‘Design thinking’ broke onto the business scene in force in 2008. What had been previously confined to the design community (duh) made a larger debut in a 2008 Harvard Business Review article (subscription required); the approach has since come to define the process by which many of the largest and most influential companies on earth solve their thorniest problems.

Why design thinking?

Design thinking, at its core, obliges the organization to better solve their problems. It arms your company with the tools to think through the root causes of your challenges more deeply. It then pushes the organization toward more creative, holistic solutions to that problem, followed by underlining and bolding the solution via rigorous prototyping and iteration.

The elements and methodology are easy enough to understand, but the core competency of design thinking is its ability to elicit greater creativity and sharper insight into what your problems are, then come up with better, more fully-baked solutions to those very problems.

The challenges to design thinking

So why isn’t everyone doing this? What’s the downside? Well, to solve real world business problems at the highest level almost always requires targeted creativity. The issue with that? People are by nature not very good at harnessing creativity in this way.

In the 30,000 ft. view, the steps required for design thinking appear mundane and intuitive:

  1. Fully understand the problem
  2. Explore a wide range of possible solutions
  3. Iterate extensively through prototyping and testing
  4. Implement the solution

The issue is that steps 1-3 take a ton of work to do correctly. To explore a wide range of possible solutions typically means setting aside every preconception you bring to the table. That’s doable, but it’s really hard to actually deliver.

To fully understand the problem requires humility and dedication to nuance, listening and ignoring your intuition. Again, all doable — but counterintuitive and challenging in practice.

But when approached correctly, the steps are achievable and the results speak for themselves.

The design sprint

Design thinking is a way of approaching problems more creativity and holistically, but it can also be time intensive to get right. So, the nascent leaders of what would become Google Ventures came up with the idea to marry agile methodology to design thinking, developing they’ve termed the “design sprint”.

The design sprint aims to take what would take place over a month or a quarter and condense it down into an intense 5-day process. According to GV‘s telling:

Working together in a sprint, you can shortcut the endless-debate cycle and compress months of time into a single week. Instead of waiting to launch a minimal product to understand if an idea is any good, you’ll get clear data from a realistic prototype. The sprint gives you a superpower: You can fast-forward into the future to see your finished product and customer reactions, before making any expensive commitments


If you want to read more about what makes the design sprint such a powerful tool for any organization, check out the website above. But suffice it to say, by combining a better way of thinking about solving problems with a more regimented, results-oriented methodology can unlock huge opportunities for you and your business.