Design Thinking: Innovation and creative problem solving

Design thinking is about human interaction. It aims to help you get on the same page as quickly as possible. Tran Ha of the d-School at Stanford University and Chris Courtney of BLOC shared their insights on design thinking through interactive and personal experiences at a CampSND hands-on workshop.

Tran Ha goes over how important it is to be bias toward action such as sketching something out and showing it to people.
Tran Ha goes over how important it is to be bias toward action such as sketching something out and showing it to people.


At the beginning of the session, attendees quickly learned a key principle of design thinking by sketching a 45 second drawing of the person sitting next to them: first you have to get something rough down, then you show it and get feedback.

Design Thinking 101: It is a loose term, embodied by human centered design. It is about looking at the problem from a consumer’s perspective. It is non-linear, messy and at the end you may have a handful of solutions.

Why use it: For technical challenges vs. adaptive challenges (the open ended and messy solutions). Reality check – We can’t keep being Kermit at the type writer; typing away with no interaction or collaborative thinking.  Stop thinking: What can we provide that our customers want? When we actually we need to say: What problems do our customers have?

How we use it: Focus on the brainstorm. You can’t be making decisions about ideas as you are throwing out the ideas. Remember there is a time and place for both.

The Formula:

  1. Empathize
  2. Define
  3. Ideate
  4. Prototype
  5. Test

Working with partner to reframe the problem: Reframing how you solve a problem can move an organization from its current limitations to focus on potential solutions. Determine whether you need to make it your core competency. Focus on needs as verbs and solutions as nouns. We are trained to use a noun when discovering a need, but framing it as a verb can get you a multitude of solutions.

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Chris Courtney of BLOC explains that as designers we have gotten so use to the method of “f**k it, and ship it” that we are not truly caring about our consumers wants and needs.

Courtney showed the attendees a study of success rates between two products that attempted to solve a problem via design thinking. “Do not eliminate anything unless you test for it,” Courtney said. “Solve a problem for the audience, not for a feature no one asked for.”

Getting Interactive: The attendees had the opportunity to experience the “design thinking process” in a series of hands-on activities ranging from to drawing out audience maps to discovering target audiences to using items like pipe cleaners, aluminum foil, popsicle sticks and sticky notes to create prototypes.


SNDSF Conference attendees received some hands-on experience with Tran Ha’s “Design Thinking” activity.

Takeaways: Consult the people you are creating it for before showing it/finishing it. Be okay with sharing ideas and rough drafts before you have put in a ton of money.

The 4-hour session can be distilled to the holy grail of the modern age: Stop chasing clicks and start solving problems.