An introduction to Design Thinking

An introduction to Design Thinking

At kipleX, we embrace design thinking as it cultivates our ability to problem solve creatively and innovate through a human-centered approach.  

Design thinking is an iterative process through which we seek to understand the user, challenge assumptions, and redefine problems to identify alternative strategies and solutions that might not be instantly apparent with our initial level of understanding. At the same time, design thinking provides a solution-based approach to solving problems. It is a way of thinking as well as a collection of hands-on methods that improves the way we work.

Design thinking revolves around a deep interest in developing an understanding of the people for whom we’re designing  products or services for. It helps us observe and develop empathy for the target user. Design thinking helps us through the process of questioning: questioning the problem, questioning the assumptions, and questioning the implications.  

Design thinking is extremely useful in tackling problems that are ill-defined or unknown, by re-framing the problem in human-centric ways, creating  ideas through brainstorming sessions, and adopting a hands-on approach in prototyping and testing. Design thinking also involves ongoing experimentation: sketching, prototyping, testing, and trying out concepts and ideas.

Why is Design Thinking Beneficial for You?

Image 1: Some of the many benefits of design thinking for your team and your organization

Design thinking can help your team AND organization:

  • Better understand the unmet needs of the people you’re creating for (customers, clients, students, and users).
  • Reduce the risk associated with launching new ideas, products, and services.
  • Generate solutions that are revolutionary, not just incremental.
  • Learn and iterate faster.

Design Thinking Applications:

Design thinking is applicable no matter your role or industry. Whether you work in business, government, education, or nonprofit, design thinking can help you develop innovative solutions based on the needs of your customers.  

What are the 5 steps of the Design Thinking process?

When considering the five steps of design thinking, it’s important to remember that it’s not a linear process. Although we talk about the process in terms of sequential steps, it’s actually a highly iterative loop. With each phase, you’ll make new discoveries which may require you to revisit the previous stages.

With that in mind, let’s consider the five key stages of the design thinking process in more detail.

Image 2: The 5 steps of the design thinking process


The design thinking process starts with empathy. In order to create meaningful products and services, you need to understand who your users are and what they need. What are their expectations in relation to the product you’re designing? What challenges and pain-points do they face within this context?

During the empathise phase, you’ll spend time observing and engaging with real users (or people who represent your target group) - conducting interviews, seeing how they interact with an existing product and generally paying attention to facial expressions and body language.

As the first step in the design thinking process, the empathise phase encourages you to set your assumptions aside. Armed with first-hand insights, you’ll be able to design with real users in mind. That’s what design thinking is all about!


In the second stage of the design thinking process, you’ll define the user problem that you want to solve. First, you’ll gather all of your findings from the empathise phase and start piecing them together. What common themes and patterns do you observe? What user needs and challenges consistently came up?

Once you’ve synthesised your findings, you’ll formulate what’s known as a problem statement. A problem statement – sometimes called a point of view (POV) statement – outlines the issue or challenge that you will seek to address. Bear in mind that a POV statement will only highlights one of the many possible approachs to solving a problem.  

As with anything in the design thinking process, the problem statement keeps the user in focus. Rather than framing your problem statement as a business goal - “We need the entire team to be properly aligned in all marketing campaigns in order to achieve our sales target of RM100,000.” you’ll frame it from the user’s perspective: “Help Irwin to have full visibility of all stages of the marketing campaign so that he can achieve seamless communication with his working team”  


The third stage in the design thinking process consists of ideation – or generating ideas. By this point, you know who your target users are and what they want from your product. You also have a clear problem statement that you’re hoping to solve. Now it’s time to come up with possible solutions.

The ideation phase is a judgement-free zone where the group is encouraged to venture away from the norm, to explore new angles, and to think outside the box. You’ll hold ideation sessions in order to generate as many ideas as possible - regardless of whether or not they’re feasible! For maximum creativity, ideation sessions are often held in unusual locations.

Throughout this stage of the design thinking process, you’ll continuously refer back to your problem statement. As you prepare to move on to the next phase, you’ll narrow it down to a few ideas which you’ll later turn into prototypes to be tested on real users.


In the fourth stage of the design thinking process, you’ll turn your ideas from stage three into prototypes. A prototype is essentially a scaled-down version of a product or feature – be it a simple paper model or a more interactive digital representation.

The aim of the prototyping stage is to turn ideas into something tangible which can be tested on real users. This is crucial in maintaining a user-centric approach, allowing you to gather feedback before you go ahead and develop the actual product. This ensures that the final design is truly capable of solving the user’s problem and is a delight to use!


The fifth step in the design thinking process is dedicated to testing: putting your prototypes in front of real users and seeing how they get on. During the testing phase, you’ll observe your target users – or representative users – as they interact with your prototype. You’ll also gather feedback on how your users felt throughout the process.

The testing phase will quickly highlight any design flaws that need to be addressed. Based on what you learn through user testing, you’ll go back and make improvements. Remember: The design thinking process is iterative and non-linear. The results of the testing phase will often require you to revisit the empathize stage or run through a few more ideation sessions before you create that winning prototype.

Here is a case study of how design thinking works in practice by helping a supermarket chain to innovate using the human-focused approach to solving problems and finding viable business solutions to address customer needs.

This article was prepared by Viveetha Selvarajah and Tan Shu Hiong

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