What's Design-Thinking?

A concept taken from the Art industry related to innovative design, Design-Thinking as a process model builds on both your cognitive and creative thinking skills.

What is it not? This process model is not a course of action which magically motivates employees and then enables them to work harder. Instead I have found this process model thrives on individual motivations, while continually exploring folks' passions through alternate perspectives.


You should start with very basic, yet impactful questions such as "In life, what are you most passionate about?" or "If you could change one thing to improve your life, what would it be?" Next, you want to be objective and investigate the findings with a second screening of questions. Try to correlate deeper emotions to the concerns or interests expressed.

Proceed with empathy, scrunity can destroy one's imagination or creation development. Before you allow doubt to hinder this brainstorming, you should put your designs to drawing. If you can sketch for a game of pictionary then you are more than qualified.

You will design five separate concepts, and then those same sketches will define the actual prototype construction. Using simple tools, you will construct what it is you want to create. This step includes conveying the emotions associated with your secondary questions.

For example, if I were passionate about desserts then I might associate happiness to a certain experience involving desserts. You may decide to expand on that, nonetheless take some time to evaluate the prototypes being created. If you had to pitch these sketches, do the prototypes represent what you want? If not, why? Use the objective data to modify your prototype or even inspire a completely new design.

The intentions of the ideation phase are to 'rethink change'. Accordingly, if I were told to find five new ways to use something that I have seen a thousand times, the chances are high that my complacency around the issue may hinder necessary innovation.

The Design-Thinking process model can be performed individually, yet I prefer a team setting because a partner can quickly produce five very separate sketches. Remember to keep a good working tempo. The more time spent in each phase of the design, the easier it is for doubt and second-guessing to occur.

Here is a secret that I found extremely helpful to avoid distractions during this process. First, you should focus on what is really important to you. When you look back on your life, what will really matter? Consider this deeply and write out what is most important to you.

In this instance, brainstorming and braindumping are synonymous. For this reason, I urge you take everything in your head onto paper, share it and allow this process to evolve and shape into what you really want to bring forward. One person's perception is another person's inspiration.

As you write those feelings down, notice how distractions interfere your creative space. This is normal because you are still working within what I call your 'head-think' space versus your 'heart-speak' space. To receive the best possible experience, I encourage you to focus those distractions.

At the root of most matters, people desire to work from their 'heart-speak' space. When you create freely from your 'heart-speak' space start noticing how distractions filter themselves almost automatically.

My recent experience with Design-Thinking came from a Young Nonprofit Professionals Network (YNPN) presentation held last week in San Francisco. I had the pleasure of teaming up with another attendee named Kat. She and I were eager to see how the YNPN's process model would take shape. Quite honestly, I wanted a fresh perspective due to a previous lack luster experience using Design-Thinking in a more professional setting.

Photo by Gitanjali Rawat

Kat and I began our reciprocal interviews, second screenings, sketches and then prototype construction. What was fascinating about this exchange was the ease of communication.

It seemed that focusing our designs around a particular personal goal, allowed each of us to create freely. In discussion, the contrast to work related goals versus design-thinking seemed to be the perception of set limitations. It can be difficult to think outside of the cultural realm created at work.

When we are externally distracted, then our internal suffers. For me, the secret revealed that night was how cathartic it could be to truly serve my purpose, through creative design.

[YNPNsfba Design-thinking event photo by Gitanjali Rawat] 


Angela_H.pngGuest Blog by
Angela Harris, 
Founder & Member Engagement Advisor of Change Aim

Angela brings an extensive amount of years experience in all aspects of organizational development, including strategic planning, change management, member engagement, meeting facilitation, leadership development, team development, communication, process improvement, customer service, and cross-sectional retreats.

Angela has worked as an external consultant/trainer with experience in both the public and private sector.