When should I apply it?

When should I apply it?


Where to start and which tools to use

Reading Time

4 mins

When is Design Thinking the right approach?

If you need a new, better, transformative solution then using Design Thinking is the right approach

The Design Thinking mindset can be applied to almost any challenge. Whether you use simple everyday methods to improve general collaboration & decision-making, or more structured innovation workshops for complex problems... anyone can start to apply Design Thinking right away! Read more about what Design Thinking is here.

Design Thinking is especially valuable if your challenge has:

  • Complexity
  • Risk
  • Uncertainty
  • Urgency

When is the best time to start using Design Thinking?

Design Thinking is a mindset and a way of thinking, so it's never too early (or too late!) to understand more about the mindset. It's especially useful to apply the Design Thinking mindset at the beginning of a challenge.

However, it's not a linear process, and there are practical, applicable methods that can be applied to specific problems and situations. And you can start applying, even if you're in the middle of a project or challenge.

This 2-min video by the Smith School of Business gives a great explanation of when to apply Design Thinking:

When is it NOT right?

The approach is VERY versatile, scalable, and customizable to your needs. So the principles and methods can truly be applied in many situations.

Design Thinking is less applicable for initiatives that tackle problems which:

  • do not need creative alternatives
  • lack a human component
  • are tightly defined
  • have a specific solution in mind (e.g. upgrade hardware to optimize air flow exhaust on an internal combustion engine)

Where to start?

Because the design approach is so versatile and iterative, it's more important to get started - than it is to get it "right". By gaining empathy, creating ideas, and acting on them to inspire other stakeholders you'll make progress.

We like to start by drafting an initial vision and goals (your why/objective) and a "Payoff" (outcome/deliverable desired). From there you can choose the practical strategies and tools to take action.

More practical tools and activities are listed below ↓

Want more? Practical methods for specific problems:

At the start of an initiative

Identifying problems worth solving

Finding creative solutions

Taking action