Design Thinking

On February 24th, I had the opportunity to present my first Half Hour Huddle on the subject of “Design Thinking”. The session followed a format where I challenged the participants to solve a problem using the methodology while I guided them through the process. The result? An assortment of different and interesting ideas, that went from a Christmas Training course for people who don’t appreciate the season; a service that would allow you to travel around the world, buy the best products of each region and deliver it in a hot air balloon to a Sponge Bob Square Pants with an inside rubber pocket that allow the user to pour in some moult wine or hot coffee.

The Introduction to Design Thinking

According to Wikipedia, Design Thinking refers to creative strategies designers utilize during the process of designing. It is also an approach that can be used to consider issues and resolve problems more broadly than within professional design practice, and has been applied in business and to social issues (

In other words, Design Thinking is a methodology focused on the users’ experiences, especially their emotional ones, that create models to examine complex problems, build prototypes to explore potential solutions, test the ideas, and most importantly, tolerates failure.


The methodology follows 5 different stages:

Empathize – Create empathy with the user and start to build a connection

Define – Define a problem statement from the previous empathy work

Ideate – Brainstorm to get a lot of new ideas to solve the defined problem

Prototype – Build and make things

Test – Test the concepts created with the users


The challenge

Participate in a crash course and redesign the gift giving experience in about 40min.

For the crash course, the participants formed pairs and were told they had to redesign the gift giving experience of the partner while following the supporting material ( In other words, the interviewee had to think about the last gift he/she offered and talk about the whole experience to the interviewer.

Definition of experience: Realizing you have to buy a gift to realizing you forgot to buy a gift to thinking about what you might get to purchasing it, wrapping it and offering it to the other person.


The 9 Steps to Achieve Success


1. Interview

The challenge is to design something useful and meaningful to the partner, and the most important thing of designing for someone is to gain empathy for that person, which means, in this step, the interviewer will make questions that would allow him to create a connection and reach the emotions of the interviewee (eg. When was the last time you gave a gift? How did it go? What was your favorite part? Least favorite?)

2. Dig Deeper

After creating a connection, the interviewer will want to forget about the gift and find out what’s important for the interviewee. He will want to dig deeper and seek for emotions, stories and motivations, which is why, an excel file is not used in this methodology. (eg. If the interviewee said he offered a gift to the mother and feels emotional, the interviewer will want to explore the subject and ask him what’s going on with the mother, why did he felt the need to offer her a gift)




3. Capture Findings

The interviewer will synthesize the learnings into a few “needs” he discovered and a few “insights” he found interesting.

Needs – typically verbs, are actions the person is trying to achieve while offering a gift (eg. Show love, be appreciated, trying to feel important)

Insights – learnings from the partner’s feelings (eg. The interviewee offered a gift because he/she feels pleased to make the other person happy)

4. Define problem statement

Using the needs and insights, the interviewer will create a statement he’s going to address with the design, which means it has to be something actionable and doable (eg. Paul wants to reconnect with an old friend because he misses the adventures they spent together while they were young).



5. Sketch

The interviewer will sketch at least 5 radical ways to meet the interviewee needs. In this step, perfection is not needed and quantity should be more important than quality, since the interviewer will want to explore all the possibilities


6. Share the solutions and capture feedback

The interviewer will share the sketches with the interviewee and capture the feedback by making open questions, always having in consideration not to defend his ideas and convince him/her what is good or bad (eg. What did you think about this sketch? what do you think it went wrong? what is missing?)

7. Reflect and generate a new solution

The interviewer will incorporate what he learned based on the solutions and the feedback provided and will create one single sketch, that can be an improvement of something he had sketched previously or something completely new



8. Build your solution

Using different art and craft materials (kitchen foil, paper clips, duct tape, balloons, plasticine, post-its, …) the interviewer will prototype the solution sketched. It should be something the interviewee can engage and react to.




9. Share your solution and get feedback

The interviewer will capture the feedback provided by point down what worked, what could be improved, questions and ideas the interviewee raised while testing the solution.


The Result

At the end of the session, the participants managed to apply the methodology in what could be a very complex experience for some users. Some great and crazy ideas were generated and who knows, if the next big thing was not born on that day?

More info on Design Thinking and how companies like IBM and GE are applying it in their business, just check the following links: