How does design thinking work in practice? Why do highly successful companies like Apple, Facebook, Amazon, IBM and Google innovate continuously? Its because of their culture of design thinking. Design thinking links inspiration, passion, and drive to execution and delivery.

Design thinking helps people deeply understand problems and allows them to  think like designers to solve problems by understanding their stakeholders to create radical and innovative solutions built based on the values of their stakeholders. This allows them to create solutions that people love and care about both emotionally and intellectually.

The typical stages in the design thinking methodology are ideation, discovery, problem framing and rapid prototyping. This methodology is specifically designed to generate an idea and carry it through to the prototyping stage within a short period of time. A process not only used by the stanford design school but also by Harvard Innovation that teaches one how to move a product idea or service from being just an idea stage through to the testing stage of a product or service allowing one to engage with real customers or users in a way that allows one to draw meaningful responses and feedback to improve or pivot their idea to better serve them.

Ideation stage is the phase where teams generate a large number of ideas and solutions through practical sessions such as brainstorming, sketching, mind mapping, and role playing among other methods and then narrow them down to only the most practical and ideas.

The discovery and problem framing phase builds the foundation for new ideas. It allows teams to engage their clients, customers and community members in a way that allows teams to think about the problem from the user’s perspective which allows the teams to not only engage and involve users in the design process, but also to place themselves in their user's shoes to observe their experiences and how they view and relate to the world with the goal of revealing the real pain points that will allow them to design more meaning solutions.  

The rapid prototyping phase is the building phase where teams speedily build something that users can interact with and is a working model that is normally used to evaluate design before it is manufactured in larger quantities.

There are a range of prototyping processes ranging from building physical complicated shapes with 3D printers, building simple sketches and visuals describing in detail how a system should behave and look to building interactive simulations. The rapid prototyping process allows one to validate design by allowing it to interact with users , and generate feedback early in the process so as to improve the final design.

The hands-on approach to creation and innovation that design thinking provides helps in understanding and improving the world around us, and by supporting and empowering diverse and multi-disciplinary teams (such as those in the Student Research Fair) that treat every solution as unfinished and waiting to be improved.

We are in turn empowering ourselves as a community and building ourselves as a nation of creative problem solvers and skilled builders.