Design Thinking begins and ends with Empathy for the people who experience the service/ system that you are focussed on exploring. It is critical that you spend significant time with the users of the service or system. The process invites us to look at both ends of the ‘bell curve’ where the service or system is working well and the user experience is good, and where the service or system is not working well and the user experience is bad.

This way, you can gather as many stories as possible, understand and surface as many assumptions as possible, and appreciate what excellent would look and feel like at both ends. The idea is not to take what works well at A and impose it on B: Design Thinking has much more integrity and greater aspirations than that.

Rapid Prototyping

One of the unique things about Design Thinking is the use of Rapid Prototyping. Prototyping is a different thing than Piloting. With Piloting you are taking one idea and testing it out, at the point of the pilot the idea will be pretty well developed. This often means that there is a timeline for the pilot and that significant investment has already been made, so stopping the process (even if it’s not working) rarely happens.

Prototyping is the opposite. It is quick, cheap and not the finished thing. It is a way of thinking with your hands, making manifest of what has been inside your head or a group of heads, and bringing it out. Think about Thomas Edison and the light bulb, he failed over a thousand times before he got it to work; each of these failures brought him closer to success as he learned from each iteration of his prototype. You are just doing enough to test your idea.

Design Teams

Human-centred design works best with cross-disciplinary teams. You could put three business designers to work on a new social enterprise, but if you throw a graphic designer, a journalist or an industrial designer into the mix, you’re going to bring new modes of thinking to your team.

It’s smart to have a hunch about what kind of talent your team will need – if you’re designing a social enterprise, a business designer is probably a good bet – but you won’t get unexpected solutions with an expected team. So, part of this process is about bringing different people into the room and seeing what happens: it’s an experiment in thinking.

Design Thinking: the central thinking

Design Thinking is a portfolio of bespoke development interventions for teams.

This portfolio of interventions has the purpose of:

  • Thinking about problems and opportunities with a Design Thinking mind-set
  • Identifying stakeholders within the Design Project, including best in class comparisons
  • Exploring the concept of Empathy Journeys as a way of gathering stories and information about the system or service user experience
  • Carrying out an Empathy Journey with colleagues
  • Introducing and practicing Graphic Recording as a different way of capturing stories and information
  • Differentiating between themes and insights
  • Defining the themes and insights that have emerged from the Empathy Journeys
  • Creating and refining ‘How Might We’ questions
  • Practicing idea generating methods and defining outcomes using expansive questions
  • Prototyping in 2D, 3D and 4D
  • Creating an action plan to test the Prototype in the system
  • Defining the idea and requirements of tests of change
  • Testing prototypes in the system, and gaining customer feedback
  • Planning to mainstream or move on…….


Design Thinking was inspired by:

  • Change by Design: Tim Brown
  • Creative Confidence: David Kelley
  • Prototyping Bootcamp MIT 2015
  • A desire to create a programme where manifesting thinking visually was at the heart of the process
  • A desire to have fun with learning and help people to play with ideas