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5 Reasons Design Thinking Beats AI and Chatgpt in the Future of Work

Technology fangirl

I've been a technology fangirl for a long time—an early tech adopter from way back. I rushed to the store to buy the new Palm Pilot with Stylus before anyone could order online. You know when mail was delivered by pony express and not the Amazon truck? Perhaps not that bad, but yeah. It's been a while. And I wasn't just an early adopter; I was an early dependent on technology. When everyone was still into "paper back up," I was like no worries - it's saved. Which almost cost me my job in college when our team didn't get our paychecks. Oopsie. 🤦🏼‍♀️ But I digress. The point being I love technology and have for a long time. So the possibility of AI and Chatgpt has this fangirl's heart all a flutter. 🥰

However, if there is one thing that trumps technology in my world, it's humans. I've been intrigued with the study of humans as long as I have with technology. And likely put in 10X the study time. And that's why I love what I do as a design thinking consultant. In many cases, it's literally at the intersection of technology and humans. Taking a human-centered approach to design (anything really) often includes a human's experience with technology.

All the buzz about AI and chaptgpt has given me just another reason in a long list of reasons why I believe design thinking (what I call leading by design) is the future of leadership. I've written about it and given presentations at conferences. And if you follow me on Linkedin, you'll find it's what I talk about most. So no surprise if you know me that this blog gives more power to my hypothesis. In fact, I'll show you five reasons design thinking beats AI and chatgpt it the battle of the future of work. So if you're a leader questioning whether you're prepared for the future or threatened by the effect AI will have on the job of yourself or your team, this post is for you. Or even better, if you're curious about unlocking the power of design thinking - read on.

The proof is in the pudding

Whether you're new to design thinking or you're workshop certified, you can find proof that design thinking beats AI in the pudding. Or, in this case, the design thinking process. Below we will look at each phase in the design thinking process and how it uniquely stands out above AI. But I would be negligent if I didn't point out that not only is each phase in the process superior to AI, the process as a whole is as well.

Design Thinking is a creative problem-solving technique known for innovations that keep the organizations that use it outperforming the S&P 500 by 211%. It tackles the challenges facing today's organizations and provides new ideas, products, and services that will carry it into the future. Design thinking is forward-looking, while AI is generally backward facing. We don't have to look very far back to realize the long list of scenarios we would rather not repeat in the future. According to the World Economic Forum in a February 2023 article, AI can help with creativity but can't create innovations.

The leading opinion is that AI cannot generate fundamentally new ideas on its own but that it can support humans to do so by catalyzing human creativity. What's easy to overlook, however, is that AI can also inhibit human creativity because as AI gets more intelligent, it becomes more helpful and distracting.

The bottom line, it can be helpful if we don't allow it to become (like much of the internet) a distraction from creativity. If you're not sold yet - that design thinking is likely the only leadership training your organization needs - then read on, my friend.


Empathy is phase one in design thinking, and it is all about understanding the needs of the user. Depending on your goal, the user could be your customer, your business partners, stakeholders, employees, or all of the above. While AI can be programmed to imitate empathy, its modus operandi is general intelligence, not emotional intelligence. People with high emotional intelligence tend to be highly motivated, making them more resilient and optimistic. Emotional intelligence is a human trait to develop. And we don't have to read too many headlines to understand our world could use more emotionally intelligent people.

Design thinking develops and grows emotional intelligence intentionally. Along with another 100 skills. Emotional intelligence is what connects us with others. Emotional intelligence allows us to improve our relationships with ourselves and with others, build better teams, improve self-awareness, and more. But while you're waiting for AI to call you up and check in on how you're feeling, keep reading because you'll be waiting for a long time. There is more that Design Thinking does better than AI.


Define is phase two of design thinking. And it stands for defining the problem. You may have heard that Chatgpt has difficulty solving math problems. Solving the problem and defining the problem are very closely linked. We cannot solve the problem if we have not defined the problem. As the infamous Steve Jobs said

If you define the problem correctly, you almost have the solution.

Similarly, Albert Einstein famously said, "We can't solve problems using the same kind of thinking that created them." This is exactly what you would be doing if you used Chatgpt to solve a problem. And remember - Chatgpt faces back on what's happened in the past. It's not the direction we want to go.


Ideation is phase three of design thinking. Many falsely think that ideation is like brainstorming. However, that could not be farther from the truth. Rather than blue sky thinking, where anything goes, ideation works with a lot of constraints. One is because constraints elevate creativity, but two, because we live in reality and have lots of them! Those constraints include but are not limited to:

  • company resources: financial, technological, and human

  • even when company resources are abundant, technology has limits of feasibility and capability (just like Chatgpt has limits to its capabilities)

  • desirability - Do customers desire it? Do they have the means to fulfill their desire for it?

While you will read many articles about AI (Chatgpt) improving ideation, the one thing woven into them is that AI is a tool for ideation. Just like Post-it notes and whiteboards are the OG tool for ideation, tools have limitations. There are limits inherent in the tool itself, but the Creator holds an even bigger key to the limits or limitlessness of ideas. If the user is not adept at critical thinking, prompt building (think good design thinking "How might we" statements), and focusing on the human element, then Chatgpt will likely be a waste of time. Embedding the practice of design thinking into leadership practices develops all of these skills and more. So before you send all your leaders off to learn how to use Chatgpt, be sure they know and practice design thinking. Their innovative use of Chatgpt will be exponentially expanded.


Prototyping is the fourth phase in design thinking. Prototyping involves producing an early, inexpensive, scaled-down version of the product to reveal any problems with the current design. Like the ideation above, AI (Chatgpt) is a tool for prototyping. The usefulness of AI's outputs depends on the usefulness of the human's inputs. And thus the human element (which is a fundamental principle of design thinking). After all, its most commonly used alternative name for design thinking is human-centered design.


Testing is the fifth phase in design thinking. Testing is one of the most important stages in the Design Thinking process, as it is where you discover whether your idea(s) solves the user problem uncovered during the Empathy phase. As I always say, design thinking starts and ends with the human (user). It is the full circle moment when you find out if you really understand the user's needs. Vincent Hunt of the Creative Intelligence Bureau confirms in a recent article on Medium that Chatgpt is a tool for testing, much like it's a tool for ideation and prototyping.

AI tools like ChatGPT can be used to enhance the design thinking process by providing new ways to gather and analyze data, generate ideas, and validate prototypes. -Vincent Hunt

So for leaders who want to ensure they and their teams are prepared for the future of work, it's important that we first and foremost develop our own innovative (creative) abilities. Then when we add the enhancement of tools like AI (Chatgpt), our ideas and innovations will truly make a knockout punch that will declare our victory in the marketplace.

For more on designing thinking presentations, workshops, and masterminds, check out my services page.


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