What is Design Thinking?

What is Design Thinking?

As an agile practitioner, I always heard about Design Thinking these days. In my first sight, I wasn’t really convince this has anything related to agile. It is another fancy word that has been widely used in the UX world.

Apparently, this is no longer the case now… In the latest change of SAFe 5.0, Design Thinking is now being applied as part of the framework.

So…. what is Design Thinking? What is that really all about and what does it has to do with us?

Let’s take a look at what Tim Brown, Executive Chair of IDEO says,

Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.

Interaction Foundation Design, another popular design school says about Design Thinking,

Design Thinking is a design methodology that provides a solution-based approach to solving problems. It’s extremely useful in tackling complex problems that are ill-defined or unknown, by understanding the human needs involved, by re-framing the problem in human-centric ways, by creating many ideas in brainstorming sessions, and by adopting a hands-on approach in prototyping and testing. 

Okay, this is my simplified version of it.

Design Thinking is one way that helps in solving creative problems in real-life.

The next question is, “how can we understand about Design Thinking?”

Well…. I have to tell you this… I have tried hard to grasp the concept by search on google and I find it difficult to understand (by all means, those frameworks invented by the popular design schools are great! Except I couldn’t connect the dots from it…)

What is design Thinking?


Rest assured, after spending tonnes of time on reading and research, I have came up a simplified version, it is called “DODE”. Meanwhile, I will explain a little bit about what that really means with a real-life example.

Let’s get started!

DODE Design Thinking Framework



In general, when an event occurred, our first reaction that comes into our mind is, “What is the problem?” That’s right. We need to define the problem, to start with.

We also need to ask WHY (e.g. What causes the problem?) Knowing why not only helps us to broaden our definitions of problems. It also uncover and articulate the real root cause of the problem.

For example, I would like to cut down the tree that is sitting next to my house (problem statement) so that the tree won’t fallen apart on my rooftop when the storm comes. (Main cause)


Once we understand the problem, our next step will be seeking for possible options to resolve the problem. At the same time, we need to perform some analysis and allowed to hypothesise based on the problem we knew of. 

For example, there are few ways to cut a tree. You can either use, chainsaw, axe, pruning saws, machetes and so forth… At this stage, we are assuming it is a big tree (hypothesis) and it has been there since ages ago so we are thinking it must be huge and tall. (We didn’t specify whether it is a tall or not! But we think it is at least 7-feet tall!)


We will need to choose one option to focus on.  This will surface and test the assumptions with our underlying hypothesis. Sometimes, we might need to go back to step 1 and step 2, let’s not make it that complex now!)

Let’s continue with our example. Based on the information we gathered (or hypothesise) in the last two steps, this is what we know by far:

  1. It has been there for ages
  2. It is a big, tall tree
  3. It is at least 7-feet tall
  4. It is now sitting next to my house

Now. It is time to decide to use which tools.

Our first option would be pruning saw to start with.

Why is that?

We are assuming the tree is big, and tall. It would be better to start with something light (cut down some tree branches) rather than heavy (cutting the whole tree at once, and it might fall off and hit the rooftop!) 



Lastly, we are going to experiment with the options we have chosen in step 3. This will help us to identify whether the decision we made on last step is the right. If we are hitting jackpot with one shot, great! If not, let’s move onto to the next options listed in step 3 and so forth.

Let’s come back to our example. It turns out that using prune axes did helps a lot and trimming down a lot of tree branches.

Yay! Seems that we are now on the right track.

Okay… What’s next? Are we happy with the outcome we have achieved?

If yes, congratulations! You’ve done it well!

If not, let’s gather what we have learnt in the experiment, and trace back to few steps before to work out the problem.


Before we go, I hope this article helps in understanding what design problem really is.

Here are the 4 simple steps to remember when applying design thinking to solve problems in daily-life.

  1. Define 
  2. Options
  3. Decide
  4. Experimentation

Hey, let’s DODE it and let me know how it goes!!!!