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Design Thinking

Design Thinking

Business plans are usually referred to as methods implemented by institutions in the process of efficiently conducting various functional aspects of their operations. Managers’ responsibility of the foundation includes formulation and utilization of the most prosperous strategies, which often include the concept of design thinking. This idea is a human-based approach to development and innovation that stems from the toolkit of a designer and integrates the concerns of people, availabilities of technology, and the need for business evolvement. Design thinking can alter specific types of product-, process-, service-, and plan development (Ursrey, 2014). Such an approach binds together the needs of consumers with what is feasible in terms of budget, finance, and technology. Moreover, it gives employees without designer-oriented educational basis an opportunity to assess creative tools in addressing a vast spectrum of issues. The concept can be described as a deeply humane process that accounts for skills and abilities that all people have but get undervalued in the process of more conventional problem-solving. It is driven by the ability to recognize patterns, create functional and, more importantly, emotionally reasonable and meaningful ideas, be intuitive, and express one’s own nature beyond symbols, words, and documentation. Although it is irrational to rely merely on feelings and inspiration, being strictly analytical may be just as risky (Ursrey, 2014).

By using examples of the modern economic world, this paper aims to provide justification for design thinking to be an integrated, “third” way. Under this system, institutions utilize both generative techniques and tools of analysis to help consumers visualize what their existing possessions could be in the future and construct strategies and plans of getting there. Although the various methods include model prototyping, innovation strategy, data visualization, organizational design, IP liberation, and a wide spectrum of research types, this work will focus mainly on aspects of support and provision of durable goods to the poor or disabled.

My Own Definition of Design Thinking

For me personally, the approach referred to as design thinking is an efficient and proven method of problem-solving based on customer needs and requirements, which can be implemented by a person of any type and profession in order to achieve results of extraordinary quality.

Examples of Design Thinking Applications in the Business World

Innovation is a key aspect to remain competitive and flourish in the global business world. However, many companies consider something that is a mere rearrangement and restructuring of an existing concept to be “innovation.” Ninety-six percent of new strategies of business competitors do not manage to surpass or even reach the targets of Doblin ROI Group. However, this institution is not even part of the 70 percent of senior executives that consider innovation to be their top priority. The reasoning for the massive loss of investments lies within the designer world, which can create solutions based on exploration, experimentations, and disruptive ideas, which are vastly implemented by ROI in their long-term plans (Brown & Wyatt, 2010).

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Design thinking can be scaled and applied incrementally to the already created concepts or it can be used for providing interesting solutions that respect the needs of humanity in a solely different way. Design thinking is simply attainable as an approach to development in a way that technical innovation is not. It can be utilized in various types of business ranging from the creation of new products, building new brands or redesigning the organisational process by a wide spectrum of employees (Brown & Wyatt, 2010). For example, the current founder of Safepoint, but at that time an ordinary worker, was asked to find a way to achieve reduction of blood-born illnesses transmission through syringes being reused. He could have designed a superior quality packaging or provided education of the medical staff, and this approach probably would have been successful. However, Marc Koska became famous for designing an entirely new autodistructive syringe product that is disabled automatically after a single use. This extraordinary solution gave an opportunity to reduce the amount of unsafe injections happening on a daily basis and helped Marc create his own business.

Nevertheless, the business world possesses much better examples of design thinking that prove that it is centred on innovation through the eye of the consumer and building research projects on the empathy for people.

Example 1 – Food for Children

Jerry Sternin, the organiser of the PDI (Positive Deviance Initiative), was crucially skilled in identification of aspects that were critical to the solution of local problems. His approach to social change is an outstanding example of design thinking. In 1990, Mr. Sternin and his spouse Monique were invited to Vietnam to create a model that would, in a sustainable manner, lower the elevated level of malnutrition among the young population in rural villages. Back in 1990, 65 percent of Vietnamese children were exposed to this issue, and most solutions relied solely on the UN donations and government agencies support. However, the Sternins found an alternative, which was named ‘positive deviance’ ‑ a search for solutions among the existing conditions within families and individuals of the community who were managing to avoid malnutrition.

The team conducted a poll in four local communities that asked for the examples of excessively poor families whose children, nevertheless, remained well-fed and healthy. Later, they observed the styles of cooking, food preparation, and serving behaviors of the positive deviants, and discovered specific and consistent yet rare behavior types. The parents collected tiny crabs, shrimps, and snails, and added them to the food despite the fact that it was considered dangerous for children to consume them (Brown, & Wyatt, 2010). Moreover, the families fed children with smaller portions of meals, thus allowing adequate nutrition throughout the whole day. After the positive deviants had given cooking lessons to suffering households, 80 percent of the enrolled children became healthy and well-fed.

This work is a decent example of how design thinking and positive deviance can save the government and charitable institutions millions of dollars through local expertise. Design thinkers like Jerry Sternin seek unexpected solutions – just like crabs, shrimps, and snails – then find a way to utilize those in the granted situation. Before the team, nobody considered “the edges,” where the society existed, thought, and consumed at a different level. The key to the solutions provided by the design thinkers is their relevancy to unique cultural experiences and functionality in a specific issue (Brown & Wyatt, 2010).

Example 2 – Design Thinking for Mobility

In 2012-2013, seven community businesses formed partnership and implemented design thinking to create new jobs in the field of transportation. They created a new approach to solving transit problems that their regions have encountered heavily in the past few years. The main idea was as original and unique as the institutions themselves – it included offering job opportunities for residents with the lowest wages in a suburban region, motivating high school students in rural communities towards achieving higher education after receiving decent salaries (Design Thinking for Mobility, 2014). Not only has the experiment financially developed the companies but created new jobs and linked low-wage employees with the industrial park, therefore improving the overall mobility in the regions.

The members of the first team utilized the design thinking process to improve training opportunities and access to education in their community. The business managed to create and sustain a private shuttle service for students from extremely poor areas for them to attend a week of studies in career foundation, which introduced them to the concepts of emergency response (Design Thinking for Mobility, 2014). Not only did the organization get new employees, who then received lower wages than more professional workers and developed the wealth of the firm, but it also gave young non-perspective citizens an opportunity to work, practice, and gain experience.

The second most successful team was willing to address the needs of low-income workers who travel late at night. Their idea was very similar – job opportunities for people in homeless institutions and expanded transit hours at night (Design Thinking for Mobility, 2014).

Through design thinking, the firm created affordable and reliable transportation options that served poor workers who were forced to travel long distances to their jobs. Such actions resulted in the revamp of the local transit system, a website with all the required traveling information, flex routes serving major highways and shuttles for housing complexes as well as in motivation for the other regions of the US.

Example 3 – Brilliance

Jaundice is a problem that affects thousands of newborn infants worldwide. Although the issue does not only refer to developing countries, externalities such as the levels of insufficient parental care, premature birth, and limited resources mean that children born into poor families will disproportionately suffer from inadequate treatment. The only way to help children is to use phototherapy devices. However, the standard bulbs burn out and, due to their expensiveness, are rarely replaced. The problem has been solved by D-Rev, a design thinking organization, which devised a clear solution to a complicated issue – usage of LEDs instead of CFLs (Brilliance, 2010). Once the institution developed the design, it partnered with PMS, the most developed manufacturer of medical production in India, which gave them a chance to use a strong network of distribution, be part of a trusted entity, and locate primary customers. Both companies benefitted from the cooperation in the end – with D-Rev, the sales of other Phoenix equipment rose as well. Two years later, an affordable alternative was created for medical providers across the globe. Concerning 2014, more than 800 Brilliance devices have been sold only in India with distribution in many countries including the Philippines, Africa, Nigeria, and Columbia (Brilliance, 2010). The employees of D-Rev account the influence of their devices through various metrics that grant understanding of how many infants have been treated, how many of those babies would not have been saved without Brilliance, and how many deaths were avoided with the help of the product. The numbers are indeed astonishing – over a hundred newborns have been saved due to design thinking.

Example 4 – Re-Motion

In our developing society, diseases, traumas as well as natural and human-created disasters lead to injuries of hundreds of thousands individuals that require amputations. However, not all of them can afford high-end modern prosthetics due to their prohibitive expensiveness and an average cost of thousands of dollars. Moreover, even if an amputee in an underdeveloped country possessed the required sum, he/she would most likely not be able to pay due to the lack of prosthetic clinics (Re-Motion Knee, 2014).

Cheaper versions exist, but these systems are usually built on single-axis joints, which, particularly on terrain, can become unstable, start buckling, and cause an unexpected and dangerous loss of balance.

The system designed by ReMotion is a high-performance. Despite the low-cost of the knee joint, it is still not superior in terms of mobility (Re-Motion Knee, 2014).

Although the joint is usually the most expensive part of the prosthesis, the whole construction also contains a pylon, a foot, and a socket. Only professional and trained clinicians can custom-adjust the socket for the patients’ leg to fit and the other parts to be assembled.

The ReMotion has designed a knee with the help of stainless steel and polymers, which withstands wet and humid climates without swelling or rusting. Moreover, the prosthesis is lightweight with a retail price of under 80$ and a 165-degree squatting, kneeling, and biking (Re-Motion Knee, 2014).

To remain competitive, other producers have to adjust either their policy or prices, because the solution to amputation issues achieved by D-Rev will greatly impact the global consumer demand for more expensive alternatives.

Case Studies

Although the business impact of design thinking is crucial in the modern world, the concept remains topical in public and private segments as well, bringing consumer-oriented innovations from people – to people.

Case Study 1 – Clean Team

Millions of Ghanaians do not have toilets or showers at their homes, and the number of options referring to the basic functions of the body is unbearably low. In 2012, IDEO developed a sanitation system that was claimed to be comprehensive as well as deliver and self-maintain toilets for the subscribers (Clean Team, 2012). Clean Team now serves over 10,000 people all over Ghana. In fact, the service does not only represent a toilet or a shower. The design thinking process extended it to a whole ecosystem providing uniforms, a business plan, branding, waste-removal system, etc.

Case Study 2 – Moneythink Mobile

Many teenagers in Chicago public high schools receive their first education in finance due to Moneythink – a mentoring program designed by the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, which is a voluntary-based project that teaches how to save, budget, and build credit (Moneythink Mobile, 2009).

This innovative model has vastly expanded in the past years, and to secure the implementation of ideas outside the classroom, Moneythink partnered with IDEO and created a mobile program to help students in personal decision-making. The importance of this concept lies in the creation of economically assured citizens that will be able to adequately spend their resources and benefit both themselves and the government.


Design Thinking Applied Task

Design thinking should be at the base of every plan elaboration, strategy development, and change in an organization in order to create a culture that is focused on solving problems through bringing new ideas. This incremental way of thought can be used for anything ‑ services, products, processes ‑ whatever has to be improved. The value of design thinking lies within its key concept – customer-based and related strategies. When the client is satisfied with the job done, the business flourishes reaching previously unseen heights.

There are countless examples of big successful institutions that use design thinking on a regular basis, e.g. Apple and Google. This concept, however, works with any organization – big or small. At first, it may seem hard to execute the concept at an already established firm, but the benefits of becoming “insanely great” outweigh the process of going through all the troughs.

For businesses to achieve this goal, they have to comply with a set of specific rules:

  • Center on the customer – functional groups usually create self-centered ideas, but this is not the right choice, because the yield comes with consumer appreciation.
  • Identify the problem and form solutions around it – unless the problem is defined correctly, no development can be made.
  • Create many different opportunities for solving an issue – although there may seem to be just “one right way,” there always has to be something more specific, intriguing, and effective.
  • Fine-tune selected directions – never solve a problem with the same solution, create room for group experiments.
  • Pick the winner and execute – allocate all the resources and strategize their use to achieve goals.

Key Theory Reading

Nairobi, Kenya, has developed into a hub for entrepreneurship and technology. However, most of its citizens still confront the challenges of a developing country. Only 61 percent of inhabitants have access to clean water, and 84 percent of pre-school children suffer from the deficit of vitamin A. IDEO has recently launched a prototype organization named SmartLife, which aims at offering clean water, improving hygiene, and providing medicine (Smart Life, 2014).

Although the design seems to be effective, it is just not enough to solve the problem. The facilities can indeed provide some people with service, but to have regular customers, they will be forced to maintain prices at almost zero levels, otherwise the poor citizens would go back to the polluted sources. The next negative component of SmartLife is distribution. There is no system to deliver water, and every individual in the country is not going to be able to visit the facility. In fact, they will just not attend it due to the long queues. The strategy, although will still remain unprofitable, will work only due to the creation of additional facilities throughout the city and a centralized transportation system.


The human perception of life changes perennially and so do our strategies and tactics regarding business, social, and personal life management. However, being creative is not an innovative idea. Design thinking has been used effectively throughout centuries in creating innovations without which our modern world would not have been as advanced and flourishing as it is. As seen from the completed research, this concept still remains relevant in the contemporary business society bringing elaboration and restructure to the already existing areas of medicine, transport, managing, charity, business structuring, etc.