By: Aly Diana

Design thinking is a collaborative method of inquiry that produces innovative, team-generated solutions to complex scenarios or wicked problems that are extraordinarily difficult to solve. It is powered by team-based creativity that adaptively responds to a need of the users for creating new approaches and products in an innovative and practically applicable way. The need for design thinking in healthcare is steadily increasing as the healthcare system and its care environments continue to grow in complexity. Having “Design Thinking” in our Toolbox will considerably improve our strategy for solving health issues.

One of the famous frameworks of Design Thinking follows five iterative steps: 1) Empathize – understand the user experience and perspective; 2) Define – frame the problem, the constraints, and the desired outcome; 3) Ideate – generate as many possible solutions that could address the problem; 4) Prototype – potential solutions are crafted and made tangible for testing; and 5) Test – solutions are evaluated for how well they address the problem and revised. Empathize can be considered the foundation of a human-centered design process as we need to understand the people for whom we are designing. Observe (view users and their behavior in the context of their lives); engage (interact with and interview users through both scheduled and short ‘intercept’ encounters); and immerse (experience what our user experiences) are “keywords” to create products that will be useful for our users.

As suggested by Tim Brown, one of the parents of Design Thinking, a Design Thinker’s Personality Profile should include empathy, integrative thinking, optimism, experimentalism, and collaboration. Empathy. They can imagine the world from multiple perspectives—those of colleagues, clients, end users, and customers (current and prospective). By taking a “people first” approach, design thinkers can imagine solutions that are inherently desirable and meet explicit or latent needs. Great design thinkers observe the world in minute detail. They notice things others do not and use their insights to inspire innovation. Integrative thinking. They not only rely on analytical processes (those that produce either/ or choices) but also exhibit the ability to see all of the salient—and sometimes contradictory— aspects of a confounding problem and create novel solutions that go beyond and dramatically improve on existing alternatives. Optimism. They assume that no matter how challenging the constraints of a given problem, at least one potential solution is better than the existing alternatives. Experimentalism. Significant innovations don’t come from incremental tweaks. Design thinkers pose questions and explore constraints in creative ways that proceed in entirely new directions. Collaboration. The increasing complexity of products, services, and experiences has replaced the myth of the lone creative genius with the reality of the enthusiastic interdisciplinary collaboration. The best design thinkers don’t simply work alongside other disciplines; many of them have significant experience in more than one.

Some authors offer tips to stimulate creative problem-solving with design thinking which include: 1) Gather resources, examples, and materials to build your design thinking knowledge and capabilities; 2) Commit to de-sign-thinking mindsets: optimism, embrace ambiguity, iterate iterate iterate, make it, empathy, creative confidence, learn of failure; 3) Start with a warm-up; 4) Connect with the user and be observant; 5) Question whether you are solving the right problem and do not be afraid to reframe it: 6) Seek inspiration from other disciplines, especially those that seem disconnected; 7) Prototyping and collect feedback for improvements; 8) Disrupt patterned thinking by separating thought processes; 9) Utilize different mediums to tell stories and visualize ideas; 10) Promote effective teamwork by establishing trust and psychological safety, while normalizing failure; 11) Integrate play and rest into the process; and 12) Model and teach others about design thinking.

These are only the surface of the concepts of Design Thinking; hopefully, it would spark our curiosity to learn more and then exercise the concepts.


  1. Brown T. Design Thinking. Harvard Business Review. 2008. Available from:,%20Design%20Thinking.pdf
  2. Coursera. University of Virginia. Design Thinking for Innovation.
  3. Design Thinking Bootcamp Bootleg. 2013.
  4. Fabri M. Thinking with a New Purpose: Lessons Learned from Teaching Design Thinking Skills to Creative Technology Students. In: Marcus A, editor. Design, User Experience, and Usability: Design Discourse. Cham: Springer International Publishing; 2015:32–43. (Lecture Notes in Computer Science; vol. 9186). Available from:
  5. Madson MJ. Making sense of design thinking: A primer for medical teachers. Med Teach. 2021:3;43(10):1115–21.
  6. Wolcott MD, McLaughlin JE, Hubbard DK, Rider TR, Umstead K. Twelve tips to stimulate creative problem-solving with design thinking. Med Teach. 2021:4;43(5):501–8.


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