What is Design Thinking?

25th September 2015

As any strategy consultant will tell you, there are many ways to solve a problem, here at Rokker we work with a number of business design principles and methodologies to define and create strategic and tactical solutions, but one thing that is at our core, and part of who we are, is the value we put on design.


To be clear, we are not talking about ‘graphic design’, we are talking about design as a creative problem-solving process.


As a Creative Director for over 16 years, problem solving has been my life, and as such I have needed to develop reliable ways to frame my thinking and make sure solutions that I create are well-founded and executable strategically, visually and from a commercial perspective. As I moved into more future-thinking strategic roles I discovered these principles were codified in Design Thinking, and it is now at the heart of our process here at Rokker.


Design Thinking is actually a relatively new term (although it is an old concept) used to define a practical, creative process of problem-solving. It has become synonymous in terms of the application to business by IDEO’s founder, David M. Kelley. However, ask any designer how they work and they will describe the same process even if they’re not familiar with IDEO.


Design Thinking starts from a goal orientated point of view and uses an iterative process in order to achieve that goal. It is a more human-centric approach and generally more in line with how we are used to solving challenging problems in our lives – this is where I am, this is where I want to be – so how do I get there?’


Anyone familiar with an Agile process will be familiar with the core stages of Design Thinking which are essentially Define, Research, Ideate, Prototype, Choose, Implement and Learn. It is an iterative process, building upon ideas, testing them, and learning from them – each stage feeding into the next.


The benefit of a Design Thinking approach to problem-solving is that the solution is at the heart of the exercise from the very beginning – how you get there can be relatively undefined, but the goal is defined, therefore you have a framework for exploring concepts and ideas, and are always able to return to the original question of ‘Am I moving towards my vision?’


A Design Thinking process enables solutions to be identified quickly as minimum viable initiatives (MVI’s) – the essence of the solution is identified and the details can be developed over time; there is less upfront investment in terms of finance and time; immediate viability assessment and responsive change facilitation which are usually the challenging factors for SME’s facing change within competitive markets.


There are many facets within each stage of the Design Thinking process, including defining customer experiences, emotional intelligence, financial impact, commercial validity and organisational capability, but the main aim is to explore multiple ideas, listen for cross-overs and connect the dots between similar concepts – thereby simplifying and aligning solutions that are practical and can be actioned.


Some of the most common challenges for modern businesses in the digital age are mobilisation, responsiveness and flexibility – trying to meet the ever-changing demands of an empowered customer. A Design Thinking, iterative approach can meet these challenges and forge a futureproof framework for transformation and growth.


Richard Botting

Creative Strategy Partner