December 2018).


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