Design Thinking

It’s no longer enough simply to outperform the competition; to thrive in a world of ceaseless and rapid change, business people have to out-imagine the competition as well. They must begin to think-to become-more like designers.

Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management

We're not trying to create jargon, though for the moment, design thinking best describes a specific approach to innovation. It is an approach largely ignored by business professionals, educators, and even many designers. It isn't the exclusive realm of designers but a necessary skill that anyone can and should learn to achieve successful innovation.

Design thinking starts with empathy. The major context for any innovation effort is understanding the needs of your user. This is typically done through direct observation. Instead of listening to what people say, you observe what they are actually doing. This develops a point-of-view and begins to provide inspiration for generating ideas.

Design thinking is multidisciplinary and collaborative. Though there are certainly specialists of design practice, design thinking applies multiple lenses to a problem. Design projects are typically team-based. Design thinking synthesises information across multiple disciplines and isn't the realm of a single specialist.

Design thinking is iterative and visual. At some point prototyping becomes design practice and the realm of professionals, though rapid prototyping plays an important role within design thinking. Visualising ideas takes them from concepts that could mean different things to different people. Creating even a crude prototype makes an idea tangible and allows you to get feedback on an actual thing in order to revise and refine with a user-centered process.

Ideas are powerful things. Good ideas can make an organisation. Bad ideas can break one. Design thinking is the process that provides context for your innovation efforts. Typically you will engage a diverse team in order to gain more diverse insights. Also, you will develop opportunities that are specific to your users, your market and your organisation. This is how design thinking enables more successful innovation.

Design thinking often begins by simply identifying a problem and seeing an opportunity. Hate something. Change something.

I have always thought design was 98% common sense and 2% aesthetics. It's the same for business except the magic ingredient is vision. Design and business are totally interlinked and one cannot run one without the other.

Sir Terence Conran


Why is design important? Our research shows Irish companies that value design innovate more often. Not only that, but Irish companies that value design innovate more successfully. And those companies that integrate design more strategically within their organisations experience greater demand for their goods and services.


What is design innovation? Many people are describing the same thing by different names and we want to create a common language around design innovation, thinking and practice.


This isn’t rocket science but it is the next ‘big thing’. Understanding your users provides context for your innovation efforts and leads to greater success in the marketplace. Our practical programmes can help make you more competitive.


We are here to help. There is also a broader network of support for you and your organisation. And if you’re still not convinced of design’s impact on innovation, see how other individuals, organisations and countries are competing through design.