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When to use design thinking

Updated: Oct 6, 2021


When leaders are facing uncertainty and are not sure how to proceed forward then design thinking is useful in assisting them with moving forward.

Design thinking is a mindset that embraces uncertainty. Continuous use of design thinking helps leaders to strengthen their confidence to embrace the uncertainty muscle in their mind. Through design thinking practices leaders strengthen their confidence and build a useful set of tools to add to their toolbelt when dealing with an uncertain future.


Design thinking is of value when leaders are facing complex challenges. In complexity there are many contributing factors, potentially a range of mitigating circumstances and influential forces in which there is no control. Often there is little understanding of the extent to which these circumstances and forces are contributing to the complexity of the challenge. Typically, a complex challenge will involve several decisions that have first order and second order effects on people, and these require consideration. Design thinking is a mindset, that includes a toolbox of over 100 tools and a framework that guides the process for navigating complex issues.

When there are multiple pathways and there is no proven way to solve a complex issue, design thinking enables leaders to continue to navigate towards their north star.


Design thinking assists leaders with using a combination of divergent thinking actions and then to confidently know when to converge these into the next stage of the 4D Design Thinking process. Design thinkers have a range of tools and methods that help place different lenses on issues. These lenses help leaders take into consideration a range of options, consider the impacts of these options on relevant human stakeholders. Leaders can then more confidently experiment with alternatives, before converging them down to a plausible solution, test it, tweak it, and implement it.

Design thinking is at its very heart is a human centered process that seeks to understand humans and advance them through innovation, learning and continuous improvements. When leaders seek innovation for human betterment then design thinking is for them. Leaders and their team will engage in empathy and walk in the shoes of the life they are seeking to improve. Through design thinking systems and process can be improved, new revenue streams found, decreases in human suffering may occur, improvements in lifestyles can flourish, markets and economies improve through innovation. This is because when design thinking is embedded throughout the enterprise's culture, people routinely innovate.

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