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  • Daniel Ling

Transform Your Business with Design Thinking: A Step-by-Step Guide

Updated: Feb 17, 2023

Design Thinking is usually complex on paper- but let me break it down in simple terms so that it is rather easy for you. Also, there are so many other activities and mindsets to learn to gainfully understand the process, please click on the link (with free book or free masterclass) within the article to find out more!

So here goes..

Empathize and Define –

Empathize and Define Phase is the start of the Design Thinking process. It seeks to uncover user’s needs, wants and desires. It is about understanding the context in which users live in, for example culture, language, place of work and background. We have to apply various activities such as contextual inquiry and interviews. After interviews, next steps are split to two parts- collecting insights and making sense of the insights.

Usually we would start by interviewing 5-8 customers each with a set of questions using the Discussion Guide comprising the 5Ws and 1H regarding the travelling experience.

We collected verbatims and inference insights from our interviews and wrote into post-its as below.

Insights From 5-8 Customers

We tried to make sense of the data by applying Affinity Clustering of the customers that may be from the same demographics or life stage behaviours- and then we created Personas. Based on the collective knowledge of the persona, we created a fictitious name as well as adding in his profile, hobbies and interests, key challenges in travelling and moments of truth.

We also need to remove our blinkers- to be curious and look at things more objectively, contextual inquiry- to understand users right in their context and laddering- to see deeper perspective and motivations.

After which, we wrote How Might We (HMWs). It is a statement starter where it helps to create and rally a team together in the mode of problem solving.

Personas + HMW

Ideate Phase –

Ideate Phase is about exploring ideas based on the insights from the contextual observation in the earlier phases. It is about generating ideas and selecting solutions that will meet the needs of the persona.

We started by downloading all the verbatims from our selected persona into an area where we fold common insights and create Affinity Clustering. From there, we summarize our findings.

Affinity Clustering

We also applied Dot Voting. Dot Voting is a quick way of polling to reveal strongest How Might We which we can use. This ensures that our HMW be selected objectively and not due to one’s preferences.

Then we created a Creative Matrix.

Creative Matrix is a structured grid format for creating systematic combinationsto generate wide ranging ideas. A lot of ideas are created using enablers like POEMS- People/Policy, Objects, Environment, Media and Services. A Wildcard section can be used as enabler such as Alien, Minion or Rilakuma.

Creative Matrix- Brainstorming Tool

Then we use the Dot Voting to select 10 ideas into the Prioritization Matrix.

Prioritization Matrix allows us to map our ideas based on feasibility as well as importance. We also could decide which ideas could have potential to work well with one another as an ecosystem.

Prioritization Matrix

Prototype and Test Phase-

In the Prototype Phase, we decided to do a quick storyboarding prototype of our service idea. Storyboarding is very useful for us to map out the end to end journey of our user.


After that we went into Physical Prototyping.


Test Phase is the opportunity to learn about our solution. By testing quickly, we are able to filter out ideas that are less valuable and focus on those which makes most sense.

For example, when we illicit feedback from users regarding our storyboard, one user commented that the mood meter may not appeal nor useful as the feeder taxi service is rather short journey. We applied the feedback and remove this feature from the final solution.

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?

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