Design Thinking Approach | The Five Steps



“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we made them”

Albert Einstein

The Design Thinking Approach is a five step process of thinking that is more than often taught in business schools to help students come up with meaningful ideas to solve complex problems. This method of thinking is scientifically and psychologically proven to help solve problems with new and innovative solutions. 

Since this way of thinking is so profound, there is no reason not to apply this to our everyday life. Why should it only be reserved for business students?

Let’s break down the thinking model into its designated five steps:

1. Empathize:

Look at the problem and think of the group of people it is a problem for. This is the step to create and construct interviews to empathize and understand their situation. Think about how you want to help them. Dig deeper and ask meaningful questions.

2. Define the problem:

Create a statement that defines exactly what the problem is; a problem statement. Here is a link that teaches you to do that: 

3. Ideate: 

Come up with potential ideas to solve the problem. IdeaS. With an S. Not just one, but multiple. Keep the options open and say yes to any idea, no matter how crazy it may sound. 

4. Prototype:

You may find that your final idea might be a combination or two ideas from the previous step. Ask for feedback and reflect on it. Visualise the idea by drawing it out or make a prototype to test your idea. 

5. Test:

Test the idea, approach the group of people you are trying to find the solution for and ask for feedback. Reflect on the feedback. If it does not work then repeat the process until the solution is perfected.

How can this be applied to everyday life?

A lot of people question this thinking process’ reliability when using it in everyday life. In my opinion, it totally works! You will just need to amend some steps to fit yourself. Let me give you an example. 

Let’s pretend that my ‘problem’ is major fatigue and laziness throughout the day. I find myself yawning a lot more than usual. Now before jumping to a conclusion, I will empathize with my problem. I will gain a deeper understanding by observing myself. I will dig deeper by keeping track of the time my laziness and yawning starts. 

Once I have done that, I will define the problem, which will go something along the lines of: “My yawning and laziness throughout the day is making me less productive at work and at home. The reason for this might be because……” then I will proceed to write a list of the things that are probably making me tired. I will do this until I realise that my entire problem of being lazy and sleepy stems from snoozing my alarm in the morning. You might not believe it, but snoozing your alarm is really bad for you, and here is why: 

Now that I know what to work on, so I will ideate by coming up with multiple solutions for this problem:

  • Don’t snooze the alarm, if I want to wake up a little later then just set the alarm for later instead of snoozing it a million times because it interferes with sleep patterns making me sleepy. 
  • Don’t check my phone first thing in the morning
  • Sleep early

Now I will make the “prototype”. Since my problem is not a business problem, I don’t really have to make a prototype. I can simply find a solution, and if you remember from the previous breakdown, my final solution can more than likely be a merge of two different solutions I thought about in the ideate section. For me personally, I don’t think that my problem has anything to do with sleeping late. The latest I sleep is at 12, which gives me more than 8 hours of sleep everyday. So now that that’s gone, it leaves me with no snoozing the alarm and not to check my phone. 

Last on the thinking model is test. I will now test my solution to see if it fixes my problem. If not then I will repeat the entire process of the thinking model until it solves my problem. 

By using the design thinking approach, you can look at the problem from a different perspective and it allows you to determine the problem’s solution by eradicating the root cause. You can redefine the problem and come up with creative and innovative solutions to fight the problem.

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