This blog by Human Design and Innovation Consulting explains design thinking, it’s four principles and five phases in detail. Questions answered include: What is the importance of design thinking in your business? What is its impact on your branding and market positioning?

What is the importance of design thinking?

In this paragraph, you will learn about what is the importance of design thinking. What can you as a business or corporate leader do to ensure 10X growth, increased revenue, and profitability in your organization? How to motivate and retain employees, and enhance the customer experience Is there anything that can establish a culture of innovation and digital transformation to bring the best products and services to your niche market?

Will you agree if I tell you that all the scenarios discussed above can be made possible by introducing just one change in the way your organization thinks, plans, and executes? Yes, design thinking is in. According to Harvard Business Review, the social technology called “design thinking” has the potential to do for innovation now, what TQM (Total Quality Management) did for manufacturing in the 1980s.

According to a 2021 article in Forbes magazine, the future of business rests with customer-centric leaders. If the pandemic taught us anything, it is the importance of customer-centricity in business. This means putting your clients at the core of your business. This focus on customer centricity has brought monumental success in world-class companies like Apple, McDonald’s, Adidas, and Ikea. The same focus in a mid-sized or start-up organization too can transform it into a market leader in its segment.

Customer centricity is the core of design thinking. Design thinking is the latest among business methodologies like Six Sigma, Lean Start-up, and Agile. Let us understand what design thinking is.

What is design thinking?

The dictionary defines design as “purpose or planning that exists behind an action, fact or object”. At the very basic level, design thinking is a solution-focused problem-solving approach. Designers traditionally use this by generating a large number of solutions and eliminating those which did not work. Design thinking provides innovative solutions to complex problems (or “wicked problems”, as they are often called) and redefines customer experience by bringing change in the way an organization thinks and plans.  

Do you know who the first person was to mention design as a science or way of thinking? He was Nobel-Prize-winning computer scientist Herbert A. Simon, who wrote about it in his 1969 book Sciences of the Artificial.

According to Tim Brown of IDEO, “Design Thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.” Design thinking is based on human-centered design and innovation that emphasizes empathy so that its problem-solving is based on the needs of the customer or end-user. It is a creative problem-solving toolkit that prioritizes customers’ needs and aspirations above everything else.

Let us understand the four principles and the five phases of design thinking.

The four principles on which design thinking is based

Hasso Plattner, Christoph Meinel, and Larry Leifer, in their book Design Thinking—Understand–Improve–Apply, identified four rules of what is the importance of design thinking. These are often regarded as the four principles on which design thinking is based. Here are these four principles:

  • The Human Rule

It says that “design is social in nature”. Problems must be solved in a way that satisfies human needs. Problem-solving must acknowledge the human element in all technologies.

  • The Ambiguity Rule

It states that “ambiguity is inevitable”. Since the presence of ambiguity is acknowledged, the problem-solvers are allowed to experiment at the limits of their knowledge, the limits of their ability to control events, and the freedom to see things in a different light.

  • The Redesign Rule

This rule says that “all design is redesigned”. This rule acknowledges the existence of designs in the past. It promotes an understanding of how human needs were met in earlier times, allowing technology and social circumstances to evolve constantly.

  • The Tangibility Rule

Making ideas tangible is a powerful tool for communication, creativity, and problem-solving. It helps us to better understand and share our ideas, and to develop solutions to complex problems.

The five phases that comprise design thinking

The design thinking process is a non-linear, iterative approach to problem-solving that focuses on understanding the needs of the user and developing creative solutions to those needs.

The five most common stages of the design thinking process are:

  1. Empathize: Understand the user’s needs and experiences.
  2. Define: Identify the problem or opportunity.
  3. Ideate: Generate creative solutions to the problem.
  4. Prototype: Build and test prototypes of the solutions.
  5. Test: Get feedback from users and refine the solutions.

The sixth stage, Implement, is often added to the process once the final product is completed. This stage involves launching the product and making it available to users.

Importance of design thinking

Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that helps businesses understand their customers’ needs and develop solutions that are both desirable and feasible.

Design thinking has a number of advantages for businesses, including:

  • Clarity: Design thinking helps businesses to clarify their business goals and identify the problems that need to be solved for their customers.
  • Future readiness: Design thinking can help businesses to develop a vision for the future and create a roadmap to achieve it.
  • Competitive advantage: Design thinking can help businesses to create bespoke, best-in-class products and services that are more practical, user-friendly, and immersive than their competitors.
  • Team collaboration and innovation: Design thinking is a collaborative process that encourages team members to think outside the box and come up with innovative solutions.
  • Better sales interactions: Design thinking helps businesses to develop a deeper understanding of their customers, which can lead to better sales interactions.
  • Effective product launches: Design thinking can help businesses to launch new products and services that are more likely to be successful because they have been developed with the customer in mind.

Overall, design thinking is a powerful tool that can help businesses to innovate and stay ahead of the competition.

Design thinking vs other approaches

The solution-based, human-centered, and qualitative-insight approach of design thinking is in sharp contrast with problem-based approaches such as Six Sigma, Lean Start-up, and Agile.

importance and advantages of Incorporating Design Thinking

While all the other approaches have relevance in different setups, design thinking seems particularly more pragmatic. From the diagram above, you can see that though design thinking emphasizes the importance of understanding human challenges and needs through deep empathy and qualitative insight, it is not too rigid in its processes and leaves enough room for human creativity to stay alive. The other methodologies have a high process and quantitative data focus.

Design thinking focuses on personalization. Companies like Spotify, Amazon, and Netflix are known for their emphasis on hyper-personalization for their customers. Design thinking is the future.

This concludes my article on the six advantages of design thinking. If you have any queries or suggestions, do share your thoughts in the form of comments.

About the author –

A Haryanvi by origin, an entrepreneur at heart, and a consultant by choice, that’s how Ajay likes to introduce himself! Ajay is the Founding Partner at Humane Design and Innovation Consulting (HDI). Before starting HDI, Ajay founded the Design Thinking and Innovation practice at KPMG India. His 16+ years of professional career spans across various roles in product and service design, conducting strategy workshops, storytelling, and enabling an innovation culture. He has coached 50+ organizations and 2000+ professionals in institutionalizing design and innovation practices. He loves to blog and speak on topics related to Design Thinking, Innovation, Creativity, Storytelling, Customer Experience, and Entrepreneurship. Ajay is passionate about learning, writing poems, and visualizing future trends!

We at Humane Design strongly believe in the human ethos and draw inspiration from humans and other elements of nature to design innovative solutions for organizations of all sizes. We will be glad to be your success partner. Email us your requirements at

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