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Is Design Thinking Agile?

Updated: Oct 6, 2021

Agile is often thought of as a project management tool that solves predefined problems and involves several iterations. The focus of agile is on solving problems at speed by doing. Agile is gaining popularity. Many businesses are embedding an agile culture into their workplace. How a business delivers and responds to change can be agile.

Design thinking begins with seeking divergent viewpoints and listening to the various perspectives from each of the relevant human stakeholder groups in the discovery phase of design thinking.

You'll often see personas, empathy maps and customer journey maps as outcomes as the second phase of design thinking focuses on reaching convergence. Generally, convergence is reached when the team can clearly define who, where, when, how, what and what.

The third phase of design thinking aligns well with agile as the focus is on divergence, brainstorming and exploring multiple possibilities or solutions befitting the problem or opportunity. In this phase, scenario planning, image boards, prototypes and rapid testing are common.

The fourth phase of design thinking also aligns well with agile as the focus is on "the doing" and launching the opportunity, problem, idea or offering. The "doing" then moves to systems to do with implementing continuous improvements, tweaking, growing and scaling.

Agile and design thinking have different human considerations. With agile typically, the human considerations are those of the customers or the users of the design. Whereas with design thinking the human considerations are all relevant stakeholders. These may include: partners, regulators, suppliers, customers, prospects, users, contractors, investors, employees, other teams, sponsors, board members or the community. Design thinking focuses on helping humans through innovation.

Agile deliveries are guided by constant iterative improvements

Design thinking is guided by innovation, divergence and convergence and the 4D Design Thinking Framework:

  1. discover

  2. define

  3. design and

  4. do

Agile and design thinking are team sports. Agile teams make decisions from learning. Design thinking teams make decisions from the intersection of learning, creativity, desirability, viability and feasibility.

If you want to learn more about Design Thinking and the 4D Design Thinking Framework contact us or take one of our courses.

If you are going to take one of our courses, we suggest you may want to begin with "Discovery".

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