Design Thinking: what benefits for companies?

July 17, 2023, by Virginia Capoluongo

20tab way

20tab way


While it might seem like a buzzword, very creative but not so tangible, Design Thinking can actually turn the tide of a business.

What is Design Thinking and how it applies

The Design Thinking process comes to light in Stanford, takes root already in the 1960s and then explodes in the 1990s and 2000s, spreading into the United States, Canada and most of Europe.

Based on the designers’ model, although inspired by the scientific method used in research, its strength lies in the combination of creative thinking and problem solving: starting from a problem, it allows in fact to improve the ability of taking effective and, most importantly, profitable decisions.

The occurrence of problems - which is something daily for companies - therefore is dealt with a blossoming of innovative and fitting solutions.

In concrete terms, Design Thinking consists of 5 steps, which are not linear but rather cyclical, not only involving the "technicians" but also different professionals (depending on the aspect that needs to be treated) and, potentially, the use of elements outside the company (suppliers or customers).

The 5 phases

The initial model, then restructured by the various schools, is the one coming from Stanford University:


Let's see what happens at every stage.


To best define the situation that needs solving, we have to start from the root, by collecting data, information, interviews which will clarify the nature of such problem.

Very often, in fact, we observe reality in a superficial way, without taking off the company’s shoes: listening to what other people have to say can, on the contrary, help us see new shades, aspects that had never been considered before.

To make the most out of this step, we usually work with two tools: the User Journey Map and the Emotional Map. From concrete aspects to emotional ones.

Why is that? Let's make an example: an elderly person who cannot move well with the walker will tell us that he/she has problems going for a coffee with a friend, going shopping in his/her trusted store, taking a walk in the park. What is the real problem, then? Not just moving around, but rather loneliness.


Now we can start tidying up: personas, pain points, roles, critical points. At this step it is necessary to put everything down in black and white, so as to have every detail right before our eyes.

Reporting everything is essential. In interviews, for example, no words should be omitted: the verbs used, the situations described there are mines of information.

At the end of this phase we will get a Problem Statement: the exact and detailed definition of the problem.


And here is where the scientific method is combined with creativity!

The third step is where we reach the turning point: we have everything we need to reverse the situation, starting to think about all the solutions that could be decisive for the identified problem.

Just one warning: you don’t need The Idea, but many ideas. In this phase what matters the most is quantity and the opportunity to unleash creativity, without wondering about concrete realisation and feasibility. No judgment, only free thoughts.

One of the methods used for coming up with more ideas is the SCAMPER Method, which helps thinking outside the box: born from Brainstorming, it goes along with the "creatives" in 7 steps that allow you to re-think the product or service.


After having laid down a lot of ideas, these can be rearranged and evaluated both by the team and by the customers. Here we start to draw conclusions on the most interesting solutions!

In this phase, a product or service prototype is created, in the form of mockups to submit to the judgment of others. We can actually build what we want or simply present the idea.


Getting other people’s moods and impressions: this is what we do in the testing phase, by working on the prototype and improving it or, conversely, coping with failure.

That is because now from here it is possible that we might have to go back to the ideation phase: failure, in this process, is part of the game and we must be ready once more to search for creative ideas, build new prototypes and start all over again.

Who uses Design Thinking?

Coca Cola, Nintendo, Auchan. These are just some of the big names to have introduced Design Thinking in their management model.

But we also find start-ups and small businesses among those who have achieved important results through this process. These are two successful cases:

  • Some CT scan machines have been modified for children: given their fear and the consequent need for sedation, a sort of vessel has been invented, an adventurous path they have to go through during the diagnostic examination. Just a small change resulting in more peaceful children and families, but also in a reduction of operating costs.
  • In Africa was born a chain of ateliers creating ready-to-wear dresses for women, intended for traditional ceremonies, with fabrics featuring typically African prints. The company has managed to blend in with the socio-cultural context, while bringing a new sense of elegance. They have found the right mix and a new market.

Benefits for companies

Besides the case histories, what benefits can a company get out of the application of Design Thinking?

  • Ability to take decisions: integrating Design Thinking among the tools and methodologies of a company means expanding the team's skills in problem solving. Problems can be solved in a creative way, with a “lighter” and more positive approach. Plus, the constant use of this process helps the entrepreneur to take important decisions for his business too, reducing risks.
  • Costs reduction: how much does Design Thinking cost? Nothing, unless you are a big company with a whole sector dedicated to it. In any case, rather than talking about an expense, we should be talking about investment: company processes are optimised, products or services are improved and tested - with the result of happier customers spending more money - and problems with partners or internal issues can be reviewed too. Furthermore, let us remind you that the prototyping and testing phases are based on ideas, not necessarily on the concrete realisation of the solutions: this means finding the right key without having to spend staggering amounts of money.
  • Innovation culture: within the company, but also in the system and in the market. Cyclically refining products or services and working with a scientific and creative method at the same time, brings a breath of fresh air into the company and also "forces" others to keep up with the pace, thus creating a virtuous circle based on innovation as a means for generating solutions capable of giving ever greater benefits to people.
  • High-quality and efficient solutions: the ultimate goal is precisely tthe creation of products, services, perhaps disruptive, but always achievable experiences, which are high-quality and efficient. If this purpose is reached, well, it is a great achievement. For everyone.
  • Proactive environment and team building: the individual team members end up strengthened by the Design Thinking process, which avours the emergence of natural leadership, motivation and the development of a strong sense of belonging. This way of working allows us, in fact, to merge expertises in the best way possible and to create a synergy of intentions, representing an exceptional moment of team building as well.

Design Thinking is becoming increasingly popular, even in Italy. We use it regularly: we also talked about it in the Nabla and Jolicì case studies.

As you can see, a pinch of creativity can be the key to make your company work better!