Innovation through design thinking

Steffie Verstappen
Article by: Steffie Verstappen
Innovation through design thinking

At THNK, we view Design Thinking as an approach to problem-solving that holds relevance for a much wider scope of challenges than simply those that are related to the traditional design arena. Design Thinking can prove useful in the design of products or services, but may just as well result in the improvement of processes, situations or even organizations. Tim Brown is a big source of inspiration in this regard. His online talk nicely sums up the primary ideas that are at the base of the Design Thinking approach to problem solving.


Although design thinking does not necessarily equal innovation, Tim Brown argues they are very much related. Design thinking is a unique way of solving problems that is not just about what is beautiful or cool but, rather, can be used to tackle a big range of creative and business problems. In this way, design thinking offers a highly relevant approach to coming up with innovative ways of problem-solving in all sectors of life in today’s ever more complicated world.


Several examples to illustrate. Designers use the world as a place to generate new ideas and as an inspiration for things that might be, often with very incomplete ideas of what it is they are trying to explore. They do this by going out into the world, looking at people and seeing things from their viewpoint—not their own. Designers tend to “build to think” by way of prototyping: they build things in order to come to an understanding of what it is they have been learning. Designers tend to use the method of “storytelling” in order to make sure that their ideas can navigate the system and actually succeed in reaching market. The better you can construct a story around the ideas you have, the better you can communicate those to your colleagues, partners, and stakeholders, and the more likely your idea is to survive through the process.


The above three examples immediately hint at design thinking’s relevance for broader problem solving strategies in order to tackle challenges that we are faced with—be they political, business-related, public or private—in our quickly changing contemporary societies. In order to open our minds to real solutions, we have to be ready to take risks and experiment, we have to be capable of empathy, we have to actively explore our learning experience while we are learning, and we have to use stories to help provide the framework for creating ideas and to scale and frame the problems we are dealing with. Design thinking offers many very valuable insights.

To find out how design thinking can help you innovate, join the THNK Creative Leadership Program. Visit the program page to find out if you qualify or contact us at