TECH | Sep 11, 2018

10 minutes with Design Thinking

Which resources to consult in the coffee break to learn more about Design Thinking?

In addition to having been described as a medicine to be taken regularly, Design Thinking can be defined as a set of rules and tools for managing projects, especially those with a high degree of innovation. As the name suggests, it is inspired by the design process (and in particular product design), which should combine the goals of a high level of creativity and those of a rigorous method.

The origins of Design Thinking can be traced back to Bauhaus in the 1920s, but it was only in the 1960s – and especially with the works of Horst RittelBruce ArcherChristopher Alexander and Larry Leifer – that systematic and in-depth reflection on the methods, principles and processes of design and product design began. Extension of these principles to other economic activities also began to be discussed, as evidenced by Rittel’s approach with his IBIS (Issue-Based-Information-System for Design), which defines the design process as a process of argumentation.


In this context, the book The Sciences of the Artificial (1969) by Herbert Simon, “father” of Artificial Intelligence and Nobel Prize winner in 1978, has been very influential. Design Thinking as an explicit concept (and as it is used today) dates back to the 1980s and is associated with the names of Bill MoggridgeRolf Faste and David M. Kelley. It is significant that from the outset the concept and method of Design Thinking have been applied to both product design and software design. In this context, today’s increasingly important concept of Interaction Design also appeared for the first time.

If then you want to browse a more recent text, you can read Overcrowded, il manifesto di un nuovo modo di guardare l’innovazione (the manifesto of a new way of looking at innovation) by Roberto Verganti, who leads us on the discovery of new ways to create value in a company.

Methods to be familiar with

Design Thinking is not a monolithic approach and many different methods and tools have been developed over the past 25 years. Perhaps the two best known are Ideo, which represents the more commercial side, and the more social one, which claim that their method can be applied to any project. The Human-Centered Design Toolkit and the approach of Stanford University in cooperation with the HPI School of Design Thinking in Potsdam , which apply the method primarily to new methods of creating software, have become famous.

The enormous variety of different frameworks is significant:

  • Ideo proposes three dimensions: Inspiration – Ideation – Implementation
  • IBM proposes four dimensions: Understand – Explore – Test – Evaluate
  • Engineering proposes the approach: Discover – Design – Deliver – Drive
  • Stanford proposes five dimensions: Empathize – Define – Ideate – Prototype – Test
  • HPI proposes the alternative: Understand – Observe – Define the perspective – Find ideas – Develop prototypes – Test

Businesses that have developed approaches concerning Design Thinking

Not only IBM with Enterprise Design Thinking but many technology companies have developed their own approach to Design Thinking: HPPhilipsApple, Engineering, Google which has called it Design Sprint, and many others.

It is now well established within all these schools of thought that the approach to innovation depends on a concept of Design Thinking. Studies of effectiveness and the results of various attempts seem to be confirmation. So it is worthwhile going deeper into and learning more about this tool, even taking advantage of the ten-minute coffee break.

Kurt Hilgenberg