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Purpose of the Guide

Popular Design Thinking methods describe steps and activities, for example: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. Some present a sequence of different types of activities: research, analyze, synthesize, and realize. All come with the indication that the process is iterative: the step-sequence is repeatedly applied. Many online resources are available to guide applicants through these steps.


With these so-called phase-models one can walk through a process like a designer, but it takes a bit more to think and act as one, and to make it work effectively in different situations.


Phase-models help us understand a typical Design Thinking process, but they do not explain the foundations needed to create a custom process that is not only effective but also efficient for each unique task at hand. The danger is that the application of phase-models results in a repeated, standard (Design Thinking) process and superficial application of its methods.


In particular, these phase-models lack engagement with the right mindset and avoid creating a work environment (culture) in which participants can truly contribute what they have to offer, and in which the outcomes will last outside the dedicated sessions. And although participants get a taste of what Design Thinking could be, it can result in lackluster outcomes and disappointed participants.


Thinking like a designer requires one to adopt a certain attitude (Mindset), acting as one requires one to learn and develop the mental skills (Capabilities), and an environment (Culture) is needed which supports the effective application of the mindset and the capabilities.


The right mindset, culture and capabilities are the 3 Foundations for efficient and effective Design Thinking. In addition, an understanding of the Design Thinking Process and the Artifacts encountered in this process are needed.


This guide presents 8 key elements in each of the 3 Foundations, 8 elements in the Process section, and 12 elements in the Artifacts section of this guide.

The 3 Foundations (Mindset, Culture and Capabilities) reference page provides the elements of each foundation that are needed to explore a complex environment and discover and test new possibilities and opportunities.


The Process section does not prescribe a process, unlike the phase-models, but describes the characteristics of what makes for a good Design Thinking process, to be able to create a custom process for the unique situation and the tasks at hand.


The Artifacts section provides an understanding of the artifacts encountered in a Design Thinking process. Through a joint understanding of artifacts among the participants, and by placing the artifacts in the context of the process enables them to maintain a clear and shared understanding of the stage a process and its artifacts are in, and to not get overwhelmed by the inherent uncertainties.


And although some of these elements are not easy to learn and implement, or change in traditional organizations, they are well worth adopting in order to: get on top of our challenges, to keep up with changes imposed on us, and... to get ahead.

The purpose of this guide is to clarify the foundations and understanding needed to go beyond the obvious, established paradigms and instead question these, to experiment and to explore the unknowns, and to discover something new.


Explore what you need to know to make Design Thinking effective and efficient on the Reference Pages. Use the links below or on the header of each page.

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