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Is Design Thinking a Mindset?

Updated: Oct 6, 2021

Design thinking is often characterized as a process. The 4DLX-Grow Framework demonstrates this perspective, as it shows design thinking as having four stages much like other processes have stages. The process perspective sees design thinking help leaders and their teams to routinely innovate systems, processes, products, services, ideas, and anything that improves the wellbeing and lives of humans. A process perspective sees the phases as sequential. That is design thinking begins with discover followed by define, then design and do. In the discovery phase we learn about humans, we understand that all humans are different, we embrace differences. We hear different human perspectives, we seek to understand their context, and look at the world from their experiences through their eyes and by walking in their shoes.

Design thinking as a process perspective converges the various perspectives and contexts to create a clear vision that defines the north star. The north star guides the final two phases of the design thinking process. This is where brainstorming and using a variety of tools are the norm. From the design thinking toolbox teams create ideas, solutions and innovations that move us towards the clearly defined north star. In our doing stage of the design thinking process we take our innovations to market, we learn, we grow, and we scale.

Design thinking is also characterized as a toolbox. This often occurs because when in the “discover” phase or in the “design” phase of the 4D design thinking framework human divergence is key. To capture, inspire, motivate, hear, learn from humans to innovate for humans, a vast array of tools in the design thinking toolbox seeks out multiple viewpoints, ideas, and ways to understand (discover) or to innovate (solve or move forward). While there are over one hundred tools, the most popular of these are AEIOU observations, interviewing, card sorting, developing empathy maps, creating customer personas, investment personas, customer journey maps, stakeholder maps, experience maps, swim lanes, lean canvases, value propositions and so on. Technology is another tool that drives design thinking. Technology helps humans innovate and to improve the lives of other humans. The most innovative technological solutions are those that put humans first.

Design thinking is also characterized

as a mindset. At the forefront of design thinking is a mindset that focuses on human betterment. Combining divergent and convergent thinking unconventional paths are sought purposefully with the help of tools and technology. Leaders are asked to step up and step out and to go beyond themselves every day. Leaders don’t just talk about human diversity. They embrace human diversity. Leaders go out and seek diversity on purpose through the design thinking process and divergent thinking. Leaders commit themselves to learn and to grow. Leaders embrace their fears. Leaders feel uncertain, embrace it, and overcome their doubts. Leaders stand strong in the unknown. They understand that failure is a learning experience.

Leaders and their teams embrace the fail-often and early mentality. Leaders understand that many of the greatest innovations come from over 100 failed attempts. The fail-learn-grow mindset sees leaders and their teams understand following the north star takes a strong mindset, commitment, and a willingness to learn and to grow, each day. There is blue sky thinking, blue ocean strategies, and the taking of teams across unchartered waters to follow the north star. Design thinking asks of Leaders and their teams to work on things that matter to customers, investors, clients, and other stakeholders and to create human innovations for humans.

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