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Design thinking quick steps

Always wanted to implement design thinking in your business but have been intimidated by the thought?

Don’t be. Design thinking can be fun, practical and easy to get results from once you know the basic framework to start and complete the process.

Given New Zealand’s continued quest to move up the innovation ladder, design thinking is a practical way for how people and teams work together. Choosing how teams work together is also an important part of innovation which design thinking leads into.

Who can use design thinking?

Design thinking can be applied to company culture and how people and teams work together.

Where can it be applied?

Design thinking is naturally applied to designing new and existing products, services, brands and the user experiences that are offered to customers.

How can it be applied?

Design thinking can be applied to all parts of your company. Among design thinking practitioners, this is referred to as a company’s journey towards design integration.

Design thinking is routinely used in an environment where a culture of human-centred design and innovation exist across multiple teams for problem solving and value creation.

It can also be applied to designing business strategy, business model and the processes that support them and make them effective.

Design thinking can also help us to have honest conversations about what our business purpose is. Why do we do what we do? Why do customers choose us? What is our customer cause and purpose? If your purpose is simply shareholder value or making margin…your customers will recognise this when they interact with you.

The design thinking process

Here are simple steps based on Stanford’s model which can be applied to the New Zealand environment to be used to kickstart design thinking within your organisation.

There are 5 must-have components to design thinking: EDIPT



This is the starting point and the most important part of DT. Understand what your customers and non-customers are saying, thinking, feeling and doing by having conversations with them. 

This is easy to master but it takes practice and does not always come naturally to many technically and product focused New Zealand business teams. It requires rational people to suspend judgement to understand and embrace the emotional needs of customers.

The design thinking saying is the “answer lies outside of this room”. Talk to your customers to identify and define their key problems and opportunities.


Distil and define what these empathy conversations are telling you. What is the key problem or opportunity?

Gallagher’s T20 terminal is an example of how design thinking was used for innovation as the company identified the crowded market for commercial site alarm terminal

Marty Blake, the company’s product manager (Access) coordinated a team of over 50 designers, engineers and marketers to collaborate and redefine the product.

Marty and the team use a blend of innovation approaches including Learning First Product development and design thinking approaches.  The project started with define a customer problem and talking with potential customers before asking the design team to start the process of designing solutions.


Once you have defined customer problems or opportunities it is time to create lots of ideas or potential solutions. How might we solve this problem? Brainstorming is focused on a tightly defined problem.


Make a prototype as fast and as cheaply and scrappily as you can. It is there to represent a possible solution. Don’t make it perfect.  

Take the example of Gallagher’s T20 Terminal, the company made its first prototypes out of paper, then out of plastic well before the industrial design process started.

Electricity company Flick Electric Co prototyped the concept of its electricity business model that uses smart meter capability and spot market pricing. It tested this on potential customers, ensuring it was easy to use before refining the idea based on customer feedback.


Finally, get feedback on your scrappy prototype. Don’t defend ‘sell’ your prototype. Let go and try and improve it based on feedback.

Advantages of design thinking

*Design thinking is very practical, easy to start and get results. It can be used in any part of the company to design solutions.

*It’s an action sport and you learn through experience and by doing it. Post-It notes and sharpies have become a new communication language. Working together this way can help break down company hierarchy and make it easier to share ideas and work cross-functionally

*It can help teams to challenge assumptions and creativity given a structure and process as a necessary part of innovation.

*Design thinking integrates well with many other approaches Lean, Six Sigma, Learning First Product Development (LFPD) and business strategy.

*It helps to have a design champion, one of your team trained to facilitate and encourage everyone else.

*Although very easy to start, you probably want to set some simple design problems to solve first as you build in confidence and capability.

*Perhaps start with “How might we run a great team meeting” before trying out “How might we redesign our complete customer service experience”

* Don’t let ‘extreme comments’ from ‘extreme users’ upset you when you are doing early Empathy conversations. Extreme views are often helpful in the DT process.

Dos and don’ts with design thinking

*Get started, have fun, try it on smaller projects first!

*Get together and talk about what is working and what could work better

*Keep a commitment to visiting people offsite at the start of projects and asking them about their views, problems and opportunities.

The writer is a director at the New Zealand Innovation Council.

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