How to introduce design thinking into your organization

4 min read
Emily Esposito
  •  Apr 23, 2018
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From Apple to Google, Samsung to IBM, some of the world’s top brands are using design thinking to drive innovation and results.

Design thinking is a human-centric, iterative process to understand the user, challenge assumptions, and redefine problems. It’s made up of five core phases: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test.

While more and more organizations are recognizing the power of design thinking, it naturally raises the question: how can you best introduce this mindset into a new environment?

Here are a few ways to champion design thinking in your company:

1. Start small

Design thinking isn’t something you can magically embed across your company in an afternoon. It will take time to first teach others about the mindset and then practice executing each of the five phases.

So start small. Create small experiments that allow your team to practice gathering data, testing frequently, and iterating quickly. Perhaps you set aside time each week to work on these skills, or start with a small part of your business and grow over time.

2. Identify early adopters and evangelists

As with the introduction of any new process or skill, there will always be people who naturally excel from the beginning. Some people may have had prior experience with design thinking or are especially motivated to take the time to learn.

Make sure to leverage these early adopters to create a network of supporters. These employees can act as evangelists for design thinking, championing the concept in meetings and projects across departments, and also helping to coach other employees along the way.

3. Avoid silos by department or team

Design thinking is multi-disciplinary and co-creative. It works best when it includes people who bring different perspectives and expertise to the table.

Whether you’re holding a workshop to teach your organization about design thinking or starting off with a small project to gain hands-on experience, make sure your design groups include people from across departments and disciplines.

4. Understand that design thinking is a fluid process

Design thinking is non-linear. The five phases don’t have to follow a specific order and they can occur in parallel. When introducing design thinking in the early stages, don’t try to apply the end-to-end process, from empathy to test, to every problem.

Related: The 7 qualities of design-thinking leaders

Ensure that design thinking is applied in a way that makes the most sense for your problem. For example, you may start with testing and find that it creates new ideas for your project.

5. Identify how you will measure success

How will you measure and communicate the success of design thinking? When you’re spending so much time and effort to introduce the process to your team, make sure you have a way to track progress. You could track the number of projects that apply design thinking. Or, conduct surveys to measure the impact that design thinking has on employee satisfaction.

Boost innovation with design thinking

Just like with any change, it will take time to fully embed design thinking into your organization. You will have to test new ways to engage and motivate your teammates, and iterate as time goes on. But with benefits like increased efficiency and collaboration, it’s worth it.

For more on design thinking, check out the Design Thinking Handbook at

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