top of page
  • Daniel Ling

What Makes Design Thinking a Unique Way of Thinking? (Part 1)

Updated: Feb 17, 2023

In psychology, it is believed that the left brain controls the more logical, analytical functions, whereas the right hemisphere processes the imagination, creativity and emotions.

Design thinking is probably one of the few disciplines that utilize both equally. However, it is not a genetic gift that only a few people possess. It is a thinking mindset where given time and application- you are able to master as a way to solve problems.

As an introduction to design thinking, there are 7 key characteristics that define it more than anything else. These characteristics simply make Design Thinking a unique way of thinking.

Just remember:

1. Anyone can use design thinking.

People always ask me whether they need any pre-requisites in order to learn design thinking. Yes for sure, you probably need to have some understanding on English Language and probably some maturity in why you actually need design thinking- otherwise it is a learning that is not rocket science.

I have trained people from polytechnic students who just want to complete their school projects to civil servants who wants to improve operational processes to managers to want to improve their business outcomes. Practically anyone who has problems at hand could apply design thinking.

Design Thinking is not Psychology nor Business Science nor Engineering where you require years of education in technical knowledge or skills to get it.

2. It involves methods that enable empathy with people.

Empathy is at the heart of design thinking. Without the understanding of what others see, feel, and experience, design thinking is a pointless task. That's the reason why design thinking is so unique- as it emphasize the importance of empathy and understanding of people.

While business thinking requires understanding of business viability and data, and creative thinking requires self-inspiration and imagination- design thinking taps on the essence of why we design- people.

3. It seeks to define the problem as actively as finding the solution.

Albert Einstein was once asked how he would spend his time if he was given a problem upon which his life depended and he had only one hour to solve it. He responded by saying he would spend 55 minutes to define the problem, and 5 minutes to solve it. For those overly prone to jumping into action- this is what design thinking is about.

Design thinking gives an alternate view that it is not a series of steps to execute a solution but rather a series of steps to reframe your mind to understand a problem.

4. It ideates and explores solutions.

Rather than a linear methodology, design thinking relies on an interplay between analysis and synthesis,breaking problems apart and putting ideas together. It moves like a wave that is divergent where we are creating choices and convergent where are making choices. These series of steps and tools are very unique to design thinking.

In school, we were taught mathematics there is only one definite answer to a question. In design thinking, we should throw out our education as most of the time we are dealing with ill-defined questions and coming out with unsure answers.

This picture represents it all about design thinking - from exploratory to clarity.

5. It is collaborative and involves iterative prototyping.

Design thinking is unique in creating a culture to encourage creativity and radical collaboration by bringing group members with different backgrounds and knowledge to work together to solve problems. It also brings the concept of building things cheaply and simply, experimenting and asking the customers what they think.

6. It solves problems of many different types.

Design thinking is a problem-solving tool that deals with human-centric, ill-defined problems that we face. There are 4 areas of problems that we face:

Society - overcrowding on transportation / losing a tradition / parent-child relationship problems

Business and Services - online ticketing app / service design of a restaurant experience

Process and Operations - onboarding and orientation of freshmen / cutting down backend processes

Situations - dealing with haze / brainstorming for Taylor Swift's concert

7. It is fun.

Nuff said. :)

Last Words

I will be adding more articles on Design Thinking throughout the year. Articles of Empathize, Define, Ideate, Prototype and Test will be added periodically to give my readers a broader insights to Design Thinking.

To follow my blog closely and get cool innovation ideas, like follow my FB page and Instagram:


About the Author

Daniel Ling has more than 10 years of Design Thinking experience and has moulded himself to be a “designer in a business suit”- strong in the Design Thinking process and yet relevant to the financial and business industry- across OCBC, DBS, NTUC Income and Lazada. He trained close to 500 professionals in the area of Design Thinking, Innovation and Strategy. He authored the Complete Design Thinking Guide for Successful Professionals and the book is sold worldwide via Amazon, iTunes, Ingram, Lulu and Kinokuniya.

How to sign up for Design Thinking Course?

Where to get Complete Design Thinking Guide for Successful Professionals?

Download PDF Book here:

875 views0 comments
bottom of page