• Karen Zeigler

What is Design Thinking? Why all the Buzz About It?

Updated: Jul 28

What is all the buzz about design thinking?

If you have found this post because of all the buzz about design thinking but aren't sure what it is, then you are not alone. As I am out networking as a design thinking consultant, the minute I reply to the infamous question, "what do you do?" my response receives a puzzled stare. Usually followed by statements like "is that like furniture design?" or "is that like kitchen remodeling?" Even job alerts on LinkedIn fill my inbox with furniture sales or remodeling job opportunities. So be confident you are not behind on the times, but right on the cutting edge of organizational transformation. In today's post, I'll define it and unpack the three most significant benefits I see for the universal application of design thinking.

Let's begin with the definition and also a differentiation between two words closely related to design thinking - invention and innovation.


Design Thinking - a method of thinking about the important people* in your organization, understanding their needs, and designing innovative solutions for them. Creating win-win solutions for both the company and the customers. -Karen Zeigler

*People often referred to as users can be customers, employees, or any group of people associated with a mutual problem to be solved.

Invention (as defined by a new, useful process, machine, improvement, etc. that did not exist previously and that is recognized as the product of some unique initution or genius.

Innovation (as defined by - the act of innovating; introduction of new things or methods.

An example to clarify

Invention and innovation overlap in that they both include the 'introduction of something new". So let me provide an example to clarify the two and help us unpack the definition of design thinking and the relationship between the two. The lightbulb is a well-known invention. Invented by Thomas Edison in the town I call home (Fort Myers, FL). Since the invention of the light bulb, there have been hundreds, if not thousands, of innovations involving light. A walk into a lighting store will show you several hundred for starters. However, there are booklights, mechanic lights, lights for knitting, and practically anything you can imagine. Every gadget, tool, or aid that contains a source of light is an innovation. The bottom line is

Invention = Lightbulb

Innovation = The multitude of uses of lightbulb

Design Thinking = An Effective, Efficient, & Ego Free Way to Achieve Innovation

Benefit #1: Efficient

As an illustration, imagine you gathered the most prominent and brightest brains in the world to study the lightbulb and to come up with innovations that would provide service and profit from the improvement of the invention. As noted above, you could come up with thousands of ideas. However, hundreds, thousands, etc. ideas only confound the question of which innovation will succeed. Do you go with your gut, start with the first idea, or perhaps use a list of questions designed to help align with your company mission? You could take a hundred shots and fail at them all. It's still a shot in the dark.