Design Thinking by Prof Jeanne Liedtka

(c) Jeanne Liedtka

When you face a complex problem that involves a lot of people and perceptions, Analytical and Critical Thinking might not be able to deal with it.

When your team can't even decide on the definition of the problem, then an option you want to choose is Design Thinking.

Design Thinking (DT) is a strategy to solve problems using a guided, yet unstructured approach. While there are many definitions as there are many design thinkers, a useful path is outlined by Prof Jeanne Liedtka of the University of Virginia.

In her model, she unravels DT into four key phases based on questions:

  1. What Is
  2. What If
  3. What Wows
  4. What Works

There are 10 tools used iteratively at all phases:


  • Visualisation - This is present at all parts of the effort. It allow the team to quickly access and assess what they are doing and how far they have come.
  • Journey Mapping - This is used to clarify the path a user takes in a routine to determine where there are pain points or opportunities for improvement.
  • Value Chain Analysis - This is used to determine where value can be added throughout the sequence of a routine towards coming up with a solution.
  • Mind Mapping - The old stalwart that clusters all of those ideas into manageable chunks of information.


  • Brainstorming - This is a more guided version of the traditional tool and seeks to generate solutions by asking What If?
  • Concept Development - This is where the ideas cluster into families. They say an idea can fit a sticky note. A concept needs a poster.


  • Assumption Testing - This is where the dream is measured against the reality, to ensure that the early assumptions that drove the concept are strong enough to survive the next stage.
  • Rapid Prototyping - This is where the abstract is given a physical form that the team can interact with, whether it be a low-fidelity version or one closer to scale.


  • Customer Co-Creation - This is where instead getting the customer to test the final solution, the stakeholders actually come in and join the creation process, becoming both tester and designer.
  • Learning Launch - Now that the team has narrowed the solutions down to several workable ones, a few can be chosen based on the resources available to do a small scale market test.

Choose The Right Style

Design Thinking as a more informal thinking style doesn't require you to be artsy, as creativity is far more than paintings in The Louvre. All you need to start with is curiousity and passion about change.

What are you waiting for? Think with design.