Using design thinking to solve complex problems: a beginner’s guide.

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Design thinking is a creative problem-solving process that is widely used in the modern world, as it allows individuals to approach problems with a human-centered and results-driven mindset. Design thinking is a versatile approach that can be applied to a wide range of complex problems, from developing new products and services to addressing social issues and promoting organizational innovation. In this beginner’s guide, we will explore how design thinking works and how it can be applied to solve complex problems.

Understanding Design Thinking

Design thinking is a structured approach that is rooted in empathy and collaboration. It is a problem-solving approach that focuses on the human element, as it is concerned with understanding the needs and concerns of the people who are impacted by the problem at hand. The design thinking process involves five stages, which include empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test.

The first stage, empathize, involves observing and engaging with individuals to understand their needs and experiences. The second stage, define, involves framing the problem and setting its boundaries. The third stage, ideate, involves generating a wide range of solutions. The fourth stage, prototype, involves developing simple models of the solution. The fifth and final stage, test, involves gathering feedback from users and further refining the solution.

Applying Design Thinking to Complex Problems

Design thinking can be applied to a wide range of complex problems, including those that involve social, economic, and environmental issues. For instance, it can be used to address societal issues such as poverty, education, and healthcare, as well as to improve organizational performance and innovation. The design thinking process helps individuals to view problems from a fresh perspective, allowing them to come up with innovative and creative solutions.

One of the examples where design thinking was successfully applied is the Airbnb’s redesign of their homepage. In 2014, Airbnb experienced a significant decline in the performance of its homepage, which led to a drop in revenue. The company then engaged in a design thinking exercise with their engineering team to solve the problem. By using the design thinking process, Airbnb was able to redesign their homepage by focusing on user needs and preferences. They introduced a feature called “Wish List,” which enabled users to save their favorite rental properties and improved the site’s search and filter options. The result was an increase in booking success rate of 30%, which led to a significant increase in the company’s revenue.


Design thinking is a powerful tool that can be used to solve complex problems. It is a structured approach that allows individuals to get a deeper understanding of a problem, work collaboratively to develop innovative solutions, and test and refine the solution to ensure that it meets the needs of the user. By applying the design thinking process, individuals can create impactful solutions that are aligned with user needs and concerns. Design thinking is not just a process, it is a mindset that believes that every problem can be solved with empathy, creativity, and innovation. It is a skill that can be learned and applied to any problem, whether big or small.

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