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The Explorers Guide to
Design Thinking

At the core of Design Thinking is an individual, or collective, willingness to explore. Below analogies from ‘world explorers’ are used to illustrate what this means for Design Thinking.

  • To discover something new, you have to venture into the unknown.

When you are afraid to leave the known or afraid to venture into the unknown, you are unlikely to find something new.

  • Explorers look forward, towards the horizon and travel beyond.

It is not that useful to look back when you want to get ahead. The furthest of what you can see from the starting point: the horizon, is not the end of what can be explored. The journey changes your view(point).

  • The destination may be just around the corner, or the next...

From a distance you may think you have found something, but on closer inspection it was just an illusion, or the start of something else, something new. And you need to keep exploring further. This is likely to happen again and again, don't give up too easily.

  • Being open to experiences, applying creativity and inviting serendipity can take you to places you have never experienced before.


Because you do not know specifically what you are looking for, you need to keep an open mind to what you (can) encounter. Be perceptive, look around with your eyes and mind wide open, close under your nose and far on the horizon. Actively let serendipity play a role in your discoveries by deviating from the (rational and well trodden) path.

  • At any point on the journey your task is to understand in what direction to go next, without even knowing where it will lead to.


You have to try a path to know where it leads to. Be willing to track back and try another path. Keep in mind and apply what you learned from the ones taken before.

  • Record and visualize to absorb, understand and communicate your findings, your progress, as well as what you are thinking along the way, else you will learn little, will forget lots and no one will believe what you saw.


Every explorer keeps a record for themselves, and for sharing their experiences with others. Firsthand records are the most authentic. Hand-drawn visualizations carry the most information.

  • Along the way you can ask for direction(s). But because everyone is biased and they may not have actually been there either, you will need to follow your own intuition most of the time.

You are looking for something new. No-one is going to hand you this on a platter, but others may give you an indication (of what they want). But be aware that these are biased by their preferences and experiences. Your task is the 'interpret' these and go beyond the 'given' and obvious by adding your own vision. Then validate assumptions through experiments.

  • Prepare mentally, but travel light.

Navigating the unknown leaves many large uncertainties to be dealt with. Adopt an agile and resilient mindset. Adapt to the circumstances at hand. Make sure you are not tainted by presumptions or held back by past experiences (i.e. excess luggage). Sometimes it is important to leave things behind when you want to move forward.

  • If you take the opportunity, you carry the responsibilities.

Exploration may have positive as well as negative effects. Maximize the first (upside) and minimize the second (downside). Take responsibility for both. Anticipate unintended (negative) consequences of your actions, to limit their impact. You decide and are in control of every step taken.

  • The start was hard, the destination unknown and the path long & winding. But all will seem simple, obvious and straightforward in hindsight.

In hindsight, when all is known there will be others who wonder why it took you so long to get there. They are 'blinded by hindsight' to what is needed to get there.

Why is Exploration part of the Culture Foundation?

Initially one may think Exploration relates to capabilities: the capability (skills) needed for exploring. Or maybe, part of an 'explorer' mindset. In the end we settled on making Exploration part of the Culture Foundation because; yes one needs to adopt an Explorer’s mindset, and yes it requires specific capabilities, but most importantly it needs to be allowed (culturally) and... you do not do it alone.

To be able to freely explore opportunities in a corporate environment, looking for new and different opportunities, culture is often the biggest obstacle to doing this truly effectively. When one's mindset, as well as capabilities are present, effectiveness is limited mainly by not being allowed to 'speak and wander freely', which is essential to discovering different, better, and potentially more valuable opportunities.

Learn more about the Guide by clicking on the options below.

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