What is Design Thinking? (And What Are The 5 Stages Associated With it?)

What Is Design Thinking?

As Roger Martin, author of Design of Business, Put it:

“Design-thinking firms stand apart in their willingness to engage in the task of continuously redesigning their business…to create advances in both innovation and efficiency — the combination that produces the most powerful competitive edge.”

What are the 5 Stages of Design Thinking?

The 5-stage model was originally proposed by the Hasso-Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford, and it is continually used by individuals and firms to better innovate their selves. The 5-stage model are as follow: Empathize (learn about the audience for whom you are designing), Define (construct a point of view that is based on user needs and insights), Ideate (brainstorm and come up with creative solutions), Prototype (build a representation of one or more of your ideas to show to others), and Test (return to your original user group and testing your ideas for feedback).


The Empathy stage allows for Design Thinkers to gain insight into the needs regarding the issue along with setting aside their personal assumptions regarding it. A substantial amount of information is gathered during the Empathize stage and is carried on to the next few stages to help define the problem and understand how to deal with it.


The Define stage will help your team gather great ideas and be able to understand how to use them effectively. From here, you and your team will start to progress into the third stage of Design thinking, Ideate.


By the end of this phase, your team should have a few ideas to solve the problem. It’s important during this phase that your team should generate a lot of ideas just so you have many to choose from when starting the next phase in the Design Thinking process, Prototype.


By the end of this stage, the Design Thinkers should have a better understanding of the constraints the are apparent of the prototype. This is also allow for the team to the problems that would be created by each prototype, and how they could fix the prototype to make the prototype inherently better. From here, the team should be ready to move on to the final step of the Design Thinking process, Test.


With this process, it allows for your team to go back to previous stages and revise their information to get the best outcomes for their end product. Essentially, the team can continue to do this until they are either solve their problem, or until they are satisfied with their product.

In Conclusion

Where to Learn More

Linda Nairman, Design Thinking as a Strategy for Innovation: https://www.creativityatwork.com/design-thinking-strategy-for-innovation/

Herbert Simon, Sciences of the Artificial (3rd Edition), 1996: https://monoskop.org/images/9/9c/Simon_Herbert_A_The_Sciences_of_the_Artificial_3rd_ed.pdf