Pauliny Zito
Planner, copywriter e copydesk

More than a tool, Design Thinking is a critical and creative thinking process to project, plan and design a project.

It is a modern and innovative way of approach that can be used in various contexts and any sector.

Pauliny Zito
Planner, copywriter e copydesk

Trabalhar por conta própria. É isso que define o freelancer, termo em inglês que significa profissional liberal que presta serviços de modo autónomo para empresas ou pessoas, por períodos determinados de tempo.

O trabalho de freelancing oferece flexibilidade, independência e a oportunidade de perseguir a sua paixão.

According to Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Design Thinking:

    – It is person-centered – it starts with deep empathy and knowledge of people’s needs and motivations;

    – It is collaborative – it benefits from diverse points of view and perspectives and is a process in which the creativity of one reinforces the creativity of all;

    – Is optimistic – believes we can all create change – no matter how big the problem, how short the time, or how low the budget.

Although the term “design thinking” had already been used since the 1970s in the United States as a creative approach, in science, engineering, architecture, education, and academic research, it was only in 1991 that Tom and David Kelley and Tim Brown systematized the ideas of Design Thinking into methodology aimed at business management.

The approach only began to gain traction outside the design community after the 2008 Harvard Business Review article [subscription required] entitled Design Thinking by Tim Brown, CEO, and president of the design firm IDEO.

Source: Photo by Alena Darmel

Design Thinking

Design Thinking is a methodology used to create new products, services, processes, or to solve problems. However, a methodology that values creativity, experimentation, and empathy to find innovative, agile, practical, and safe solutions in the business.

The main differential is multidisciplinarity, therefore involving people from different areas of the company.

Source: Photo by Cottonbro

Pillars of Design Thinking


Perceive the problem or opportunity, study the possibilities, the competition, and the behavior of the target audience. Research and gather materials to inspire.



Put yourself in other people’s shoes and understand their needs, both the target audience and the company’s internal audience.


Having the ability to make connections between the data and distinct opinions collected to find something in common between them.


Then it is necessary to implement the ideas to obtain feedback and learn from inevitable mistakes.


Stages of Design Thinking

Each company has its own organizational culture and particularities and, therefore, must assess the best tools to be used in each stage of Design Thinking and, if necessary, adapt the stages to its reality, to achieve the goal. There are five stages of Design Thinking, namely:


  1. Immersion or Empathy

It is the understanding phase, in which the problem is discussed, the purpose and limits of the project are defined, the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis is made, as well as exploratory and references research. And then interviews and fieldwork to generate insights.


  1. Definition

This is the stage of analyzing and organizing the material, identifying patterns and categorizing ideas, and synthesizing. Making a graphical representation of this material helps in visualizing the problem. Next, filter the insights, and define the target audience and a line of work.


  1. Ideation 

This is the phase of thinking of a solution to the problem, bearing in mind that no solution is ideal. It is fundamental to use methods to explore the maximum creativity of the people involved, encouraging experimentation and (inevitable) mistakes.


  1. Prototyping

It is the prototyping phase, that is, producing a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). A simple version of the product is made for a test period. 

To create the MVP, answer these three questions:


1) What solution do you offer? What is its real differential? 


2) How does this solution work? What does your product/service deliver that others do not?


3) What is the expected outcome for your customer?


  1. Implementation

This is the phase of implementing the solution. In case the product is validated, make the appropriate adjustments and launch the product or service in the market.

But attention, the work does not end here, taking into account that the company must maintain a process of continuous improvement of each project.

Image: Interaction Design Foundation.

Image: Interaction Design Foundation.

These steps are not always sequential and teams often execute them in parallel, out of order, and repeat them iteratively.

1. Understand the problem;
2. Develop possible solutions;
3. Prototype, test and repeat;
4. Implement.

Source: MIT Management Sloan School

Techniques and Tools of Design Thinking

Design Thinking has a number of collaborative techniques and tools. It is up to the manager to identify those that work best within the context of the project and the company culture.

This article lists and describes 25 techniques and tools of Design Thinking, which I quote below.

In the Immersion stage:

1. Reframe

2. Exploratory Research

3. Desk Research

4. Interviews

5. Awareness Notebooks

6. Generative Sessions

7. A Day in the Life

8. Shadow

In the Definition (or Analysis and Synthesis) stage:

9. Insight Cards

10. Affinity Diagram

11. Conceptual Map

12. Guiding Criteria

13. Personas

14. Empathy Map (knowledge obtained through interviews with clients)

15. User Journey

16. Blueprint

In the Ideation stage:

17. Brainstorming (meeting among people from different areas of the company to think of ideas, present and discuss them, without filters, in a short period of time)

18. Co-creation Workshop (a meeting organized as a series of group activities with the objective of stimulating creativity and collaboration, fostering the creation of innovative solutions)

19. Ideas Menu

20. Positioning Matrix

In the Prototyping stage:

1. Paper Prototype

2. Volume Model

3. Staging

4. Storyboard

5. Service Prototypes

Two other very important tools that are being increasingly used by companies are

Ludification: uses the dynamics and entertainment of games to make a playful activity (can be used at any stage of the process).

Co-creation with the Customer: consists in inviting the customer to participate in the product creation process, either personally or virtually (in the Ideation and Prototyping stages).

How to apply Design Thinking in your company

To apply the Design Thinking methodology in your company, first of all the company culture must make it possible. How to do this?

How about starting by:

  • Providing a comfortable, safe environment that is open to new ideas;
  • Having a multidisciplinary team focused on approaching the public and creating empathy about the solution to the challenge;
  • Adopting data collection and analysis strategies.

Photo by fauxels

Company Totvs followed the Design Thinking method

Totes, which produces software and applications for other companies, used the Design Thinking method to make its products more “friendly” to mobile devices (tablets and smartphones, specifically).

First, the company surveyed to get to know its customers better to understand their current problems and needs.

In the case of retail customers, it identified that these businesses needed simple software that would allow the salesperson to walk the consumer through the shop and make the sale through the device, without having to go through the checkout counter.

After mapping the needs, Totvs organized the ideas on a wall with colored post-its, with the collaboration of employees from different sectors.

Next, it created a prototype of the product, presented it to the client, and listened to their suggestions. Then he made the necessary changes and presented the prototype of the final product.

Once this last version was approved, the company delivered the product ready for use, but not fully finished. Thus, it was possible to observe the client’s experience and make the necessary updates, always promoting continuous improvement.

In this way, Totvs managed, using Design Thinking, to avoid rework and optimize the software production time.

Why should your company invest in Design Thinking?

The manager of a business, nowadays, has to have a great capacity for adaptation, in addition to knowing how to innovate. Design Thinking is a methodology that enables and contributes immensely to this process because from it, it is possible to find quick and effective answers to the most relevant business questions.

The concepts of multidisciplinarity, empathy, and creativity, if well applied, bring great benefits, not only in the scope of projects but also in the company’s daily routine.

They must be part of the organizational culture for a real transformation from the inside out. The organizational culture should be focused on collaboration, cooperation, and encouragement of creativity in all processes.

The cost of implementing Design Thinking is reduced and brings a great competitive advantage to the company.

Moreover, by aggregating employees from all areas, the result is happier professionals, motivated and integrated into the company and with each other, and consequently more productive as well.