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A Synthesis of Design Thinking Mindsets

By Sharif Maghraby (Creative Coaching Maestro at Winnovate)

We stand on the shoulders of giants and tip our hats to the people who have forged this path and distilled their learnings into concepts that shape the lens by which we view the world. In this case, I refer to the David Kelley, Tim Brown, Hasso Plattner and other minds at IDEO, d.school and HPI. Thank you. I appreciate your visionary minds, your discipline and your genius.

I feel that it’s natural for people who are well-versed in the fields of design thinking, service design, UX and other related disciplines to internalize and apply the key mindsets required for innovative thinking (and doing).

For many of us - this stuff is part of our DNA and part of our innate state of being. It’s not new to learn about creative confidence for someone who has been an artist all their life. And it’s not a breakthrough for an innovator to embrace experimentation either! It’s just very reassuring to find that some really smart people have taken the time to articulate these mindsets in such an elegant way.  

But for others, who are new to this field and are still exploring what it means to smash prohibitive thinking – I think we may need a simpler and easier way to get these ideas across.

This idea started when I was first introduced to the DT mindsets of IDEO and felt that although they made sense and were totally relevant, some of them could have been more encompassing in their scope while others could have been clearer. This point was further crystallized when my colleague who was adopting the d.school mindset was clarifying the concept of ‘bias towards action’ and we both felt that for a newbie who was unaware of the basics of human-centered design and may have a bit of a challenge with the language – this concept could have been clearer.

So I set-off to look at both lists, research some other DT ideas and then synthesize our own mindsets at Winnovate with the goal of making them clearer, having a specific order that follows our own DT framework and also bring together the best of what I know and have learned. This stuff isn’t new and I do not claim to have broken through any new ground here – I am just trying to simplify and clarify.

Engage with Empathy: IDEO uses ‘empathy’ and d.school mentions ‘focusing on human values’. I wanted to use an action verb prior to each mindset to push the point of doing whilst also sharing the importance of engaging with customers, users and also team members. It’s not only about the user but it’s also about the dynamic within the team. We engage and empathize with each other to enable us to be more innovative as well.


Craft Insights: this was partly related to d.school’s action verb of ‘crafting clarity’ (which we found to be a little confusing for people). This is the second stage of the DT process and it’s a time when we observe, ask, define a POV and frame a well-crafted challenge. It is these insights that then drive our ideation process and the clearer and more impactful our insights are – the more innovative and dynamic our team will be. And the more awesome our solutions will be. I also owe a lot to the course I completed last year with IDEO called ‘Insights for Innovation.’


‘Co-create’: I would say this is core to the team dynamic as well as the design process too. When we use empathy, iteration, validation and testing to co-create a solution. And we co-create with our team and move towards a solution that is viable, feasible and desirable. This is one DT mindset that is vital to adopt and enforce.


Demonstrate Your Ideas: whether we are asked to ‘make it’ or ‘show, don’t’ tell’ – both schools of thought push us towards creating tangible expressions of our ideas. In my experience, the scope of tools that we have at our disposal like role-play, story-telling, paper and physical models, story-boards and others mean that it’s more than just ‘making it’ and it’s also sometimes ok to ‘tell’ (e.g telling a story). So, I felt that using the verb ‘demonstrate’ was a good way to explain to newbies the core message in this phase of the process.


Integrate Feedback: We wanted to find a simple way to explain the importance of ‘iteration, user testing and validation’. Most people do not understand the term ‘iterate’ and I think that this is a clear and straight-forward way to show that it’s important to get feedback and then integrate it into the different phases of the DT process. Whether it’s feedback in the definition stage, or feedback from the team in the ideation phase, or feedback from the users in the prototyping and testing phase.


Trust The Process: d.school asks us to be mindful of the process whilst IDEO stresses the importance of embracing ambiguity and also having creative confidence. I feel that ‘trust’ is an important mindset to adopt because it reflects all of the above. It also addresses the importance of ‘doing’ and being sure that the tools that we use are designed to naturally draw out our creativity, help us to diverge when needed and then to converge when required. I am always amazed to witness the shift in a specific engagement when the team start to become more comfortable and familiar with the process and then – a sudden flurry of ideation leaves them all surprised at the extent of their own creative capacities. Why? Because they trusted the process.


Stay Positive: IDEO talks about optimism and I agree whole-heartedly. I’m a big proponent of positive psychology and I use strengths for team formation as well as applying Dr. Martin Seligman’s excellent PERMA model with leaders to build a more positive, collaborative and engaging environment. Sure, toxic emotion and bad energy can inspire us to write a good blues song – but for innovation to thrive and for teams to be able to feel ‘safe’ to learn from failure or collaborate radically – we must stay positive and lead by example. After all, emotions are highly contagious!

Since DT is an iterative process and we are continuously innovating and changing towards that which is simpler, more effective and more aesthetically pleasing -I trust that you will choose to co-create with us, engage with empathy, help us to craft new insights whilst we demonstrate our ideas, trust the process and stay positive.

And we promise to integrate your feedback. Happy innovating!


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