Design Thinking Question

Week 3: Brown, T (2008) Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review

Thomas Edison

  • Thomas Edison created the electric lightbulb and then wrapped an entire industry around it.
  • Edison's genius lay in his ability to conceive of a fully developed marketplace, not simply a discrete device.
  • He was able to envision how people would want to use what he made, and he engineered toward that insight.
  • Gave great consideration to users' needs and preferences.
  • Edison's approach was an early example of 'design thinking' - a methodology that imbues the full spectrum of innovation activities with a human-centred design ethos.
  • Innovation is powered by thorough understanding, through direct observation, of what people want and need in their lives and what they like or dislike about the way particular products are made, packaged, marketed, sold and supported.
  • Many people believe that Edison's greatest invention was the modern R&D laboratory and methods of experimental investigation.
  • Edison was not a narrowly specialised scientist but a broad generalist with a shrewd business sense.
  • In his Menlo Park, New Jersey, laboratory he surrounded himself with gifted thinkers, improvisers, and experimenters.
  • He broke the mould of the 'lone genius inventor' by creating a team-based approach to innovation.
  • Process featured endless rounds of trial and error - the '99% perspiration' in Edison's famous definition of genius.
  • His approach was intended not to validate preconceived hypotheses but to held experimenters learn something new from each iterative stab.
  • Innovation is hard work; Edison made it a profession that blended art, craft, science, business savvy, and an astute understanding of customers and markets.

Design thinking

  • Design thinking is a lineal descendant of that tradition.
  • It is a discipline that uses the designer's sensibility and methods to match people's needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity.
  • Often entails a great deal of perspiration.
  • Leaders not look to innovation as a main source principle source of differentiation and competitive advantage; they would do well to incorporate design thinking into all phases of the process.

Getting beneath the surface

  • Historically, design has been treated as a downstream step in the development process - the point where designers, who have played no earlier role in the substantive work of innovation, come along and put a beautiful wrapper around the idea.
  • To be sure, this approach has stimulated market growth in many areas by making new products and technologies aesthetically attractive and therefore more desirable to consumers or by enhancing brand perception through smart, evocative advertising and communication strategies.
  • Rather than asking designers to make an already developed idea more attractive to consumers, companies are asking them to create ideas that better meet customers' needs and desires. - strategic and leads to dramatic new forms of value.
  • As economies in the developed world shift from industrial manufacturing to knowledge work and service delivery, innovation's terrain is expanding.
  • Its objectives are no longer just physical products; they are new sorts of processes, services, IT-powered interactions, entertainments, and ways of communicating and collaborating - the kinds of human-centred activities in which design thinking can make a decisive difference.
  • Businesses in the service sector can often make significant innovations on the frontlines of service creation and delivery. - contributing new ideas.

A Design thinker's personality profile

  • Many people outside professional design have a natural aptitude for design thinking, which the right development and experiences can unlock.
  • Prototypes should only command as much time, effort and investment as are needed to generate useful feedback and evolve an idea. The more 'finished' a prototype seems, the less likely its creators will be to pay attention to and profit from feedback. Goal of prototyping is not to finish but to learn about the strengths and weaknesses of the idea and to identify new directions that further prototypes might take.

Characteristics to look for in design thinkers

  • Empathy: they can imagine the world from multiple perspectives. By taking a 'people first' approach, design thinkers can imagine solutions that are inherently desirable and meet explicit or latent needs. Great design thinkers can notice things that others do not and use their insights to inspire innovation.
  • Integrative thinking: they not only rely on analytical processes (those that produce either/or choices) but also exhibit the ability to see all of the salient - and sometimes contradictory - aspects of a confounding problem and create novel solutions that go beyond and dramatically improve on existing alternatives.
  • Optimism: they assume that no matter how challenging the constraints of a given problem, at least one potential solution is better than the existing alternatives.
  • Experimentalism: Design thinkers pose questions and explore constraints in creative ways that proceed in entirely new directions.
  • Collaboration: The increasing complexity of products, services, and experiences has replaced the myth of the lone creative genius with the reality of enthusiastic interdisciplinary collaborator.

How design thinking happens

  • Hard work augmented by a creative human-centred discovery process and followed by iterative cycles of prototyping, testing and refinement.
  • Design process: described metaphorically as a system of spaces rather than a predefined series of orderly steps. The spaces demarcate different sorts of related activities that together form the continuum of innovation.
  • Design projects must pass through 3 spaces:
  1. Inspiration
  2. Ideation
  3. Implementation
  • Projects will loop back through these spaces - particularly the first two - more than once as ideas are refines and new directions taken.
  • Sometimes the trigger for a project is leadership's recognition of serious change in business fortunes.

Taking a systems view

  • Many of the world's most successful brands create breakthrough ideas that are inspired by a deep understanding of consumers' lives and use the principles of design to innovate and build value.
  • Sometimes innovation has to account for vast differences in cultural and socioeconomic conditions. In such cases, design thinking can suggest creative alternatives to the assumptions made in developed societies.

How to make design thinking part of the innovation drill

  • Involve design thinkers at the start of the innovation processes, before any direction has been set.
  • Design thinkers will help you explore more ideas more quickly than you could otherwise.
  • Take a human-centred approach: along with business and technology considerations, innovations should factor in human behaviour, needs and preferences. Human-centred design thinking - especially when it includes research based on direct observation - will capture unexpected insights and produce innovation that more precisely reflects what consumers want.
  • Try early and often: create an expectation of rapid experimentation and prototyping. Encourage teams to create a prototype in the first week of a project. Measure progress with a metric such as average time to first prototype or number of consumers exposed to prototypes during the life of a program.
  • Seek outside help: expand the innovation ecosystem by looking for opportunities to co-create with consumers and customers. Exploit Web 2.0 networks to enlarge the effective scale of your innovation team.

Lecture: Understanding a problem for business innovation

“Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer — that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

— Steve Jobs

  • Why does an organisation exist - achieving competitive advantage

Competitive advantage and Pepsi - a role for design thinking

  • Is your design approach giving Pepsi competitive advantage?

We have to do two things as a company: Keep our top line growing in the mid single digits, and grow our bottom line faster than the top. Line extensions keep the base growing. And then we’re always looking for hero products—the two or three big products that will drive the top line significantly in a particular country or segment. Mountain Dew Kickstart is one of those. It’s a completely different product: higher juice content, fewer calories, new flavors. We thought about this innovation differently. In the past we just would have created new flavors of Mountain Dew. But Kickstart comes in a slim can and doesn’t look or taste like the old Mountain Dew. It’s bringing new users into the franchise: women who say, “Hey, this is an 80 calorie product with juice in a package I can walk around with.

Innovation begins with a problem and asking questions

  • HBR: What problem were you trying to solve by making PepsiCo more design-driven?

Nooyi: As CEO, I visit a market every week to see what we look like on the shelves. I always ask myself—not as a CEO but as a mom—“What products really speak to me?” The shelves just seem more and more cluttered, so I thought we had to rethink our innovation process and design experiences for our consumers—from conception to what’s on the shelf.

Your design thinking journey and its mainstream business context

  • What is?
  • What if?
  • What wows?
  • What works?

Design thinking learning outcomes

  • Something more than aesthetics
  • Failure is actually ok.

Design thinking is …

  • Using a designer’s sensibility and methods to match people’s needs with what is technologically feasible and what a viable business strategy can convert into customer value and market opportunity (Logue, 2013)
  • “When it comes to innovation, business has much to learn from design. The philosophy in design shops is, ‘try it, prototype it, and improve it’.” (Roger Martin, Dean of the Rotman School of Management)
  • Response to a problem …

Established business and design thinking

  • A recognition of complexity
  • Why does complexity impact on business?
  • The experience of IBM


Brown (2008) – Steps in the process

How did you begin to drive that change?

First, I gave each of my direct reports an empty photo album and a camera. I asked them to take pictures of anything they thought represented good design.

What did you get back from them?

After six weeks, only a few people returned the albums. Some had their wives take pictures. Many did nothing at all. They didn’t know what design was. Every time I tried to talk about design within the company, people would refer to packaging: “Should we go to a different blue?” It was like putting lipstick on a pig, as opposed to redesigning the pig itself. I realized we needed to bring a designer into the company.

Transformational innovations and human needs

I don’t know if consumers know what they want. But we can learn from them. Let’s take SunChips. The original size was one inch by one inch. When you’d bite into a chip, it would break into pieces. In focus groups consumers told us they went to another product because it was bite-size. We had to conclude that SunChips were too damn big. I don’t care if our mold can only cut one inch by one inch. We don’t sell products based on the manufacturing we have, but on how our target consumers can fall in love with them.

The design thinking process



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